The dramatist and director Jesús Urqueta talked with Arte Al Límite in the interview introduced in the following. His pieces have highlighted the current scene, covering several of the most important theaters of the country, with works that come back in new seasons as Arpeggione or Prefiero que me coman los perros. We also talked about theater as a therapy and his role as an act teacher.
He was born and raised in Ovalle, where he went out to explore the landscapes by bicycle with his grandfather. He wears a helmet but says that in all his years he has had several accidents, but he has never stuck in his head. If companies went to Ovalle, or if he traveled with his father, he would see plays. His father was a regular spectator, he has memories of attending plays since he was 8 years old. For the child Jesus Santiago was synonymous with theater.
“For me, theater itself is a collective art that revolutionizes because it is collective in an individualistic society”
Urqueta studied in a school of Basque priests, San Viator de Ovalle. He learned to cook, plant vegetables, live with the difference, survive the halls of 47 students; He learned to lead the coexistence between men and bullying when nobody called him bullying, which made him fight to defend himself. He learned, he says, what it means to go all to the birthday of the child who had more money, and go all to the birthday of the one who had less, and the generosity he saw in both. He considers it a very good experience, he is grateful even though he was expelled from that school and had to do fourth grade in another school, from another city. In that school he met the theater, in a school workshop in Iquique. Then, in the two years that he studied journalism he also did some theater workshops for amateurs. Then he studied acting. “In the second year I realized that I was blocked to act, but I really liked the phenomenon,” he says. Upon graduation, he “forced” himself to remain tied to the tables and began teaching classes. He had no vocation for being a director or for teaching, but he felt that he should continue in the theater, although he was certain that he did not like acting. At 24 he was already teaching and that made him discover the address. “There I said this is the place I like,” he says. Since then he has not stopped directing and teaching.
How do you decide that a piece deserves to be mounted?
They are two answers, because there are two options that I have taken for a few years, there are the works that are my authorship or my concern and, also, some time ago I am accepting works of director on request. I would say that there are two ways of choosing which work deserves to be mounted, one is a moral concern that has to do with a certain authorial line related to contingent scenes of Chilean political history, and which, I believe, obey an “editorial line” of the company with which I work the most, Official Version Theater, where we work hidden histories of transition and post-dictatorship democracy. I think that from that place works like C (Civil), The office, how to fill this hole that I have in my heart, Everything is limited to the desire to live eternally and Matter of principles are framed in that subject. And on the other hand, there is work as a director that has to do with being inserted in a market and from that place, with all the terrible that that word sounds, to understand that sometimes one chooses certain texts, certain works. From that place the personal line that I have made has to do with dramaturgy that I think is interesting, contingent and, also, that it is a challenge, like the one I am doing now that is a version of the Flavia Radrigán of King Lear, which is a work that we premiered in May, within the framework of Teatro Hoy, which is a production of Quilicura Cultural Corporation. It is a text with an intensity and depth that I am attracted to take to the scene and try to ride it. The monologue transformed it, I got them to accept returning it to two characters, and there is the challenge of telling a great story with few characters.
“For me, the challenge was enormous because I had to betray what I think about theater”
Do you think that Matter of principles has this value as well?
Question of principles is a work that occurred to us from a milestone that has to do with the concern of the Official Version company to work on the issue of transition and post Pinochet democracy. And what they have to do with how they celebrated or commemorated the 30 years of the Yes and the No was a subject that allowed us to continue investigating in hidden places of Chilean democracy. The restlessness to work that text arose, to work a version of that text with Alejandro Goic, within the idea that we had with Amalia was that the actor who played the main character was not only an actor who played a character, but we worked with the biography and lend your body as a file. Alejandro complied with that, not only is he a great actor, he is a great person and he was also a great political militant and activist, who was involved in this part of the transition to democracy. It is a bit biographical, is that in the background, in Official Theater, when working contingent issues there are always biographical places that we have worked in all our works, also from the journalism, interviews, real data, real denunciations.
Why to mount Prefiero que me coman los perros again?
I like the play because of what I told you in the first question, it was a challenge first of all that they say “Jesus, we want you to work with this playwright that you have never worked with, but who will be building in the I walk this work “and, on the other hand, I also felt the conditions of being super respectful with the text. Generally, as I work, I believe that the director, without becoming a playwright, becomes a stage editor. But here the commitment was to mount the text that Carla wrote authentically on stage. The challenge for me was super big because I had to betray a bit of what I think of the theater and dialogue with a different form of work than what I was used to, and from that place I like the result, because it also made me know another way of working.
“I like the environment existing in the stadium, I find it theatrical”
Is there anything to teach how to be a character when you are director?
What happens is that especially with work in the university one has gone as professionalizing in this thing of pedagogy, I to teach the theatrical content I studied a Master of Arts with mention in theatrical pedagogy, I studied teaching methodologies and I have I have been doing my own methodology of working with theater students and also with actors, which are very different things. One certainty that I have is that I do not treat any person in the same way as another, I do not think that we have to treat all the same or that we have to have a formula to teach or direct theater, I try to go to dialogue with each student, actress or actor in a different way. For the body that has, for the ideologies, the forms that they have. There are actors that I feel need you to direct them more, there are actors who need you not to direct them; there are actors who understand the context immediately and can explain it to you better than you, actors who do not. As a director or theatrical pedagogue, you have to be able to discover what kind of person is at the forefront, and to be able to find the way for him or her to solve the character in the best way, but based on their identity.
Is there a lack of theater in schools?
In primary and secondary education I think so, I think that the performing arts and the atelier in general should be more in the schools, first by culture, and not only I refer to the subject of theater, I believe that the concepts of art, culture , the history of the country, should be much more dialogue, not only as a historical or statistical data, should teach us to reflect on the culture from the art, and that would enter the visual arts, scenic, circus arts as I find them interesting. Yes, theater work is very necessary, but for a transversal thing that has to do with the development of points of view, with the positioning of one entity, understanding and building with the other. Theater has ways of understanding the world not from individualism, for me theater itself is a collective art that is revolutionary because it is collective in an individualistic society. The theater still believes that people meet with other people in an act of communication and try to change the lives of people who sit down to see something, that rite that is being assembled in the theater is very revolutionary for the time and since that time place is necessary in schools.
What do you do in your free time?
I go to museums a lot, or travel, I just went three weeks to Europe, I went to see movies, theater, museums, football, I went by train, I did things that I do not do. In between I started reading “Stoner” by John Williams, who talks about a child from the United States who grew up in the country and would be the first of his family to study agronomy, but discovers literature and teaching.
“I am attracted by theater from another view that does not have to do with dramatic writing”
What kind of shows do you like to go?
Look, I separate things. I believe that theater is my job. I go to the theater a lot, but I’m going to work in the theater. For leisure I like to go to the stadium, I go to see sporting events, I usually go to football, to see the Universidad de Chile, Palestino, Unión Española. Now I went to see Real Madrid at their stadium to a game of the Dutch league, I like the atmosphere that is armed in the stadium, I find it very theatrical. I’m going to athletics competitions too. I go to the cinema tired and I try to go to the museum and exhibitions, I also like the possibility of seeing classical music, chamber orchestras. And I’m going to see the theater, but to see how they do it, I rarely manage not to be in the role of director, I’m going to work in the background, to see how the other directors do the works. I really like auteur cinema, I really like Tarkovski. I’ve seen Lebanese films that I liked a lot, like Incendies, which is Lebanese-Canadian and based on a play. I also saw Capernaum, which was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film. I like the cinematography that has to do with the use of real time, with contemplation, silence, I like it a lot, more than the word and the text, I also spend a lot with the theater, I engage with the theater from other places that do not they are dramaturgy. So when you asked me the first question yes, I try to find the text I like, sometimes I do not like the text but if I find something in the atmosphere that inspires me to create, I still accept that work.
“Arpeggione is a defeat story and I take it to the imitation of the Chilean history”
I think of Arpeggione, where the main character is to be intended to not be a renowned artist. Is that common in the artistic medium?
What a difficult question. I do not know. I believe that in the Chilean artistic environment it is very difficult to be recognized. Now, I do not know if the vast majority wants to be recognized, maybe yes, maybe not, we should investigate. I believe in something that the work does have, I believe that Arpeggione is a story of profound defeat, and I take it to the simile of the history of Chile, of one as a citizen, of us who perhaps want a better country and we realized that we lost and it is very difficult that we give it back. I think that the structure that caught my attention when I read Arpeggione had to do with something that started defeated and there was the possibility of change, but it is the same fears what make you not to take the step. I am interested in why at the moment Rosa has to say “I want to be her companion” she does not do it, out of fear, because of internal things. And the moment Lorenzo has to tell Rosa “I want you to be my companion”, he does not either. Because of fear. I think that there is a trauma that is a simile of Chilean society.
Does theater relieve that trauma?
I play theater because it’s the way I try to say what I think of the world. I try not to put certainties because I do not have many either. I try to decipher what the people I work with mean, who are the actresses and the actors, the designers and musicians, and the dramatists and dramatists, who also have to say. Finally, as a director being in charge of this project, you represent many other voices. I find it interesting to be the channel of many visions and points of view. And that collective thing that told you theater, I believe it deeply, I believe that a society, a country or a theater collective are built from individuals that form this collective, but these individuals are free, supportive, have self-discipline, have the capacity to self-management Those 4 topics for me are vital.
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I think of the surviving Bryan’s lover, the name of my country in flames, how does that character end up reconciling and being this person that you say is worthy to be part of the society?
You talk about Diego, the voice. I think first there is a path of self-criticism, review what you did to reach certain dark periods of your life, review what mistakes or what things you did to get to that place and, second, have the will to be able to change, I think that is a decision because I find that you can make a mistake 20 million times, maybe not in the same thing but many times, now you really want to change that. Here in Bryan’s text I feel that after writing the playwright maybe he has a fierce self-criticism, but while that happens, he goes the other way, I do not know if there is that repentance in all that work. It seems to me that it is the grace, that the fierce thing that it has is that they are pure certainties, that suddenly they are uncomfortable, that is what I like a lot of that poems, that just as I feel that I do not have many certainties, he had Many and that I found interesting to mount. Especially for young goats who are graduating and has a lot to do with their stories as well. The Bryan is a work that has to do with a pedagogical context, and from that place there is also a very important voice, which is that of the student who is there, not that I say “we are going to assemble this text in this way” but that what I do is with everything they told me they wanted to do “this is the text that works best for us, read it now, I’m going to assemble what you want to do, what you want to say about this text”. Thanks to the magister who told you I separate a work that I am directing from a pedagogical work, I do not approach it in the same way.
Prefiero que me coman los perros is in M100 until March 31.
Cuestión de principios in Teatro del Puente until March 31.
In April, Arpeggione comes to Teatro del lago on 5 and 6.