María Velasco writes hard, unpleasant even. But she does it slow. Her theater isn’t done yet but it scrapes like a motorcycle accident, long and eroding in layers. Her last work I will cut men off the face of the earth, He talks about his life weighed down by horrors and about a society that, even dressed in all the tinsel of solvency and humanism, continues to stink at the same time that it hurts and injures the individual. To the woman in particular. The piece is a furious attack on patriarchal society and its ability to nullify women from a young age. But it is also a commitment to a confessional theater that cries out for atonement at the same time as the ability to forgive.
John Malkovich, murderer of prostitutes and an ephemeral pleasure in Madrid
In this long, out of step but beautiful work, the author poetically unites gender abuse with ecocide. The public attends the emotional and sexual collapse of a girl who is about to grow up (Laia Manzanares) in a masculine universe that devastates women like forest fire, without contemplation, massively, leaving a global and irreparable wound. It represents the struggle of a millennial woman who refuses to be a victim in the hands of abusers, but suffocates in silence as a result of shame. The protagonist prostitutes herself to finance her doctorate, but also to punish and redeem herself. She says in the play: “You open your legs to what has always been living with you. Finally, you look into their eyes. In the jacuzzi we are a thousand. To decolonize my body, I subjected it to a guerrilla war. All metamorphoses hurt.
A tree falls, a woman disappears
I will cut men off the face of the earth It crudely shows the difficulty of being reborn, of becoming an adult after an unhappy childhood and adolescence. “The worrying thing is that we are not children of the war nor have we experienced situations of strong exclusion. I come from a lower middle class. Even so, in an advanced society like ours, a brutal deterioration of the raw material with which a person is born continues to be exerted at every step. They destroy the best that is in the human being”, explains this author who shares the vision of Franz Kafka, Elfriede Jelinek or Thomas Bernhard of a society where terms such as education and humiliation, sex and transaction, or women and tools, have ended up be synonyms. “I will never be able to do avant-garde theater because I had an unhappy childhood. I drag that file, I’m still doing theater to forgive. I still have a lot of garbage to purge at home. In my family there are policemen, there are prostitutes, and that comes out obsessively in the works because it is in my past. It’s something I’m still talking about. I have many dead in the closet. I’m still shredding garbage,” she explains.
In my family there are policemen and there are prostitutes. That comes out obsessively in the works because it’s in my past. I have many dead in the closet. I’m still shredding garbage
At one point in the play we attend a kind of diary where the incursion of this young woman into prostitution is told at the same time that she is working on her doctoral thesis. After client number one, the character tells us that she was able to buy fish and correct the theoretical framework. After the second, that she buys a wedge of cheese, a reserve wine and corrects the methodological framework of the thesis… Carnal and intellectual prostitution are mixed. But the will is not only metaphorical. Velasco is brave, she does not hide and makes it clear, in the work and in this newspaper, that what the viewer is seeing belongs to the author’s past: “Yes, everything is part of my past and it would be hypocritical not to say so when speaking precisely of overcoming the taboo, of breaking stigmas that are produced precisely by silence, because we are not capable of saying: ‘I was there’. What interests me is that the viewer feels that there is a reality in the words beyond being biographical, that there is flesh, that the work has been lived and embodied. It doesn’t matter who signs it. What is being told burns, burns me, inside. That is my pact to maintain attention and for people to give me two hours”, she maintains, alluding to a somewhat ironic transaction with the public.
María Velasco won the Max award for best theatrical authorship last June. At the gala, Velasco went up to the stage and said: “As an author, only bad words come to mind.” Later, she recounted how the piece could be made from “deeply worked self-production” and also alluded to prostitution: “Yes, I said that until there is a day that it is not more embarrassing to say that you are a whorehouse than a prostitute, we have a problem. And it is true, that day we will be less disgusting. But hey, it didn’t have much repercussion, historical memory is political, prostitution seems less so, ”says Velasco.
in the middle of a war
Velasco has been writing texts and receiving awards for more than a decade. Little by little he is directing his works. He is trying to erect a language that is not only literary, but scenic. It’s already more than ten years of precariousness, of ephemeral productions and without real spaces where you can work and experience how that writing can take shape on stage. Although his texts have been recognized, his theater has not had an easy reception by the viewer. His montage on Boris Vian’s novel, the foam of the days (1947), which could be seen at the Spanish Theater in 2019, was an interesting work in which Vian’s classic was undertaken freely from a theater that put the poetics of the body and space before the more traditional notions of conflict, rhythm, fidelity to the text and dramatic action. The reception of the work was bad, it was accused of inexperience, of not knowing how to approach dialogues or direct actors. The war between the theater that follows the canon and that other experimental theater, which dialogues with the times and uses of plastic arts and the body, is still very present in this country.
Velasco’s theater is in the middle of that war. “In writing I’ve experienced everything I’ve wanted to from my desk, but I haven’t had the same opportunities for residencies to direct and work with the actors and the space. In that I am very virgin. people understood the foam of the days as a mistake, as a failure in the direction of actors and the staging of the dialogues. In I will cut… I wrote dialogues so that people would understand that my way of dealing with them is a poetic choice and has nothing to do with an area of ignorance”, he explains about his latest work. After being represented in September at the Fourth Wall in Madrid, will travel to Sala Beckett in Barcelona, Badajoz and Alicante.
In I will cut… the dialogues are well written and have rhythm at the same time that they allow themselves a poetic level that is not at all costumbrista. But on stage, although that poetics is present, the rhythm of the dialogues is weighed down at will, seeking another time, an estrangement where silence reigns between the replicas. There, moreover, it has hard-working actors like Miguel Ángel Altet or Beatrice Bergamín who shape that other tempo. Velasco seems to want to cut down his rhythm like someone who gets rid of a flourish, he seems to want to dismember the texts looking for what remains after the disaster. “I am somewhat influenced by a theater, like that of Emilio García Wehbi and Maricel Álvarez, where acting is approached from a strange time, from an experimental estrangement that I did not learn in any school but that made me feel when I saw it”, she explains. Velasco citing these two fundamental Argentine creators in the theater of that country.
“I look for relaxed, dead times. It is also a time less manipulative with the viewer. When they tell me that people lose concentration watching the work I love it, I look for that, if I were brave it would be much more extreme. I admire the colleagues who work sculpting time on stage, for me that is much more important than the conflict, the dramatic action and the other sacrosanct theatrical canons. But I still have a long way to go”, concludes the author.
Meritocracy and mediocrity
In I will cut…, Velasco brings together feminism, ecocide, mistreatment, prostitution, symbolism, dance and performance in a proposal that tries to deform the naturalist theater towards a terrain not yet found. Velasco still hasn’t caught him. His writing is still ahead of the stage proposal. His texts have the poetic ability to relate themes and symbols at the same time that they can become throwing weapons, spit full of restorative rancor. The ending scene of I will cut… in which Velasco, who received his doctorate in Communication in 2015, blurts out to his thesis tribunal what he could not tell them in his day, it is a true apostasy from the male meritocracy where there is no puppet with a head.
Commenting on the harshness of the text, Velasco is clear about it: “It is my experience as a student and as a teacher. In the university, the system of access to teaching staff perpetuates mediocrity and the reification of knowledge. The professors, almost all men, the only thing they try is to perpetuate their methodologies and their vision. Knowledge and ego go hand in hand. Thought is discussion, controversy and not creating groupies. The same thing happens in theater schools, they are full of ‘guru’ teachers who live off the adoration professed by 18-year-old girls, teachers who are no longer close to the theater and who have all the erotic relationships they have in their lives in the classes. That is a danger,” she reasons.
Now, after receiving the Max award, Velasco will have the opportunity to produce with more time and resources. He is preparing a new work for 2024 and is already in advanced talks with two of the most important national theaters in the State to support and host the production. The work deals with the murder in Burgos of Laura Domingo, a six-year-old girl of the author’s age. An unsolved case that turned the city of Velasco upside down. But nothing is guaranteed. Her theater is being born, the symbolic and aesthetic treatments of the work fail, recharging more than opening holes, and the missed dialogue scenes point, but still do not hit the target. In I will cut… there are even times when the poetics of the body, exercises close to dance neatly executed by Joaquín Abella, collide diametrically with the proposal. Perhaps this is what is valuable about the work, being able to assist as a spectator in an unfinished way, being able to accompany that search. “I’m in quarantine, now I’ll have the opportunity to fall with the whole team, to screw it up, but at least I’ll do it properly,” he concludes.