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Marcelo Massa on Sex and Capital: “We’re the Wild West”

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Scene from Pollesch’s play Sex in Montevideo (Photo: Goethe-Institut)

9 June 2010

René Pollesch is considered the enfant terrible of German theatre. Now, Argentinean Marcelo Massa is helping the playwright conquer Latin America. Pollesch’s approach suits 21st century Argentina just right, explains the director in an interview.

Mr. Massa, what do you find fascinating about René Pollesch?

Massa: The first time I saw a play by René Pollesch was in Berlin in 2002. The Prater-Trilogie encouraged me in my search for a work to direct that breaks with the traditional patterns of theatre in South America. Pollesch is a director who works with “non-representation” in a way that appeals to me. His work allows us to cross-examine the parameters of social constructs, similar to Foucault’s analyses of western society. Representational patterns have become brittle in the world, and especially in Argentina, since 2001. Every aspect of everyday life, politics and art had to be revised. You have to consider that Argentina is a country on the periphery of the western world; you could almost say that we are the wild west of the western, capitalist world.

Can you tell us something about the theatre in Uruguay and Argentina?

Copyright: Goethe-Institut
Director Massa: “Everyone’s interested in sex and money.” (Photo: Goethe-Institut)
I am not very familiar with the theatre in Uruguay, but I dare to say the theatre in Montevideo in the traditional sense is more realist than in other parts of South America. However, there are also artists today trying to break free of this influence. Córdoba, by contrast, has a vital underground theatre that takes up various poetics with certain liberties and always remains on the lookout for a personal stage language. Experimentation is great but the audience is small – usually only 30 to 40 people. On the one hand, the lack of a market allows for experimentation, on the other it is difficult to produce due to the lack of financial means. Alongside of this, the more conservative theatre continues to exist, which generates a few productions and is dedicated entirely to realism.

Do you have any idea what effect René Pollesch’s uncommon theatre experience will have on the more traditional theatre world in South America?

Thanks to the Goethe-Institut Córdoba, I was already able to put on a play by René Pollesch in Montevideo last year. The play Insourcing des Zuhause. Menschen in Scheißhotels (Insourcing the Home. People in Shitty Hotels) generated the most varied of reactions among the audience, ranging from “This is not theatre!” to “I am fascinated.” I am quite certain that the audiences in Uruguay and Córdoba will not be neutral this time either.

Why did you choose the plays Sex and Liebe ist kälter als Kapital (Love is Colder than Capital)?

To me, Sex seems to be the play that I can use best to approach the traditional audience in Montevideo. Everyone is interested in the relationship between sex and money. Liebe ist kälter als das Kapital on the other hand touches on a very up-to-date topic in Argentina, the construction of reality, since we are presently debating a new media law here. So, the political debate about the construction of reality appears very important to me. In addition, I think this play belongs to another chapter in Pollesch’s work, which does not lose its angle of “non-representation” and the ideological parameters, but proceeds here with other means of discourse.

What role does the Goethe-Institut play in your work?

I have been working closely with the Goethe-Institut since 1998. Our cooperation has produced advanced training seminars, theatre and play productions by writers such as Marius von Mayenburg, Gesine Danckwart, Franzobel and, right now, René Pollesch. I was even able to realize a multimedia production on the theme of identity. My play What is a German?, for instance, is based on surveys of Córdobans of diverse social and cultural origins and age groups. The heart of the matter is that when you attempt to define another person, you always indirectly make statements about your own identity. I am basically always interested in discussing plays and works from Germany and then producing them for the theatre. But I only produce them if I can create a link with them to the social events in Córdoba or in Argentina. My works always attempt to treat subject matter that has something to do with my everyday life. My approach is always political.

The interview was held by Matthias Bitzl.

The works of the playwright and director René Pollesch are provocative and idiosyncratic, his postdramatic theatre deconstructs texts and performances. Pollesch is strictly against conventional theatre of middle class connotations. For him, the actors do not embody any fictional, representational roles, but the play itself and the texts are linked closely to the actors’ personalities. The productions of his plays Sex and Liebe ist kälter als das Kapital are part of the thematic focus on production techniques of current plays of the Goethe-Institut Uruguay. Marcelo Massa from Argentina is directing them.
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