Nicolás Dorr and An Unforgettable Interview

Nicolás Dorr and An Unforgettable Interview
Fecha de publicación: 
19 December 2023
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His gallery of nostalgic or passionate, tender or angry, lucid or hallucinated characters show the measure of the author's imaginative landscape. The world of yesterday and today, the past and the present, the clash of different realities come together in the work of Nicolás Dorr. His variety of types, themes and environments flows marked sometimes by humor and farce, other times by the highest and noblest human values. The pericas, “those devilishly eternal old ladies,” as he described them, made him the youngest playwright in the history of theater in Cuba.

Our meeting took place in moments of great joy for him, because in the 47th edition of the awards given by the Association of Entertainment Reporters of New York (ARE), he won the Dramaturgy award, the first Cuban to have won that award. It was due to the premiere of Confessions in Chinatown by the Teatro Rodante, from Puerto Rico, with a long and prestigious history in Manhattan.

The Beginnings

As a child he studied at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. He tells me that a teacher had the idea of having the students themselves write the texts. Nicolás composed a small scene in verse and also a small drama. Those were his first theatrical experiences.

-For me, the work of theater is essential; it’s full of pleasant moments, but also uncertainties. I will tell you that it’s heartbreaking and at the same time life-giving. The writer, when he creates, feels that he is living multiple lives: that of his characters.

I ask him about his work as director:

-I have experimented with directing and it has helped me a lot to probe deeper and deeper into the fascinating mysteries of theater. It has been useful to me to understand the problem of rhythm, time, and logic. I have extraordinary respect for the director's work because it’s actually complex and even distressing; it’s not easy to bring together many different wills, to achieve unity. However, I confess my predilection for dramaturgy.

-Some critics have said that in several of your works there are elements of the absurd.

-I can affirm that the grotesque, the farce, lives in my theater. These opinions of the influence or certain aspects of the theater of the absurd emerged as a result of a theatrical movement that in the 60s was in fashion throughout the world. So it was easy for some elements of the farce, the grotesque of my theater to be aligned or branded by some critics within the tendency of the absurd. In my opinion, there could not have been that influence at that time because when I wrote Las Pericas I was 14 years old and the same age prevented me from having a deep knowledge of the philosophy of the theater of the absurd, and even use its main cultivators, like Ionesco, were unknown to me.

-Why this aftertaste for the grotesque mainly in your first works?

-When I wrote Las Pericas, I met their characters, their hallucinated, grotesque world: the only thing I did was let myself get carried away by what they gave me. They were very close characters, some of them even family members. I was shaped in a delightful environment of the stage, but also of theatrical life in another sense because my family, which is very dramatic, who passionately experiences conflicts, reacts theatrically.

From the banks of memory emerges the family universe, home nostalgia and since then purely theatrical children's games.

-The taste for exaggeration, for everything imaginative, also comes to me from my town, Santa Fe, a coastal refuge, full of anecdotes that border on surrealism. There’s a kind of very special Santa Fe mythology. In almost all my theater, the most caricatured characters are those who represent evil forces, reactionary forces. In Las Pericas it happens like this. However, the character Rosita is not in that conception, but within a real and positive line. I don't want to abandon my roots because this would be betraying myself as a creator, and I have ways of seeing reality with a sense of humor that accompanies me naturally. I assume that form, I don’t discard it.

-In El agitado pleito entre un actor y un ángel, UNEAC Award, 1972, there are other approaches.

-It's true. In that work I consider the need to address beings with other human values in my production, with a better exercise of virtue. It was also a requirement because connected to those characters who do not deserve the author's crudeness, but rather a more respectful vision, is the reflection of a new reality.

-Would you dare to reflect out loud about your theater?

-I think that this analysis corresponds more to the critics. Now I think that it’s almost, in the face of each offer of reality, to accept the attitude that that same proposal suggests. From El palacio de los cartones to Una casa colonial there are different proposals.

-In your work, both the one that evokes the magical, fantasy world and the one that belongs to realism, female characters abound. Why this predilection?

- It happens to me a bit like Antonioni, who sees in women a strength and fortitude in the face of life's problems that excited him more than in men. But, furthermore, I think it’s a general problem of Cuban dramaturgy. The prevalence of female characters is also in Ibsen, Shakespeare, García Lorca. We could also analyze that the person who writes the work is a man and as such he is more attracted to women. Particularly, I want to have male protagonists not only for the character itself, but because in Cuba there are great actors who deserve works for them. In my piece Un viaje entretenido... the protagonist is a man.

-Nicolás, you premiered Mediodía candente. Nicolás Dorr, what does this monologue mean in the context of your work?

-An exceptional case. I had already worked on the monologue “Yo tengo un  brillante”, performed first by Margot de Armas and then by Aurora Basnuevo. Mediodía candente is a realistic monologue. In a short time the character had to develop all of his problems and reach a radical transformation of his personality. With that monologue it was the first time that I worked on current events, and if in El agitado pleito entre un actor y un ángel I considered addressing it, the great immediacy of the monologue made me assume super current events.

We couldn't avoid talking about Rosita Fornés, who represents a lot to Dorr. She shined in Confesión en el barrio chino.

-For me, she is the most extraordinary actress on the national scene. Working with her or writing for her is a privilege that I have had access to on several occasions, thanks to her kindness.

More from the playwright

Considered one of the most significant authors in Latin America, the National Theater Award, 2014, Nicolás Dorr wrote more than 20 plays, among which are El Palacio de los Cartones, , La esquina de los concejales, Clave de sol, Maravillosa inercia, La chacota, El agitado pleito entre un autor y un ángel (UNEAC Award, 1972), Vivir en Santa Fe, comedy with original music composed by Juan Formell, Confrontación, Un viaje entretenido, Nenúfares en el techo del mundo, Una casa colonial, El hombre más codiciado del mundo, La profana familia, Juegos sucios, Los excéntricos de la noche... His pieces have been performed in numerous countries. He offered conferences in the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Panamanian Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela...

Author of the novel El legado del caos, he died on December 18, 2018 in Havana. He was 71 years old.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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