A Subversive, Sevillian Don Juan

El Burlador de Sevilla at the Teatro Espanol

by Dario Facal

in Global Connections

(Photo: El burlador de Sevilla at the Teatro Espanol.)

Recently, IM Wire had the opportunity to connect with Darío Facal, a director and playwright based in Madrid. He previously collaborated with US director Tamilla Woodard on the site-specific play Inside which was made possible through a TCG Global Connections grant. He is co-founder of Metatarso Productions in Madrid and in October 2015, he will open Teatro Español’s season by premiering his production of El Burlador de Sevilla, a 17th century Spanish play that introduces us to the myth of Don Juan.

Jessica Lewis: How was it to work with Tamilla Woodard on the Inside project?

Darío Facal: When we produced Inside, it was a very tough moment for me in Madrid because we [his theatre company Metatarso] were racing from production to production and it was an intense time for us. But working with Tamilla and Ana [Margineanu] was a great experience, they were able to make things happen and everything was very fun and very easy because all the collaborators involved were creative and talented.  Sometimes a collaboration like the one we did for Inside, which has a huge group of people working together, can become hard if you aren’t able to communicate with your partners, but this was not the case because Tamilla and Ana are amazing.

JL: How is the work of your company Metatarso going?

DF: We just premiered A Midsummer Night’s Dream in June and it will be performed throughout Spain over the course of the next year.

JL: Do you usually tour your work through Spain?

DF: We’ve been performing in different festivals through Europe over the years and lately we are touring mostly through Spain.  It depends on how big the production is and our ability to take the production outside of the country.

JL: As a playwright and director, how do you begin the creation of a new piece of theatre- do you start with a story, an image, a theme or dialogue- or is it a new process each time?  How do you navigate wearing both hats of playwright and director when you are in the process of creating a new work?

DF: I feel more like a director. My process is to start directing the play by being more conscious of the actors and the stage images that the piece is demanding.  Just when I have a mood and some stage ideas for the piece is when I start doing the writing. I never start the writing process before we start the rehearsals – normally we start rehearsing with no play. This is a very demanding way of working since after 6 to 8 hours of rehearsal with the actors I go home to sit in front of the computer at least three or four hours more. For me, the main necessities of the mise-en-scene take precedence over the playwriting and the playwriting is always in service to the staging. This characteristic is true of my work to the extent that as a playwright, if I write a play at home, I never feel the necessity to direct it. I’ve never directed the plays that I’ve written in the solitude of my desk. I guess those are plays that some others will have to direct.

JL: Why don’t you want to direct them?

DF:  I don’t know, I guess it’s weird.

JL: So you have that separation.

DF: Yeah. I have two main concerns that I feel compelled to unify on stage. As a director I need to develop the plastic and theatrical possibilities of the play we are staging and as a playwright I am obsessed with plot architecture and literary values of the text. For example, when I directed Dangerous Liaisons a couple of years ago, we started rehearsing with just the novel and some ideas about the plot and the staging.  During the night I would write scenes and rehearse them during the next day.  I would move scenes around to see how they work in one order or another, which helped me to be able to develop the adaptation. Anyway, the whole adaptation was growing from a need of not just being loyal to the novel but being loyal to my own understanding of theatre as a visual art.  I studied literature and of course it is part of my background and I’m willing to read the texts I’m adapting in a very literary and philosophical way, but when I start directing I am confident that that literary background will be there, and I’m not focused on the literary nature of the play, but on producing a whole theatrical experience. Here I am talking about an adaptation, but this is also true to the original plays I’ve written throughout my career.

JL: Your current production is El Burlador de Sevilla at the Teatro Español in Madrid. What is your take on the character of Don Juan and what is your vision overall for creating the piece for today?

DF: It’s a play that is the genesis of the myth of Don Juan, and it’s a play that isn’t very often staged in Spain or in the rest of the world. This is a very amazing chance for me to create my own approach to this text – and I believe it’s a very disturbing text. In some ways, previous productions have eluded the main themes - which are sex, death, passion and corruption. They’re always staged in a very compromised way trying not to be very explicit of these themes.  But the more honest way to stage a play like this one – to stage the myth of Don Juan - would be to be more straightforward with these themes.  The truth is that Don Juan is not a romantic myth, but rather an erotic myth – Don Juan is a rebel and he is disturbing all the social order.  It’s kind of weird that such a controversial play wouldn’t be polemical for the audiences that go to the theatre. So all I am doing is trying to be honest and show what was going on in the play – the public deserves to enjoy all aspects of the play and not just a mild, stylish and romantic version of it. For me, Don Juan is, most of all, a character that wants to change the repressive system of 17th century life.  He is a hedonist, he is a character who wants to enjoy life and he is blowing up the ideology of the time.  He is a corrupter, breaking all the rules – for him, rules are stupid if they don’t allow you to enjoy life in the best possible way – and he does not endure hypocrisy.  He is one of the greatest characters in literature, because he’s fascinating, repulsive, seductive and diabolic all at the same time.  This play –Burlador de Sevilla- inspired Moliere, Mozart and many other authors and I guess this influence took place due to its violence and darkness.

JL: What importance do you place in presenting your work internationally and collaborating with artists outside of Spain?

DF: I’ve been lucky because I’ve had the chance to tour with shows I’ve produced in Spain with Metatarso and also because I’ve been invited to direct productions in other countries.  Both are very amazing and very different experiences.  When I travel with my own company abroad, it’s great because I have the chance to share our work with others audiences while at the time sharing an amazing experience with my colleagues and actors. On the other hand, when international companies invite me to direct a production abroad, like Peru for example, it’s an amazing chance to collaborate for a longer period of time with local artists and to have insight into different perspectives and ideas. In any case, traveling allows me to meet with directors, companies and audiences from other countries to discuss concepts, ideas and aesthetics from different perspectives. My main objective in life is to travel.  And to have the chance to meet other people from other cultures – to have the chance to listen to different perspectives about life and art – is very inspiring and nourishing.

JL: For someone who doesn’t know a lot about the theatre scene in Madrid, what are theatres that are exciting to you in Madrid that we should know more about?

DF: Madrid has quite a traditional theatrical scene.  Although lately there is an underground scene that is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. The underground scene used to be very small when I started working 15 years ago.  I would invite anyone who goes to Madrid to, of course, go to the main theatres, but I would also suggest them to go to the more underground theatres where there are very exciting things going on.

JL: And what are the more underground theatres?

DF: Pradillo is a classical small underground experimental theatre in Madrid that has been working for over 20 years – a place where directors such as Rodrigo Garcia and Angelica Liddell started working– I started working there as well in the early 2000s. In any case there are many other spaces that are opening lately all around the city and offering interesting creations.


Darío Facal 2It’s been said of Darío Facal that he is one of the most interesting playwrights and a visionary of the stage, telling stories with a great aesthetic delicacy and an enormous talent for visual and scenic images. This 37 year old from Madrid, without limitations or boundaries when it comes to utilizing new forms of theatrical expression and representation that exceeds conventional staging, brings forth his talent without fear as he embraces each new project.

Darío studied directing and playwriting at the RESAD, as well as film direction at New York University and Spanish Philology at la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, completing his artistic development in France and the U.S. International experiences as well as his facility with languages (he speaks English, French, and Castilian Spanish) have permitted him to know the work of the most radical and contemporary perspectives of the international scene and to have a vision of global theatre free of prejudices. One can appreciate in his work, that from content to themes or retelling classical works from a totally contemporary perspective, he utilizes and investigates new aesthetic concepts and new scenic languages.

He is co-founder of the theatre company Metatarso for which he has written and directed numerous productions that have been represented on different stages and contemporary theatre festivals at a national and international level.

His works have been seen on the stages around the world like the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlín or the theatre Al´Qaumi in El Cairo. Of the most renowned productions he has created as a director and playwright, one will find: a versión that recently premiered in 2015 at the Festival de Clásicos de Alcalá of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Las Amistades Peligrosas, La vida imaginaria de Bonnie & Clyde, Breve Cronología del Amor, Theatre no more, Madrid Laberinto XXI (In 2015 he also created a versión in Lima called Lima Laberinto XXI presented at Teatro Británico (Miraflores-Lima-Perú), La pesadilla de Kepler, Kellogg´s Politik o Morfología de la Soledad, among others.

He has directed the texts of Heiner Müller (Camino de Wolokolamsk I-V), Caryl Churchill (Ice Cream), Jean Genet (Las Criadas) and Jean Luc Lagarce (Historia de amor (últimos capítulos) o Estaba en casa y esperé que llegara la lluvia) and has published his plays and various books of poetry. His texts have been translated to English, French and Portuguese.
In the last few years he has participated in collaborations that have produced site specific work. In collaboration with the New York company, PopUp Theatrics, he directed the show INSIDE that took place in the Hotel InterContinental Madrid and this same year he wrote Lógicas Oníricas that was presented at the Gran Hotel Conde Duque. These projects utilized an enormous scenic space (the building of these hotels) in order to generate extraordinary and exclusive experiences that were enjoyed by only two audience members at a time.  Recently he closed out the 2015 Fringe Festival with a play being set in the greenhouse of el Palacio de Cristal de Arganzuela.

In his teaching work, he is an actor coach, a professor of performance and director of the Work in Progress, of which he is a co-founder. He is a professor of directing, film and theatre writing, text analysis, history of theatre, film history and film aesthetic and he has developed his work in schools as prestigious el Istituto Europeo di Design (IED), la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM), el Centro de Nuevos Creadores (CNC) y la Escuela Municipal de Cine de Alcorcón (ECA) of which he was the rector for four years.

Now, after the premiere of A Midsummer Nights Dream where he immersed the audience in a magical environment of Shakespeare with the help of 3D glasses and the tremendous success at a national level of  Las amistades peligrosas in which, through rock and roll he represented the sex and drugs that runs through the novel by Laclós, he will debut at the Sala Principal del Teatro Español, with a risky envisioning of, El Burlador de Sevilla, attributed to Tirso de Molina.


The Global Connections program was designed by TCG and is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Learn more here.