By Jhon Sánchez
For the last three years, Pressenza has supported the International Theater Art Institute (IATI) during the celebration of Women’s History Month. On this occasion, IATI will bring short plays by three Latinx Bilingual women. We had the opportunity to talk with Silvia Navarro Perramon, one of the playwrights, and explore the meaning of her work.
JS/Can I say welcome to New York? And please tell us about you and your career from the time you studied sociology in Barcelona, to when you studied comedy, up to now.
SNP/ Many thanks for your kind welcome! It’s a pleasure for me to be back working in New York and with IATI Theater. I studied Sociology in Barcelona in my early 20’s because I wanted to have a better understanding of human relationships and dynamics and I think I started writing theatre for the same exact reason. What I learned during my Sociology degree is a very important part in my work as a playwright. In my late 20’s I decided to study Stage Direction and Playwriting at Institut del Teatre in Barcelona. I quit my job and I applied for admission exams. And I got in! After finishing the degree I had the chance to be involved in projects with some of the greatest contemporary Catalan playwrights and directors who helped and inspired me to develop my own projects. In 2017, I took part in the Cimientos program at IATI and sharing our play development with all the colleagues was also a life changing experience. In 2018, I won The Ciutat d’Alcoi Playwriting Award for the play “A tourist Commits Suicide”, a play about mass tourism and gentrification and also founded my (our) company La Canina and we produced two shows in 2019 while I was doing my MA in Comedy Writing. Last year, during the quarantine I wrote a lot. A lot. I was part of a Playwriting Lab with amazing Spanish playwrights in Madrid and I was honored with the Frederic Roda Playwriting Award for my play “Photo Negatives” about Gerda Taro and Robert Capa. I’m curious to see what my next adventure will be!
JS/As a woman, what themes do you bring with your plays?
SNP/As a woman, of course I care about building strong, complex female characters but since we are speaking about themes I should say the “pattern” is not usually about the theme of the play but how to take a scientific or social approach to drama. I tend to do a lot of research about the main theme before I start writing. For example in “94 Minutes” the play goes around the possibility of building the perfect romantic relationship based on scientific studies and in “A Tourist Commits Suicide”, I did a lot of research about tourism advertising companies to so I could write about a Japanese tourist that decides to kill himself in the middle of his vacation when he’s supposed to (or he’s been promised to) be super happy. We’ve got a motto in La Canina, we describe our works as “surviving small catastrophes while playing.” I believe if defines my writing pretty well.
JS/Do you think that a play can cause social change and inspire activism? What’s the purpose of writing a play about climate change?
SNP/ Yes, I do think a play can inspire activism, sure, but I also think this is not the main goal of “Nuestra Casa Envuelta en Llamas”. Of course climate change is a central theme in the play, cause it’s a thing I’m worried about, but I’m more worried about the tendency to systematically ignore our youth, to not give them enough credit on their desires and worries. I believe in the end it’s a play about invisibilization and about how sometimes as adults we don’t pay enough attention to the next generation ‘cause we think we know better.
JS/ Can you talk about the leadership of young girls like Gretta Thunberg and Malala and how their work is changing the world? Do you have other examples of those youngsters we may need to follow?
SNP/ I truly admire and respect the leadership of this young girls. I also admire other young activists like Marley Dias or Amika George. And I believe they are doing a brilliant job speaking of themselves and their activism so I think it’s better they speak and we all listen.
JS/ In your play, “Nuestra Casa Envuelta en Llamas,” we have three female teachers who criticize a young girl for her activism against climate change. Regarding climate change, is the teacher-student conflict a generational problem? If so, how does gender play a part?
SNP/ I would say the teachers are not criticizing the young girl for her activism against climate change, they’re criticizing her because she’s skipping school days and in their order of priorities school is where you learn about the world and not in the world itself. So obviously the teachers and the girl have very different priorities and the teachers ( or at least two of them) can’t or won’t make an effort to understand the girl. I think gender plays a part because without being conscious the two teachers that criticize the girl, with their attitude are trying to invisibilize her. At one point they talk about Rosalind Franklyn’s invisibilization and they all agree it’s unacceptable and yet they’re doing the same.
JS/ One of your characters says, “La invisibilidad alimenta el olvido” that in English is “Oblivion feeds from the invisible.” What do you think about it?
SNP/ Sadly, I think it’s true. I learned a lot about women’s invisibilization while writing my last play “Photo Negatives” about Gerda Taro and Robert Capa. Capa was a fictional character Gerta Pohorylle and Endre Friedmann made up in order to sell their pictures. Both of them were Robert Capa. She changed her name to Gerda Taro; she was a brilliant photojournalist but she died young he did nothing to give her credit. So for a long time everything about photojournalism was about Robert Capa and she was never mentioned. Never. Doing a little bit of research I found that the same happened to lots and lots of women. They worked hard, they succeed but history never gave them credit. Why? Why are they left out? Why are history books filled with so many male names?
JS /Can you tell us about Rosalind Franklyn and why you brought her story into the play? Are you calling attention to the interrelation between the crisis of climate change and sex discrimination?
SNP /Same thing that happened to Gerda Taro happened to Rosalind Franklyn. She became invisible. That’s why I brought her into the play. She was brilliant, she deserved to be heard. The same happens with Gerda and other amazing women. Let’s hear them. Let’s give them credit.
JS/ Does your next project have the same social and political tone? Do you write because you want to have a political impact?
SNP / No, I don’t write because I want to have a political impact, not at all. I would never describe my plays as political plays. Politics scare me most of the time. There are politics in it? Of course. Everything is a little bit about politics in the end, I guess. But my plays are, as I said, about surviving small catastrophes. My next project is finishing a play about imposter syndrome. But I think it will be kind of crazy- sort of a like a road movie.
Information about the Event
An inclusivity fiesta celebrating Women’s History Month.
Date: March 21, 2021 (3–5pm)
Location: Zoom link TBA
Sílvia Navarro Perramon, playwright, stage director and screenwriter
Barcelona, 1982. BS in Sociology (Universitat de Barcelona), BA (Hons) in Stage Direction and Playwriting (Institut del Teatre de Barcelona) and MA in Comedy Screenplay and Direction (Universitat Ramon Llull). She wrote and directed the plays: Alguien que apague la luz. (Madrid, 2014), RIP (Barcelona, 2014), 94 minuts (Staged Reading IATI Theater- Barcelona, Tantarantana, 2017) and Ifigènia en Taxi (Tantarantana, 2019). Recognitions: Ciutat d’Alcoi Playwriting Award 2018 with Un turista se suïcida (Pubished by Ed. Bromera), VIII Laboratorio de Escritura Teatral Fundación SGAE 2020 grant with El último soviético (Published by Fundación SGAE), Carme Montoriol grant by Ajuntament de Barcelona 2020 with the play Exits pursued by a bear.