August 11, 2020

“Theater must always face the political”

When Alberto Conejero was around 18 years old, his mother gave him a story of Vilches, the town of Jienne that saw the author's birth in 1978, which has continued to assault his conscience on a recurring basis. He told her that a family friend had left the town forever, settling in Barcelona with her son, after having found her husband having sex in a mine with another man; after that, the husband also left town, and would only return to him to be buried a long time later. Inspired by this near and real episode, although taking, obviously, the licenses that fiction allows, it was like the playwright, as he tells me in the intimacy provided by the Madrid-bookstore café La Fugitiva, conceived “The geometry of wheat ”, The work with which he has just been proclaimed winner of the National Dramatic Literature Award 2019.

It has, of course, the happiness drawn on the face, and ensures that, if you ever thought you could win the award, it was the year of The Dark Stone “for the impact that function had,” whose critical success and The public certainly allowed the work to remain alive for a long time on the billboard since its first performance in 2015 and was on the lips of all theater fans. With "The geometry of wheat", premiered at the National Dramatic Center last season, Conejero has also debuted as a stage director. The work continues on tour in Spain and can be seen soon in Vilches, where it is planned to go, precisely, the real woman who has inspired the character of Beatriz. Among sips of coffee and old books, the playwright, already considered among the greats of our current theater, tells me about the National and other issues related to his trade.

– He does not receive the prize in the modality of ‘Theater’, but in that of ‘Dramatic literature’. I guess this is the most appropriate award for someone who, first and foremost, is a writer.

– It certainly makes me very excited. In the first place, for entering a list of men and women who have given great results to our theater. And, secondly, because I am indeed a lover and a defender of the literary condition of the theater. Valle-Inclán, Lorca, Calderón … are for me at the height of Delibes or Cervantes narrator. I think that many of the pages of dramatic literature are tops of Spanish.

-However, the authors are still fighting to recognize that literary dimension of theater, right?

-Yes; I think the reasons are several. In the first place, there has been a lack of greater critical specialization within the University in dramatic literature. On the other hand, in the 60s, 70s and early 80s, currents and approaches that announced the death of the author began to proliferate within the theater's own ranks. Finally, I think we live in a time when the word has been very besieged before a battalion of images. Happily, I think there is a resurgence of dramatic literature that has to do precisely with that need to meet the words again; and also to take care of them, because they are very prostituted by our present.

– As for the geometry of wheat, why do you think that story told by his mother remained indelible in his memory?

– Probably have to see the moment of my life when he told me. I don't think it was casual; I think she chose that moment. A moment when I had to open myself to the world. I think my mother, in her own way, was telling me: "Alberto, it's very good that you are honest with who you are."

-Evidently, homosexuality is present in the work, but what would you say is the real underlying theme?

-It's true that homosexuality is not. There is a love triangle in which two of the characters are gay; and that's it I believe that the fundamental issue is sentimental education in an era like Franco; an education that did not allow to talk about many things, not only homosexuality. When something exists and there is no talk about it, it remains screaming under the carpets. That is the real issue. Sometimes tragedies are assembled as terrible monsters precisely because of that inability to speak, to dialogue. Other issues, such as the recent economic crisis, also come up; and there is a tribute to the generations of our elders, whom we have judged with unfair severity. They also had to make sacrifices and renunciations, and not without difficulties.

– "Every night of a day", "Ushuaia", "The geometry of wheat" … Almost all his works seem to challenge today's viewer, but from concrete, intimate worlds, away from noise and our social framework more recognizable…

-Yes; I would say, contrary to what is always implied, that there are more points in my works in common with Romanticism than with Lorca. I like to get away from noise and presentism because I try to find something deeper and more archaic. I, of course, am an author of the present; but my decision as an author with respect to that present is not to bend its noise or bend to it, but to establish a dialectic with it. I sincerely believe that it is a riskier option than others.

-There is a sector of the public that seems to love hearing a very specific political speech when going to the theater. Aware of this, many authors decide to give it to them. What do you think of that option? What do you think should be the relationship of the theater with the society to which it is directed?

-Well, theater is always political. There is always a political discourse, by action or omission. What happens is that sometimes that political discourse prevails over the theatrical, and then … that becomes something else. I certainly do not know how to be there; I'm not interested. I think the theater should open cracks, generate questions, shake our own certainties; He must not dwell in a pulpit or a dais, but in doubt. I don't use the stage to talk about my ideas, nor do I turn my characters into my spokespersons. My ideas are present in my daily life as a citizen and in my vote; but in the theater, precisely, what I want to be present is the uncertainty of the human being, its darkest corners, its doubts. In addition, I think that theater that folds into politics is finally harmless, because it can only convince those already convinced. The theater, to be truly political, has to face the political!

-And now, after the National, does a new stage begin for you as an author?

-Well, the memory of the theater is very fragile. It is true that this award will allow me, above all, time to write and not be aware of other works (the award has a prize of 20,000 euros); because I cannot live exclusively on writing, as almost nobody can. The prize will remain for me forever. But you have to keep working as if nothing had happened

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