Pipsa Lonka’s Second Nature to premiere in Buenos Aires
Plataforma Fluorescente in Argentina has emerged as an important producer of new plays and theatre texts from around the world. We got in touch with Elisa Carricajo, whose theatre collective Piel de Lava is curating the upcoming season, and producer Malena Schnitzer to talk to them about contemporary Argentinian theatre and drama, and the elements that resonated with them in Finnish playwright Pipsa Lonka’s play Second Nature that examines the animal-like qualities of human nature.
Buenos Aires’s International Dramaturgy Festival presented by Plataforma Fluorescente promotes collaboration between institutions and theatre makers from all over the world. Established by multidisciplinary artist Matías Umpierrez, the festival is dedicated to exploring contemporary narratives and new dramaturgies. This autumn, the festival will bring to the stage Pipsa Lonka’s Second Nature, having previously produced Saara Turunen’s The Phantom of Normality in 2018.
Linnea Stara: Elisa, the Piel de Lava collective is coordinating the programme for the upcoming season. What kind of a collective is it, and what is your approach to working with text?
Elisa Carricajo: Piel de Lava is like a shock wave. We think of ourselves as a band of four women, not just a theatre group. We like working together, doing plays. We write, direct and act in all our plays, and we have been doing this for 18 years already. In that sense, we are quite an exception already. The group theatre movement was strong in Argentina in the 1980s and 1990s, but gradually the groups disappeared.
Argentinian theatre makers usually write and direct their own plays. But a few also perform in their plays, as we do, with no hierarchies. In Piel de Lava we all think together with one head. Our latest play Petróleo (Petroleum) was about oil workers in Patagonia. Although we don’t think of ourselves as a predominantly feminist group, we do work with questions of gender. In Petróleo in particular, we examined masculinity, and the way in which gender is socialized.
Linnea: What does the independent theatre scene in Argentina look like?
Elisa: Piel de Lava is an independent theatre group. Everybody is independent over here, although there are commercial and public theatres as well. We work with state theatres on a temporary basis, for one or two years (as we did with Petróleo), and then return to our independent structures. People band together and rehearse without funds, and then later start getting traction after a second or third show. Independent theatres have been around since at least the 1950s, there are lots of small venues for 100–150 people in different neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. They are gaining more of an audience following, it is starting to feel like a movement again.
Linnea: What role does the playwright play in this setting?
Elisa: In the past 20 years or so, the position of the text has dwindled. Plays are written by people who will direct it, or are working with someone who will direct it, or will perform it themselves.
Malena Schnitzer: There has been a big debate in Argentina about whether theatre is the text, or not. It might be that production conditions have led to this development, that authors tend to also direct their plays, or performers perform their own plays. Now we’re also discussing where the play is located if the text is no longer relevant. Where do we find dramaturgical thinking for example in dance or performance art?
Linnea: Does translated drama make it on to the stage in Argentina?
Malena: As Elisa said earlier, we have three circuits of theatres: independent, public, and commercial, but the independent is the one where most people are involved, and these groups and collectives don’t have the funds and resources to make foreign plays. Commercial theatres produce plays from the US, and to some degree commercial successes from Spain and France. But they rarely take risks with new plays.
Linnea: Given the situation you are describing in Argentina, what are you aiming to achieve with the Temporada Fluorescente season?
Malena: Matías Umpierrez, the director of the Fluorescente platform saw the possibility of introducing new playwrighting to South America, and to challenge the norm of how plays are produced. The International Dramaturgy Festival challenges directors to take on a text by another playwright, while we find financial support for the productions from our partners aboard. We introduced playwrights from Europe and South America in 2014, when the festival was first held, and later we’ve playwrights from Asia and Africa as well. We’re interested in exploring different forms of dramaturgy, and to question its multiple possibilities together with creators from different backgrounds.
Elisa: I directed a play from Brazil for the first festival, and it is interesting what happens when you take on a play from somewhere else. You must adapt it, you must deal with obstacles, you have to find a new way of working when you don’t start something from scratch, but you have a text from another country and culture to work around. I found this process interesting. We become aware of how we work. This is particularly the case when there’s a good connection with the foreign playwright. They can observe our way of working, they know their play but see it take form within a new system. I liked the process.
Linnea: Elisa, what kind of a festival are you hoping to create?
Elisa: We’re still working on it. We are now reading a play from Uruguay and working with Brazil on another play. We don’t want to think of what kind of a festival it will be before we have all the texts. We want to see that emerge with the materials.
Linnea: Pipsa Lonka’s play will open the festival this upcoming fall. What drew you to it?
Elisa: We really like it. Lonka is a woman similar in age to us, and even though she’s far away from us in Finland, she felt suddenly so close when reading the play. There is a sensibility in it that feels familiar, a humour and tension that we really connected with as women. We were also particularly interested in her concept of nature. Her take on nature is different from what we are used to seeing, it is a narrative of the end of the world. Although we are seeing these narratives everywhere, and although there are emerging movements on ecology in Argentina, it is great to have different perspectives on global issues. We’re currently looking for a director who has a sensibility to see these things in her play.
Malena: In addition to Lonka’s play we’re going to present two more plays or works during the upcoming Temporada Fluorescente season in Buenos Aires next fall. We have commissioned more than 40 new plays that have premiered in Buenos Aires and abroad. The important thing here is the possibility of connection between artists and creators from around the world. And naturally, we want to offer our audiences new kinds of texts, works, and meanings. What matters is to make those multiple connections profound and lasting.
The Temporada Fluorescente season presented by Festival Internacional de Dramaturgia and Plataforma Fluorescente will be held in the beginning of September 2022 onwards. Pipsa Lonka’s play Second Nature (Toinen luonto, translated by Ana Schmukler) will be staged in Spanish. TINFO is supporting the production through our LUO project which promotes Finnish artists and artworks abroad.
TINFO / Linnea Stara, 3 May 2022