José Carlos Plaza: “I started out terrible, Catholic and bourgeois. “The theater taught me to think” | Culture | EUROtoday

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A bourgeois younger man, from a standard and Catholic household, who when he confessed to his mom that he needed to dedicate himself to the theater, acquired the response: ”But are you loopy? And don't even take into consideration mentioning it to your father.” But the madness for the performing arts that this teenager had harbored since he was a child, since that day when he was given a little theater at the age of seven, was not something he could cure. What's more, he enrolled in a theater school behind his family's back, while, in front of the gallery, he continued with his serious law career. At 82 years old, José Carlos Plaza, one of the most prestigious directors of his generation, with more than 120 productions between theater, opera and other types of shows, opens a window into his life from the stage with the publication of his first book , Beam. Another look at life from the stage (Alianza Editorial), a testament not only to a bomb-proof career and political commitment, but also to his profound love of theater: “I owe him everything. Without the theater, he would have been a different person. I started out terrible, Catholic, bourgeois, half-rich, in short, a disaster. Theater taught me to think, it taught me to discern, it gave me culture and knowledge, it has put me in contact with human beings.” The presentation of the book, held this Monday at the Fine Arts Theater in Madrid, the same place where he was arrested in 1975 for participating in the first strike of Spanish theater actors, was carried out by his “sidekick”, the actress Ana Belén, before dozens of performers, directors and friends who finished the event standing up and applauding wildly.

The publication of this book was not his idea. It had never crossed his mind. What's more, when the publisher offered him this possibility, Plaza told Pilar Álvarez, director of Alianza: “Look me in the eyes and really tell me that what I can tell is of interest to people,” he told this newspaper. shortly before the presentation. Once convinced and together with his niece, Rocío Westendorp, with whom he co-wrote the book, Plaza began to take stock of his existence: “It is not so much my life, but how I have seen it through the theater. I tell how it happened before my eyes from the stage.” Without personal adjustments of any kind, since Plaza, he confesses, is a man blessed by life. “It may be because I was born on Caballero de Gracia Street and that is why I have always been a graceful gentleman, who has been very lucky and very happy. The personal problems that I may have had are forgotten, they do not exist, just like the people who have hurt me,” says the director.

Another issue is fights with what he calls the “big things.” “I have political disputes, disputes with the Catholic Church, with institutions that have done a lot of damage to this country and with ideologies that are disastrous for men and women and, unfortunately, today I find myself with immense pain because all the evil seems to reproduces again like a hydra. I have witnessed the damage and pain that the Catholic Church has caused in this country, the terrible dictatorship that we suffer and the exaggerated liberal capitalism. To think that once again it seems that he is returning with the approval of the people themselves…”, confesses a devastated Plaza just the day after the elections to the European Parliament, which have shown the rise of the extreme right.

José Carlos Plaza and Ana Belén, this Monday in Madrid.
José Carlos Plaza and Ana Belén, this Monday in Madrid. Alvaro Garcia

Through the pages of Beam. Another look at life from the stage Many names are appearing, big names, such as his beloved teachers William Layton and Miguel Narros, his “three musketeers”, Paco Leal, Pedro Moreno and Mariano Díaz, or his “three Wise Men”, José Saramago, Héctor Alterio and Luis García Montero . But there is no shortage of admired actresses, such as of course Ana Belén — “if I am proud of being Spanish it is because Ana is Spanish” —, Charo López, Berta Riaza, Concha Velasco, Lola Herrera or Julieta Serrano, among many others. From its beginnings in the schools of William Layton and Miguel Narros—“science and anarchy”—, passing through the difficulties and happiness of independent theater, cultural institutions (he was director of the National Dramatic Center from 1989 to 1994) and its time in New York, Plaza traces a pleasant life journey, without ever forgetting his time in the PCE (Communist Party of Spain). “I am no longer a militant, I am a utopian communist. “I still cling to that utopia,” says the director, before launching into a diatribe against “worldwide recognition as national reconciliation.” “It was a balm, a cover, perhaps I couldn't do anything else, it covered the wound, but the wound is still there. The worms are still there and are starting to come out now. They pray the rosary, while they stick a stick to a piñata that represents the president of our country,” he recalls.

Always a strict black, when Ana Belén asked her why, Plaza gave three answers: “Stay with whoever you want, Anita. “The subordinate has died, I'm slightly chubby and that's how I conceal it or I'm very lazy and I don't wish to assume.” The repellent and wise boy is an admired and loved man who insists time and again on “doing more than seeing”, hence the title of his book, while remembering the most beautiful phrase he has ever heard, which is, of course , by Lorca: “We have to stop thinking about the lilies and get into the mud to help those who are looking for lilies.” “That's theater.”

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