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Theatre

Sportivo Teatral (Argentina)

Wednesday October 12 at 7:00 and 9:30 p.m.
Teatro alle Tese
Sportivo Teatral (Argentina)
El Box    [Italian premiere]
Written and directed by Ricardo Bartís

with Mirta Bogdasarian (María Amelia), Pablo Caramelo (Aníbal), Adrián Fondari (Tatú), Andrés Irusta (dancer), Matías Scarvaci (Dr. Otamendi), Mariana de la Mata (Noemí), Jazmín Antar (Delia).
costumes César Taibo
sets Isabel Gual
music Manuel Llosa
assistant Mariela Castro Balboa
assistant to the director Mariano González
production Sportivo Teatral
 
This is a topos for film rather than theatre, the story of a sports champion who dreams of his moment of glory. But perhaps there has never been a particularly good understanding between the world of theatre and the world of sports. This is not the case with Ricardo Bartís, the advocate of new Argentine theatre in the world and at home (even Spregelburd began to study with him after seeing Postales argentinas in 1988). Bartís chooses the world of sports as the subject for as many as three productions, gathered under the title Trilogía deportiva: fishing, football – of which as a true Argentinean he is a great fan – and boxing, a sport which was very popular in the past, and has provided so many heroes embedded in our collective imagination. Why sports? Because, says Bartís, “there is a need for mythology, for a heroic tale from which to start”; because theatre “should spark the same passion as a football game”; because sports are games in which “the participants accept the rules, in the same way theatre is an experience with its own laws”; and finally, because sports like entertainment are the metaphor of a country, of society.
 
El Box, which premiered in Buenos Aires last year during the celebrations for the bicentennial of the country’s independence from Spain, and was subsequently presented at the Festival d’Automne in Paris, where Bartís is very popular, is the second part of the Trilogía deportiva (La Pesca – El Fútbol). Sports provide the background, the opportunity to question – as stated in the programme notes – the history of the country. The evident violence, the desire for dreams of grandeur, the absence of myths, the confusion, the defeat, march past in the images of an impossible celebration.
 
The scene takes place in an old boxing gym in Temperley, in the metropolitan belt surrounding Buenos Aires, in the outer suburbs. María Amelia known as “La Piñata”, an allusion to the punches she used to land as an adolescent, when women were occupied in far different affairs, prepares the celebrations for her fiftieth birthday. She has known periods of wealth and sporting glory; she hopes that the party will restore the energy she used to feel in the ring. She is accompanied by her husband Aníbal, a former sports commentator and radio reporter, who does not approve of this exaggerated longing to celebrate. She has hired “El Tatù” and “El Torito” for the party, so that theoretically they could liven up the party by boxing.
 
But the party degenerates… The great legends of boxing, from Nicolino Loche to Muhammad Alí, religion, sacrifice, offerings, bounce back and forth between the boxing gloves and the rounds of boxing. As “La Piñata” says: “in a world that has drained all our energy, our efforts, a good punch in the mouth is the only passport to awareness”. It is through the solitude of the boxer, of this woman who spends life dodging its blows and fighting, who knows nothing but violence and lives a life of resistance, because “pain is fortifying” and is the passport to success, that Bartís portrays an entire society.
 
An actor, director and playwright, since 1986 Ricardo Bartís has been the director of the Sportivo Teatral, a former ambulance garage in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires, which was becoming the centre of alternative culture in those years. A theatre company, and training space, the Sportivo Teatral is now one of the many souls of the extremely fertile theatre scene of the Argentine capital. Though it is impossible to follow the over 600 debuts staged in Buenos Aires in the year 2010 alone, “living in Buenos Aires or passing through the city without going to the theatre is like visiting New York without going to the MOMA” (Jorge Dubatti). With his company, the Latin-American director has staged a relatively small body of works that have revolutionized the Spanish scene and established him as the point of reference for experimental theatre: Postales argentinas, Hamlet o la Guerra de los teatros, El corte, El pecado no se puede nombrar, based on the writings of one of the greatest Argentine authors Roberto Arlt, Donde más duele, on texts involving the myth of Don Juan, presented in 2006 at the Festival delle Colline Torinesi and on the bill for over a month the following year at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. As a film actor, Bartís worked in the film El viaje by Fernando Solana, presented in competition in 1992 at the 52nd Cannes Film Festival, where the film won a special mention by the jury and the Technical Grand Prize.
 
El Box is a place occupied by solitude. That of Aníbal (Pablo Caramelo) or the former boxer played by Mirta Bogdasarian, an actress who brings power to the action, in both the situations that require courage and the more frightening ones as well. Like when the guests break in, making their merry yet cruel appearance to the rhythm of the cumba. (…) The fight into which the party degenerates relies on a mix of drama, parody, comedy.
Hilda Cabrera, Página/12, 4 September 2010
 
Bartís explains that El Box is a metaphor for the violence of history and society in Argentina, and the just desire to fight against it: “La Piñata alludes to the need to recover a non-mythical, but truly experienced time, a time of fighting in the ring, when the passion was tangible. But the party degenerates into the violence that the strong exercise over the weak. The finale of the work seeks to suggest that some people will clearly suffer the consequences of this generalized violence. As she watches the final fight, La Piñata gives a heroic speech, which is a metaphor for the politics that for decades were based on countless deaths. In Argentina, every once in a while the debate turns back to the demand for sacrifice, and politics are built on violence, tragedy is the point of departure to build new agreements. Let’s hope that the situation changes. The idea behind El Box is that it is important to defend a culturally different vision, that rejects the methods that have been used for decades to justify coups-d’état and dictatorships (…) The thesis of the play could be the following: every once in a while we feel the need to establish a ritual in which the speeches are progressive, important and civilized, but they end up leading to confusion, folly and violence”.
From an interview with Ricardo Bartís by Jorge Dubatti, Revista Ñ, 16 March 2011

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