Q&A/The Festival Sessions/Theatre

Charm in simplicity

22 January 2020

The setting is Rome, the date May 3, 1938, the day that Hitler visited Mussolini. But the drama of A Special Day focuses on a chance encounter between two ordinary people.

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Using minimal props and a piece of chalk, Mexican-born, New York-based theatre ensemble Por Piedad Teatro tell an unconventional love story in A Special Day. Director and performer Antonio Vega elaborates.

Seesaw: Antonio, talk us through your career path to date.
Antonio Vega:
I had been acting professionally in Mexico City for a few years. At some point I auditioned for a part in a play that Ana Graham, my co-star and co-director in A Special Day, was producing. I got the part and from then on I haven’t stopped working with her; mainly acting but also translating and later writing and directing. In 2010 we moved together to New York where we co-produced A Special Day in partnership with PlayCo. The show was very successful and it gave us the opportunity to travel with it to Singapore, Prague, Edinburgh, Adelaide and Miami among other exciting places.

Ana Graham and Antonio Vega in ‘A Special Day’. Photo: Carol Rosseg.

S: Tell us about your ensemble, Por Piedad Teatro.
In Mexico City, Por Piedad Teatro produces plays by international playwrights translated into Spanish. Upon arriving in New York we began working in English too. We’ve done devised theatre, we’ve included puppetry, object work and visual installations in some of our productions. We try to give audiences experiences that go beyond watching a play; it is not about trying to re-invent the wheel, it’s just about challenging ourselves and giving audiences an extra bit of fun.

S: Tell us about your Fringe World show, A Special Day.
A Special Day is a fun and charming love story told in a simple yet very imaginative way.

We use just a few props and two pieces of chalk to create two apartments in an apartment building in Rome in Fascist Italy in 1938. A pet parrot escapes from its cage and that triggers a chance encounter between two lonely characters, each one trapped inside a different metaphorical cage.

S: What differentiates A Special Day from the 700 or so other Fringe World shows on offer?
Everywhere we go with this show, people tell us on the street: “Oh! You are the guys from that lovely play with the parrot and the chalk.” Audiences are hooked with the simplicity and playfulness of our show.

S: Who will A Special Day appeal to?
Anyone who is not expecting a solemn play that takes itself really seriously.

S: What inspired you to stage A Special Day?
Ana saw a version of this show in Spanish and asked the creators, who happened to be her friends, permission to use their idea as a departure point to create our own version of the show in English, in New York.

S: Talk us through the rehearsal process for the show.
When we started rehearsing this show, it was the first time we had co-directed and it was not easy. We would argue often and even fight over artistic choices; fortunately at some point we realised that our play was about the consequences of fascism and that fascism was, somehow, imposing your will on others. We decided that instead of doing that, we wanted to share, learn and enjoy the process and that’s what we did from that moment on.

S: What made you decide give Fringe World a whirl?
A few years back we went to Adelaide Fringe and fell in love with the Festival, the people, the beaches, et cetera. I kept hearing during our stay that we should check out Fringe World in Perth. I did not need any convincing. I suggested it to Ana and she immediately said yes. So here we are, counting the days until Fringe World to starts.

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to?
I want to befriend a few Australians, ideally a few quokkas among them.

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
I love seesaws, they are fun and also a perfect metaphor of how life works. (Ed.: We agree!)

A Special Day plays Girls School, 3-16 February, as part of Fringe World 2020.

Pictured top are Ana Graham and Antonio Vega in ‘A Special Day’. Photo: Carol Rosseg.

“The Fringe Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing at Fringe World. Stay tuned for more!

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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