In the Eye of the Storm: Contemporary Theater in Barcelona

In the Eye of the Storm: Contemporary Theater in Barcelona

In the Eye of the Storm: Contemporary Theater in Barcelona

In the Eye of the Storm: Contemporary Theater in Barcelona


Sharon G. Feldman is Professor of Spanish and Catalan Studies at the University of Richmond, where she specializes in contemporary theater and performance. She is the author of Allegories of Dissent: The Theater of Agustn Gmez-Arcos (BUP, 1998) and co-editor of the collection Barcelona Plays. Her English-language translations of Catalan plays-including works by Carles Batlle, Sergi Belbel, Josep M. Benet i Jornet, Llusa Cunill, and Pau Mir-have been staged at venues in Great Britain, the United States, and Germany.


—Where are you going?

 —Stephen Sondheim, “Barcelona” (from Company)


IN SEPTEMBER 2004, ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEBUT AT THE TEATRE Nacional de Catalunya of Forasters (Strangers, 2003), a Catalan playwritten and staged by Sergi Belbel (1963), veteran theater critic Joan de Sagarra published a column in the Barcelona daily La Vanguardia in which he not only lauded Belbel’s play and directorial work (along with a skillful performance by actress Anna Lizaran), but also devoted special attention to a preface to the published version of Belbel’s text, prepared by the eminent Barcelona playwright Josep M. Benet I Jornet (1940). Benet’s preface “Sergi Belbel; tot just comença” (Sergi Belbel; it’s all just beginning) situates the career of one of Catalunya’s most prominent dramatists within a historical context, suggesting that Belbel’s international acclaim—especially his widespread renown throughout Europe—is a phenomenon that has enhanced the profile of the Catalan stage overall, endowing it with a considerable measure of prestige. Referring to the uncommonly optimistic assessment offered by Benet (here, referred to as “Papitu,” as he is habitually known to his friends), Sagarra explains how he was moved by the experience of both reading the preface and attending the premiere of Belbel’s Forasters, for they inspired in him a long-awaited sense of “normalcy” with regard to the contemporary Catalan stage:

For me, the preface that my friend Papitu has written to his godson Sergi,
and most especially these last words are something that makes me feel a
sense of reconciliation with this country, with this small patria that is the
Catalan stage, and not only makes me feel like a normal person, a normal
reader, spectator in a normal country, which one would hope is definitively
normalized, but also moves me. And the only thing that pains me is not
being able to share my emotion with some very dear people from the very
small patria that is the Catalan stage, in which they always believed and
who today are no longer with us.

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