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Interviews Photo: Taken from the instagram profile of Teatro El Portazo (@teatro.elportazo).

Teatro El Portazo: "Our poetics cannot be conceived from silence".

Every now and then I feel I am losing the country

Roly Berrío


There is almost nothing left here of what we were. I feel that all the time. So I feel like I want to go back. Back to when the parks were full, and we didn't stay up so late; but also back to a time I never lived, where the country was all parties, and garlands.

To live that which -I believe- we were, I always go to music and theater. That is why, every now and then, I want to return to that kind of sweet and luminous Republic that is Teatro El Portazo. Because we will almost no longer have a country, but at least we have in our memory that island, that sort of homeland that was made when entering any show of the group from Matanzas.

Since its first show, For pleasure, Pedro Franco, director of the group "found an order from the sonority". And so, through the forging of their "seal" they incorporated more and more music: "we could almost say that in the beginning it was the music for us. With time we learned to give it narrative, discursive uses, but it always marked the atmosphere and the tone in which I would move in all the productions. From For pleasure to date the staging begins to be drawn by the soundtrack".

I have had the pleasure of seeing Pedro at work, walking around Holguin, or facing a wave of public that wanted to burst into the El Almacén Cultural Center in Gibara. He would get CCPC, Light Republic. I was inside, and I saw a woman crying at the scene of gender violence; outside, they say that a mother shouted that she had three children, and that the only thing she was asking for was to get in to see a play. I remember Pedro walking immutably, trying to calm the situation and achieve a performance in which we all vibrated as if it was the only time we felt like a country, and not scattered islands.

I do not believe in labels, nor in exact formulas of Cubanness. I believe, instead, that Cubanness is a feeling, a lot of nostalgia and sad laughter, a lot of overthinking in silence. I believe that the theater we do is one of the few things we have left as a sample of our Cubanness. That is why I can say that the most musical of Teatro El Portazo are Cuban, very Cuban. Not because of their archetypal characters or their language. street, For me, the very Cuban aspect of Portazo is in that atonement of pain that ends in song, because "you don't have to cry", you have to sing to make the pain go away. Thus, in each show, the music pacts the communion between each person in the audience and each actor. El Portazo in Mexico, me in Holguín. I write to Pedro and he answers, he always answers. 

Under what criteria do you select the topics?

Diverse. The ideal theme for me would be one that brings me closer to the spectator. One that works as an evocative, discursive, narrative or mobilizing tool. I look for its integrality. If I find it, I build the scenic unity around the theme. That's why I needed more and more music in my shows, and I ended up venturing into the musical format with All men are equal

I try to use music in function of the production of meaning, if it makes me travel in the intimacy of the studio and the search, I establish a challenge with myself to try to translate it into the language of the scene. To share that state. This process happens with Ave Maria for Cuba by José María Vitier, and with Bajanda by Chocolate MC. Any genre makes sense to me.

How do you think Cuban music enriches and complements the theatrical experience?

I suppose that as such it enriches and complements the identity of the Cuban. It activates a root zone. I couldn't tell you if Cuban theater, for the most part, is using Cuban music in its productions, I would like to think so. But I have been able to verify that it is almost always a successful resource to introduce Cuban music in a show. It establishes a connection in another way that is profitable. The theater makes use of various disciplines, including music, to lift the fiction. An intelligent and rigorous use of the diversity of Cuban music on stage will always be well received by the spectator to whom we aspire. 

How are the shows constructed? Is the music selected according to the text or is it written from the musical selection?

There is no single way to build a show. I have always arrived through music, but there are infinite ways. In my case, the abstraction that is the idea drives me to look for music to support it, to draw it and, finally, the form arrives, the montage, which is the most chaotic part of the process. There are authors who suggest the musical theme, I like to surprise the viewer with the soundtrack, I like to provoke a certain rescue of the collective memory, I consider that complicity very powerful. 

How have the shows evolved and how have they been enriched over the years?

I feel that [they have evolved] influenced by the circumstances in which they were born. The conception, production and creation of a show depend on many variables. The work of direction is to be responsible for the harmony of all of them in terms of the concreteness and success of the project. Therefore, the growth of a group and its productions will be determined by the circumstances in which it has to develop, and its relationship with these, its perception and resilience. Enrichment comes with the expansion of experience and objectives. The curiosity to push the limit that has been reached. Assuming this need to put at risk all certainties generates a tension and discomfort that favors growth, evolution. It is a sacrificial operation. This internal movement is strongly reflected in the results. 

How has the Mexican public reacted to stagings with so much "Cubanness", with so many jokes and internal references?

I feel it is very good. We brought versions of our stagings to Mexico. For pleasure and The Recitalito..., although we have shown scenes of CCPC because of our connection to the Mexican cabaret movement, which is very powerful and has given us a warm welcome. The intention of the staging is understood by the audiences. Obviously the referential zone is lost, but the communion that is generated in the encounter of two cultures is a very noble space from where we work and communicate. The shows are enjoyed and generate curiosity. We are part of a Cuba that overflows the space of the news and the promotion of tourist agencies, to see fragments of a society on stage enables a real approach. Beyond the imaginary one has of Cuba. In addition, the Mexican people are generally friendly and hospitable to the Cuban artist. The overall experience has been very good and enriching. 

Tell me about Sugar, When is the premiere of the show scheduled?

Sugar is a blessing, it is a project in gestation that will give us the opportunity to get closer to the figure of Celia Cruz. I have been able to confirm that our vision of La guarachera de Cuba is very limited from the island, we remain in the anecdotal at best, between her pain for Cuba and the brilliance of her success. But here we have had the opportunity to weigh his imprint, his very clean example and significance for the Latin community. This puts us in a great commitment. It will be a scenic and musical show that will recreate a television program called SUGAR dedicated to the mythical figure of Celia. We try to go through her career and the events of her life that forged that conquering character of millions of followers. As a musical revue, with live musicians and a corps de ballet, the actors will embody several characters that will articulate before the audience the life of Celia Cruz, paying tribute to her existence. I like to think of a tribute not only artistic, but generational. I feel in this project the possibility of contributing to pay off a debt, which is infinite, but it feels good to walk in the right direction. It is in pre-production and has the collaboration of several Cuban and Mexican creators. The producers understand and embrace the research and editing process and that has been fundamental to affirm that the project has guarantees of rigor and truth. It has a projected premiere in 2025. That's what I can say for now, but it has become my passion.

To what extent has the Cuban songbook defined the aesthetics of Portazo in these more than 10 years?

Part of our audience has vivid memories of the soundtrack of our shows. And much of that soundtrack is Cuban music. They are music and texts generated by performers and composers who are part of a historical stage, or have been incorporated into our emotional storehouse for accompanying us in a segment of our lives. But the fundamental thing has been that the material used from the Cuban songbook has the capacity to bring us together around an idea, an emotion, a discourse. We tend to narrate and manage rhythms and dramatic effects through music, and we tend to be zealous with the selected repertoire. I could affirm that our poetics is not conceived from silence. And all this has been possible to affirm because of the presence of Cuban music in our works and to verify the acceptance of the public. If it works, don't touch it.

Avatar photo Anyi Romera Girl/Music Box who plays at being a mariadelcarmen. Insomnia sorter and part-time scribe. It's not me, it's the others. More posts

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