Alfredo Sanzol, a native of Pamplona born in Madrid in 1972, was curious about theater when his mother took him as a child, but it was in a high school stage workshop that he discovered the magic of acting. He started to play the director “playing the clicks and assembling stories “at the same time as he wrote prose and poetry, until he succeeded in the technique of dramaturgy. He studied law because” in 1989 there was an active political environment in Pamplona “and he wanted to” change society. ” years dedicating himself to the performing arts with the conviction that “to change reality you first need the vision of changing reality and that is what the theater is for.” It is this vision of the world that has marked his unmistakable way of directing the Dramatic Center National (CDN) since 2020.
The numbers from last season applaud him: the percentage of occupancy of works was 84%, the number of spectators reached 69,070 and tickets were sold out in 362 functions and activities. For the season that starts, Sanzol has scheduled 27 shows – 15 of them are absolute premieres – and more than 60 transversal activities. The bar that swallowed all the Spaniards, Written and directed by himself, it premiered last season with resounding success and is re-released this September 15. The play tells the story of his father: a Navarrese priest who in 1963 decided to change his life, leave the priesthood and go to Texas to study marketing. It has five nominations in the next Max Awards and all the seats are already sold.
How did you get to the National Dramatic Center?
Through a contest. My project had (and has) to do with the historical situation of good health of contemporary dramaturgy, which is now the protagonist here. I wanted the shows that were seen to have a connection to what is being written at the moment.
As a public institution we have the ability to take the risk of commissioning and scheduling jobs before knowing the final result of the works.
Give priority to newly created works over repertory theater?
Yes, to put contemporary dramaturgy in the foreground. As a public institution we have the ability to take the risk of commissioning and scheduling jobs before knowing the final result of the works. This risk is essential to give the creator economic security that allows him to develop his work (which comes to us in the form of a proposal: ideas, images or wishes) and he or she can develop with the material conditions covered. All the texts that I have written in my life have been because it had a release date, for a commission. So it was with The bar that swallowed all the Spaniards. It is true that from CDN we run the risk of programming works that do not finish working but it is important to bet and trust the playwrights and the new creation. And, in fact, last season we did very well.
How do you program without knowing the entirety of the work?
Studying the resumes, how that person explains the project and giving space to companies that do not have full experience but need wings to fly.
What are the other driving ideas behind the National Dramatic Center project?
The issue of parity is essential. In the entertainment world, patriarchy continues to be very powerful. We are happy because we have reached 43% of our programming with women’s jobs. I am also sensitive to the creations of groups with disabilities and I wanted to give them a space, not a festival, but to integrate them into the program without emphasizing that they are artists with disabilities. My grandfather was deaf and it has been a very important topic for my family, through him I have learned a lot about the art of storytelling.
Attracting young people is also a priority. We have started a group of kids who are working every week and whose objective is to put on a show. The idea is that they are in contact with all the trades of the theater. I am proud because last season we have managed to get those under 30 to come in almost 150% more than in previous seasons.
Are you having budget problems? Do you lack money to carry your project forward?
From 2008 until now the budget of the National Dramatic Center has been reduced by almost 40%. The cuts that culture has suffered are comparatively greater than those of other sectors. Culture continues to play an ornamental value within the political structure. Our goal is to show that culture is the essence of life: we are culture. So yes, not just us, the entire sector needs resources.
I have heard him request more personnel for the Ministry of Culture. Where do you need more workers?
If there is a loss of a technician because he gets sick, until we get someone to replace him, such a long time passes … and the show continues. We are working miracles and we are moving forward due to the very good disposition of the officials. We need more staff and that the mechanisms to cover leave and retirements are more agile. Administrative procedures would have to be streamlined because the show doesn’t stop even though we’re short on staff.
Why are Extremadura, Galician, Asturian or Balearic citizens, paying their taxes, unable to enjoy the productions they pay for? Is the CDN a center only for Madrid?
No, this is not just from Madrid. Madrid would also have to have its own Dramatic Center like Catalonia or Galicia has. In Spain there should be an autonomous structure of dramatic centers of production. In the 80s a threat was made with the Teatres de la Generalitat de València or the Andalusian Dramatic Center.
We have a single budget for production and touring. Tours are a very big economic effort and we have to choose between producing and touring, and the priority is to produce. Although we also aim to get more resources to be able to move more. We intend to be in ten places each year, and each year they are different.
This year only two productions are touring, each in five seats: Golem, that you direct and write Juan Mayorga, and Pythagoras notebook. Why are you two? What are the criteria?
100% of the productions we do could go on tour. In the case of Pythagoras notebook, the Carolina Africa project, we believe that its social dimension can be interesting. The work speaks of a real experience that the author has had as a monitor in the Valdemoro prison. She knows the prisoners who participate in the theater workshops very well, and from the CDN it is a way of betting and making her work visible.
AND Golem He goes on tour because it is very special that the two, Mayorga and I, have met, which is the first time. Golem it has an important social dimension since it deals with the power of words to form us as people.
The bar that swallowed all the Spaniards is giving you many excuses to toast. It tells the story of his father, a priest who in the 60s left and went to Texas to learn English and marketing.
Through my father’s story, I was interested in telling what affected many men. Until the Second Vatican Council arrived, no dispensations were given, it is John XXIII who initiates it at the “will of the priest.” Before they were only given for very exceptional situations. It was a social issue that affected the members of the Church and changed the way priests relate to the communities. It was a social problem because many, thousands of men came out, all with stories of true freedom. In fact, John Paul II had to put more limitations to give the dispensation.
You learned that your father was a priest because a cousin showed you a photo and you asked if he was in disguise. How have you managed those silences?
When I was a kid they didn’t attract my attention, I accepted them and that’s it. The easy thing about when you are a kid is that you are flexible to the proposals that they make you, and the “not talking”, because I took it well. Much later, a few years ago, I stopped to think about the kind of adventure my father went through both by leaving the Church and by going to America. From there I started to write the Pub.
We have to create laws that protect the very essence of artistic work: with a specific strike, as well as our own contribution laws and a protection of that temporality
Its protagonist is called Jorge Arimendi, a kind of Ulysses who sets sail to Texas to invent a new life, what conflicts does his character have and which of them does he drink from his father’s story?
The personal fulfillment, the own identity and the construction of the freedom. Jorge (and my father) is finding himself with all the social norms that are restricting him. When he decides to stop being a priest, the first thing to do is get a dispensation and that meant recognizing that when he accepted the priestly order he was not suitable. That was a small humiliation. Having been a priest within the place where you grew up, what happened to the intimacies and secrets of confession once you were outside? That created total insecurity in the communities. And the men who wanted to get married, there were women who gave up on the past. What happens to Jorge is that waiting for the dispensation, without having it, he falls in love with a woman, and does not tell him that she is a priest.
Did it happen to your parents?
Yes, it happened to them. When he saw that things were serious one day, he showed him a photo of a priest. This actually comes out in the show because it seems like a great life moment to me. (Serie). There is something epic there, for my mother it was a scare but for my father … imagine, cold sweats. My mother was at stake.
Theater technicians have announced that They are going to demonstrate in the face of restrictions on access to public employment since they have been trained in specific centers and now they are asked for a VET. What do you think?
All my solidarity with my colleagues. And you have to start thinking about changing this situation. The technicians are professionals with a very powerful specialization, many of them have come out of the Center for Show Technology, which belongs to INAEM itself and I think that by sheer logic they should have recognition within the administration. It is something that also touches me personally because I have good friends who are affected by this and they are in a bad situation.
Do you urge the status of the artist? What are the vital points that you think should be implemented as soon as possible?
The essential thing is the issue of temporality to give security to the profession that now does not have. We have to create laws that protect the very essence of this work: with a specific strike, as well as our own contribution laws and protection of this temporary nature. An actor can work three days a week, but what about the rest of the days? Or the case of summer festivals; a lot of staff working hard for five months and that has to have a longer-term impact.
On September 9, you met with Minister Iceta. Did you take the letter to the Three Wise Men?
We are talking about claiming the role of culture as an essential role, and it would be good if the Councils of Ministers talk about this. From here we transfer the need for more resources, which is true, that the first one that needs the most is the Ministry of Culture itself.