Despite Spain being a near neighbor, Spanish theatre has enjoyed relatively little exposure in France. After a decade living and working in the Spanish capital, editor, translator and theatre practitioner David Ferré set out to change this.
I discovered theatre by discovering a language: Spanish. The ten years I spent in the Madrid theatre scene, from 1991-2001, are the foundation of the work I do today as a translator and publisher, in Spain, Mexico, and France.
Spanish playwriting is exceptionally vibrant. Playwrights are at the center of a renewal in Spanish theatre aesthetics, raising the stakes in our understanding of theatre with a wide range of forms, great imagination and an outpouring of authenticity. But contemporary Spanish theatre is not well known in France. It is not well known because we have always seen it as something exotic. For Spanish theatre to justify its place on the French stage, it has had to be presented as an imported curio, ‘foreign’ in form and motif.
Actualités Éditions seeks to change this, raising the profile of Spanish theatre in France and helping it to be seen with much greater clarity. Founded in 2008 with the support of the Fundación SGAE (the Spanish society of authors), we are an independent French publishing house dedicated exclusively to the translation of works by contemporary Spanish-language playwrights. We aim to fill a gap in the French market for playwriting, be it dramatic, post-dramatic or non-dramatic.
Since 2016 we have published 11 plays. As well as publishing our writers’ work, we also promote Spanish playwriting through events such as readings and workshops. In the space of a few months, the various events we have held, including book launches, play readings and academic panels, have had a very positive effect. Our work is proving vital for cultural exchange between France and Spain, and for avoiding the pitfalls of large-scale international networks that often (although not always) homogenizes theatre practice and thought.
With this in mind, our editorial practice is based firmly in the French context. The playtext and its publication are not subjugated systematically to the mise en scène. Rather, Actualités Éditions aims to reinstate the importance of the writing of a play before it is set in motion on the stage.
We also plan eventually to publish a collection for every Spanish-speaking country. Not only does theatre vary throughout the Hispanic world; the history of the Spanish language does, too. We shouldn’t be fooled by globalisation and porous borders: a Mexican’s relationship with the Spanish language, and therefore with theatre, is not the same as a Spaniard’s or a Chilean’s.
Actualités Éditions also works with young artists, designers, photographer and illustrators, helping to break down some of the barriers to working in publishing and to support the work of visual artists in the production of a published text. And of course we publish in e-book as well as in print: sticking to only one format only makes culture less accessible.
Our Spanish collection, Les Incorrigibles, is one reflection, among others, of the formal and thematic richness of Spanish theatre. But above all, this collection represents artists who have something to say. To themselves, and to the world.
On 19 January 2018, Actualités Editions will launch its latest collection of Spanish plays in French translation at the Insituto Cervantes in Paris. The plays include Snorkel by Albert Boronat, The Gondras (A Basque History) by Borja Ortíz de Gondra, Beware of the Dog by Eva Redondo, The Obedience of the Shepherd’s Wife by Sergio Martínez Vila, and two plays by Cristina Peregrina.
David Ferré is the translator of many Spanish and Mexican playwrights, many of them published in France for the first time. He is the founder of Actualités Editions and the editor of the Les Incorrigibles collection.
Article translated from French by William Gregory
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.