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Playwrights Corner


Authors' Notes

Sylvain Levey
© DR
Sylvain Levey’s Obrador Diary
Playwrights corner | Sylvain Levey


We arrive in Barcelona. We have exactly two hours to walk around town and get a bite to eat (calamari at the countertop in a covered market). It’s our last two hours in that teeming city. Then we sit in a van for almost two more hours. What’s your name? And you? Where do you come from? After the initial introductions – the van is still in the suburbs of Barcelona – we’re soon talking about politics, writing, philosophy, travel and gastronomy.

Writing for others, talking about others, writing about others, talking about what isn’t you, but also writing about yourself. The first question is: And what about you – how are you making out?
We each confide without confiding – it’s too soon – the things that we want or that make us angry, and our doubts, without whining and with a great deal of humour. And what about me – how am I making out? It’s hard to answer that one. Perhaps this trip will bring me some answers.

Last night we had the first two readings – of two Catalan plays. I didn’t understand anything of course, but the actors were great and I loved the director. We had a fine day and a fun evening playing table football with José, who runs the dining hall/restaurant where we eat. Four playwrights standing around twenty-two painted wood players. Four ways of seeing the world, depending on where you’re from. Four ways of writing about the world, but the same childish joy when the ball shoots by and scores a goal.

There’s a huge debate about the idea of writing for certain kinds of audiences, whether to take that into consideration when writing – without thinking too much about it – at the risk of holding back a production, and about whether or not to write for television, etc. How do playwrights get by in your country? They say it’s better in your country. How can you earn money writing without being a slave to anyone and without getting lost in all the contradictions?

About style and content: content doesn’t preclude style, while style sometimes erases content. It’s an endless discussion like a bottomless well – and it takes up most of the midday meal, the afternoon, the evening and half the night. The discussion arises after a reading of Franco-Belgian playwright Marie Henry’s Hola Suzana yesterday evening. There are two trends. The French- language playwrights are more concerned about style and the others – particularly the English-language playwrights – are more concerned about plot, dialogue and situation.

The week is going by so fast – too fast – so when there’s a slight slackening of pace I bring out one of my plays that was commissioned by a company in Poitou-Charentes. What’s happening in France these days? I feel like I know more about Serbia, Syria, Argentina and Germany than about my own country. Who’s the new president of France again?
What if I were to write « just like » Jason, the Anglo-Saxon in the room next door?

That was a really great reading of Chico’s play. Chico, I’m going to promote your play in France! Marco from Argentina remembers our table football game on the first day and shows me an article with a picture of Maradona. Would you be interested in writing a play about him together? Why not. Come and stay at my place in Argentina for a month and we’ll work on it together.

It’s the end of the trip and the flight back home. My head is swimming with ideas and answers to my questions. Thank you to all the Catalan, Argentine, English, Quebecois and Belgian playwrights, and thank you to my French « colleague » too!
I’m back at the text I started writing two days ago. Something in it reminds me of that play by Gemma Rodriguez, or maybe it’s the one by Marco Canale, or Philippe Ducros or Dirck Lauck (Dirck, if you’re reading this, it’s fine with me too. I’d like to write something together. Germany isn’t far and we can talk about our kids!). Well, now it’s time to turn off the computer, give it all time to sink in, and enjoy the moment.

A friend who came over to my place for dinner asked me this: « What does a trip like that do for you? ». « It helps you ask the right questions and drop the things you thought you knew for sure.

  Sylvain Levey  
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