Charla sobre teatro (1935)

La Barraca

Some English notes: FGL begins by saying he does not like celebratory events of his work because they are too monumental, tomblike, cold, duty-driven. They are anything but demonstrations of affection. It would be better to organize attacks on actors and challenges to writers, where people would ask dashingly, angrily: Are you good enough to do this? Are you capable of expressing the anguish of the sea in a character? Do you dare describe the desperation of soldiers who are enemies of war? Demands and struggle, based on a severe love, forge the soul of the artist, which is destroyed by easy praise.

He contrasts popular theatre, full of attractive actresses and luxury – as well as falseness – that the public easily loves. The dramatic poet, if he wants his fame to be more than ephemeral, should remember “the fields of roses, wet with dawn, where the workers suffer, and that dove, wounded by a mysterious hunter, dying in the reeds without anyone to hear him cry.” He says he has therefore fled “sirens,” congratulations and fals praise, and has refused to have special celebration for the opening of his new play Yerma. He has, however, created a special showing of the play for actress Margarita Xirgú [listen to her fascinating 1932 lecture on the project of national theatre in the context of the 2d Spanish Republic].

Lorca says he is an ardent lover of “the theatre of social action.” Theatre, he says, is one of the most expressive and useful tools to build a country, and a barometer that marks its greatness or decline. A sensitive theatre, well formed in all of its aspects, from tragedy to vaudeville, can change the sensibilities of a people in just a fewyears. And a broken-down theatre, with hooves instead of wings, can cheapen, degrade, make vulgar a whole nation and put it to sleep.

Theatre is a school of tears and laughter and an open tribune where people can demonstate old or erroneous morals, and explain the human heart with live examples. A people that does not support its theatre is dead or dying; theatre that does not gather and lift up the social, historical, heartbeat and drama of its people, and the genuine color of its countryside and spirit, with laughter or tears, has no right to call itself theatre — it is then just a game room or a place to “kill time.”

The current “crisis” of theatre, he says, is commercialism. Writers and actors are subject to companies completely free from both literary and state control. They have no criteria of taste and offer no guarantees of quality. These are the problems.

Light theatre like vaudeville and comic opera, that can be fun, may survive, but theatre in verse, the historical genre and the traditional operetta will encounter more and more obstacle — because these are the genres that truly innovate. If there is nobody to guarantee that these innovations will be staged, that will be it — there will be no innovation in theatre.

KEY IDEAS: Theatre should attack and “tame” the public. It should impose itself on the audience, and not the other way around. That is why writers and actos should fight for authority. He makes a comparison to serious and demanding teachers, vs. those who flatter but do not teach. You CAN teach audiences — not the people, but the audience (the public), he says; but you have to insist on staging good work (not just let commercialism play to the lowest taste).

If strong theatre is not defended, theatre will no longer be an art with imagination, poetry and grace, but a random disorder. Art must come first, and actors should be artists (not mere entertainers). Theatre is art, not commerce. It is REALLY important not to think about the money that can be made today, but to focus on the new life and new theatre that are coming over the horizon.

NOTICE his last paragraphs: he says he is not giving lessons but hoping to receive them; that his words are dictated by enthusiasm and certainty; he is not deluding himself but thinking coldly and impartially, like a good Andalusian, with ancient blood in his veins. He contrasts the man who says today, today, today as he eats his bread by the fire, with the one who serenely watches dawn break over the fields; and the one who says now, now, now as he looks at the tiny maw of the ticket window with the one who feels new life hovering over the world.

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