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Europe

Amateur theatre in Spain

by Alessandra Agosti
collaboration and translation
by Silvia Bagnara Milan

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Another virtual journey to discover amateur theatre in Europe and in the world. After having met the french friends of FNCTA (http://www.fitainforma.it/2016/dicembre/45-europa) and those from the magic and northern FarOer Islands united in MÁF - Meginfelag Áhugaleikara Føroya (http://www.fitainforma.it/2016-2/febbraio/60-europa), let's get to travel south again, to reach Spain. Here we find our "colleagues" of ESCENAMATEUR (http://escenamateur.org/), an organization which has 800 associated groups and, as Fita, participates to the international organisations inside of CIFTA (http://www.cifta.org/v1/index.php/it/) and AITA/IATA (http://www.aitaiata.org/).
We have asked their President, Mr. José Ramón López Menéndez, to illustrate the main characteristics of amateur theatre in Spain and some of the initiatives promoted by their organization.

Among your main aimings, as Confederation, there’s the full recognition of the “right to exist” for amateur theatre next to the professional one, precisely because they are so different. It seems that, even with important steps forward, amateur theatre is living a difficult situation in Spain: if so, which are the main reasons of this situations, and on which fronts (political, cultural, social) are you moving on?
The crisis in our country has built a bigger gap talking about differences between the Professional and the Amateur theatre. But in any case, the administration says clearly which ones are part of the first category and which are part of the second, and it is juridically regulated, even under the economical and administrative aspects. Theatre is CULTURE, in capital letters, and it should be told to those who have separated this Art in Professional and Amateur – or better: in theatre enterprises and theatre associations – that everyone can be THEATRE, and among them there will be those who want to live thanks to it, and those who will use this art to develop their CULTURAL turmoil for the benefit of society and no profit-making.

Another characteristic of your amateur reality seems to be the coexistence of many territorial units. Your Confederations acts as a contact point at a central level, but in which direction are you moving to get to an internal collaboration able to strengthen the union without losing the positive elements of diversity, in particular talking about the linguistic issues?
Our Confederation is present in every Autonomous Community of the Country, and in its structure there are representatives from all the different territorial Federations. For what concerns the many different languages of the territory, each one is recognised by Escenamateur.

Who is the typical-spanish amateur?
It’s a theatre group that represents a concrete territory, usually with less than 25000 inhabitants, consisting of people who join theatre as a cultural and leisure activity. Mostly women.

Are young people interested in this kind of proposal?
Of course, even if it depends on the territory: in small towns the groups are usually formed by adults, while in the big cities mostly by young people.

Let’s talk about drama choices. Which kind of theatre is more popular among your members, talking about provenance, genre and style?
Mostly, Spanish comedy authors; there’s even a good presence of Spanish and French classic theatre.

The experience of the Virtual Library, with the collaboration of playwrights willing to lease – for a certain period of time – their copyright, is interesting: how was this instrument born, and to which results is it leading?
At this day, we have 4000 titles in our two physical Libraries. In Andalusia and Asturias the circulation of texts is still lacking, but we are trying to move some steps towards the “good way” in order to make our Library be able to stand on its own legs.

What does the “Quality Seal” consist of, why has it been created and in what does it materialize?
The Quality Seal is a recognition for those festivals, exhibitions and contests that ennoble amateur theatre. It consists of a degree certified by the Ministry of Culture and by the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces.

During the year, which are the main events organized by the Confederation?
We organise Exchange Programmes, the Iberian Festival, meetings on the Amateur Theatre, and Escenamateur Space inside Girona’s Amateur Theatre International Festival. Moreover, we have a training program too.

Let’s have a look at the economical issue. How do you finance your activity? Simply with the subscription quotas, or can you count on some public or private help?
The quotas of the associates are not really substantial. A great help comes from the Ministry of Culture, through the National Institute of Arts, Scene and Music. We are anyway looking for new investors.

Do you think that a stronger international collaboration could be useful for spanish amateur theatre? Are you already into some experience of this kind? And on which fronts, in your opinion, should the effort be focused on?
The international relationship is still weak, even if we are strongly present in CIFTA and AITA/IATA. We believe, and we are working in this direction, that we should provide involvement and relationship programs at an international level. This year we will begin a learning program with Portugal, and we hope to extend it to other Countries.