Tiago Rodriguez, Director of the Avignon Festival: “Spanish will be one of the languages ​​of the festival’s guests”

He understands theater as a human gathering in which time, ideas and bonds are shared, a place he imagines as a space for horizontal and collaborative creativity in which he seeks a poetics capable of intervening and transforming reality. Born in Lisbon in 1977, Thiago Rodrigues He is an actor, director and playwright, creator of works such as By heart, Bovary, Anthony and Cleopatra or SobroHe is also the author of articles, poems, and film and television scripts. In 2021 he left management Dr.. Maria II National Theater in Lisbonwhich he has held since 2015, to become The first non-French artist to direct the Avignon Festivala position he joined last September.

In a few days, this creator who bets on the essence and complexity that traditionally wears minimalism in Spain comes down with two pieces. the first of them, On an impossible scalewhich will be closed fall festival November 26 next in Canal TheatresA story about men and women working on humanitarian missions. SecondKatarina and Jamal killed by the fascistsarticle on the confrontation between fascism and democracy which arrives on December 21 in Lliure Theater in Barcelona. Thiago Rodriguez spoke to this newspaper about both the production and his plans at the helm of the Avignon Festival, in a phone interview last week.

germ On an impossible scale (as far as impossible) Its director, from a curiosity fueled by having been in Geneva, before the pandemic, explains conversations with members International Red Cross s Doctors without borders. Rodriguez, the son of a journalist and a doctor, and his reps, in a way, did his father’s work to speak for his mother and interview professionals from humanitarian organizations displaced in different countries. And it is this real material, mixed with fantasy, that feeds into a play This work, which does not want to be a theatrical and documentary, “but a documented theater & rdquor;explains her manager.

In a plastic tent, along with a musician playing drums, the four actors in this play put together stories about their work, layer by layer, but “it’s not just a play about the stories they lived,” he says. Rodrigues,” above all, a work around the way they tell their stories and experiences, which is kind of One Thousand and One Nights& rdquo;. The Portuguese director also focuses on “the humility with which they share their stories, their suffering being secondary when they are in the presence of the suffering of those who help them.”

Rodrigues, who says he strays from the idealistic and romantic image that transforms these professionals into contemporary heroes, believes that they live a complex experience between two worlds, “one of which is the world of peace and human rights, and another world in which they exist unsecured”. However, the director is annoyed when we ask him On whether what he presents to the scene is a one-way, white, essentially European appearance that ignores the appearance of those who live in those countries and suffer the tragedy of war, famine, or natural disaster: “I disagree with the premise of the question because you assume that only the other suffers and that, furthermore So, he has no voice. This is not true, in the imagination there are always more witnesses of those who suffer than of the workers. There is a human factor on the border, and it does not necessarily have to be in that place in the twentieth century for a Swiss man, white with a white horse, who will save the other as a colonizer. Moreover, I am not doing a thesis on the phenomenon of human work. I am not talking about the whole forest, but about some trees. This is a question that we discuss in the team and that interests us, however I don’t want to amplify dominant speech, but I want to make invisible speech visible& rdquo;.

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Democracy versus recklessness

After the conclusion of this edition of the Madrid Fall Festival, Rodrigues will arrive on the Barcelona stage in December with Katarina and Jamal killed by the fascists, a piece more related to current political conversations, in times of the rise of the far right. It takes place in the year 2028And the It tells the story of a family whose members, according to a decades-old tradition, are dedicated to killing fascists and come together to celebrate the fact that young Katarina will make her debut by assassinating a judge. Everyone is called Catarina, and not just the young man, because Thiago Rodriguez is inspired by the real case of Catarina Euphemia, a 26-year-old peasant who was murdered in 1954 in the Portuguese Alentejo, when she asked her employer to pay her the same amount. The men who mow the field are like her. She was killed by a National Guard gendarme, with several shots, with her young son in her arms, W.B Her murder became a symbol of feminist and anti-fascist resistance.

Should we maintain our efforts within a democratic context of dialogue, or is there no alternative in the face of fascism but to also respond with violence? ”

In this work, which connects the violence of fascism with that of masculinity practiced on women throughout history, Rodriguez questions what the response of democracy should be: “Should we maintain our efforts in a democratic context of dialogue or in the face of fascism, is there no other alternative than to respond also With violence? & rdquor;. And it is those questions that fuel the struggle of young Catarina before killing her first target in this work that is not so much about violence or fascism, but “On the suspicion that a democrat can live today in the context of fascism-inspired nationalist extremismwhich are closely related to physical and symbolic violence against women, explains the director.

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The show ends, says Tiago Rodriguez, with the victory of the fascist who survived and gives a half-hour speech “extreme, nationalist, fascist, patriarchal and homophobic speech, which unfortunately we know in Portugal, Spain, France or Italy, a speech that begins with talking about the right of the majority to their freedom. Words that stirred all Types of fiery reaction among the audience in the different cities where the play was presented – “There were attempts to attack the actor, riots & mldr; ” – and this is They put Thiago Rodriguez and his team in the crosshairs of Giorgia Meloni’s super matchwhich publicly called for the show to be canceled when it opened in Italy, before Fratelli d’Italia’s election victory last September.

Avignon in Spanish

As this newspaper speaks to Thiago Rodriguez, he has been in France working for several weeks on what will be his first publication as director of Avignon FestivalWhich will be presented next March. Rodrigues announced that the festival will have a guest language every year, and in 2023 it will be English, but we ask him if 2024 will be the year of the Spanish language in Avignon: “Spanish will be the language of the guest for one year because theater and dance have an extraordinary variety and quality in countries where the language is spoken. And because it is, moreover, a language that has a tremendous capacity for invention and can tell many stories about the collective history of mankind. Between the heritage of the Spanish language and its present, there is a kind of obligation to choose Spanish as a guest language at the Avignon Festival, and this would also give me the opportunity to speak it a little better. Each year, “who will meet with the programming team and present their work, but also invite other artists to imagine an exhibition, festival communication or coexistence spaces & rdquor;

Although Rodriguez won’t announce which artists and companies will be attending the festival next summer until March, he’s excitedly sharing lines of his amazing work. In addition to increasing the environmental responsibility of the event, The Portuguese will bet on a program in which “future and memory” coexist & rdquor;, a combination that, he says, will characterize the four years he spent at the helm of Avignon by “works that relate to the past but that experiment and innovate towards the future”, with artistic proposals that are “demanding and complex”; that reach a greater audience and its diversity.

explains the Portuguese, who associates this idea with the call for “public service & rdquor; of the competition “because we will work of course with city theatres, with French and international artists, but also with other institutions such as the prison closest to Avignon and its prisoners, or with the public residence of the elderly and people who live there & rdquo;. Added to this A project to decentralize the festival and transfer small businesses to neighboring cities “To enter this area where there is a population that sometimes feels abandoned, not only by the political system, but also by the artistic and cultural system,” explains Tiago Rodríguez, “we not only have to wait for these people to come to us, but we go towards them.

With the search for this audience for the first time, the decentralization of the festival and the opening of new dialogues with other institutions, it seems that what its new director is seeking is to reduce the elitist appearance that Avignon has enjoyed for years and turn it into a more popular and more connected to society. The Portuguese are clear on this: “Avignon has been, since 1947, a popular utopia for the theatre, and the fact that it is seen today as an elitist festival, sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly, is a mistake that must be changed because it is not the spirit in which it was founded.” Jean Villar. In addition to that artistic freedom that we so stubbornly defend There is a political mission as well which translates into a look at the transformative potential of art in society and make it accessible to all. To say that we now have a little more common discourse is not a communication or an act of propaganda, it turns the Avignon festival into what Jean Vilard had already dreamed of: the chief and the clerk sitting in the same chairs, at the same time, watching the same play, making their differences clear after the play, when They argue, but not in the theatre, where the audience is level with the audience.

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