Mateo Franco started his acting career in Galicia (Northwest of Spain) working with Manuel Lourenzo and Santiago Fernández. As a kid he acted in Mar do Rostro, a film directed by Jorge Rivera. He attended the degree of DRAMA and Acting at Superior School of Dramatic Art of Galicia. He also directed several pieces including one for the Bertolt Brecht Charity Tour Against Evictions. He travelled to South Korea to develop a clown for international circus company La Fiesta Escénica´s Galtuk at Gwang Gyang World Art Circus Festival. In 2013 he won a grant to study in the US. He has been working with John Strasberg at his New York Studio since September 2013. In NY he have also worked in Theodora Skipitare´s production The Chairs as actor-assistant of The Living Theatre´s founder Judith Malina at CUNY and The Whitney Museum of American Art.
Tell us a little about what you are doing in New York, how you got here and something about your professional background.
My training began in CasaHamlet Studio in A Coruña, led by Manuel Lourenzo and Santiago Fernández. There in the heat of an artistic studio, Manuel, taught me to love theatre. Shortly afterwards, I signed up in the Escuela Superior de Arte Dramático (High School of Performing Arts), where I experienced the daily life of theatre for two years. In 2012, I travelled to South Corea for a month to play a clown in the “Gatlük” show in La Fiesta Escénica.
Tell us a little about what you are up to in New York, how you got here and your professional experience.
I arrived in New York in September 2013 with a grant from the Coruña Council to extend my studies at John Strasberg Studios. Being a student of John was fascinating. You go through a revolution of the senses as you become aware of the process required to reach simplicity, the search for truth and finding yourself. Having met John gave me the chance to develop as an artist. Since then, I have worked in numerous artistic projects. I was in two of the performances of those done by Theodora Skipitares (Whitney Museum and CUNY) about Ionesco’s play, “Las Sillas” (The Chairs).
How are the rehearsals for the play going? What methods are you using?
The process is quite tough. Ignacio has invited us to suggest ideas and discover them in the rehearsals, which in the presence of a great director, is marvellous. He is able to see what our ideas can add to the meaning of the play and the story and chooses them accordingly. There is a lot of freedom and debates arise. We start with an individual journey into the depths of each character. This was an interesting and enriching thing to do. Then, we move on to working on the scenes, monologues and the staging of the play.
What do you think of the play and the script?
The play fascinates me. In fact, what Beatriz wrote is a long poem, a wonderful Greek tragedy, with sophisticated contemporary language. It was of those plays in which the rite is still alive, with which we get to look deep into our own souls, face up to lies and the pantomime we have created around us. Beatriz has given us the chance to take off our masks to see if there is any humanity left in our hearts. There is a magnificent description of what the city means and how it affects and invades us.
What do you think organizations like AENY offer Spanish artists in a city like New York?
It is fundamental, of course. We need to meet up, set up talks. We, artists, have to be in touch. The dramatized readings at AENY allow many types of artists to work together. Where else other than in a theatre can actors, musicians and visual artists work together? AENY is an excellent organization for this, thanks to its existence and the work they do we can offer the audience a play in Spanish, made by Spanish artists.
Tell us about your character, how you are working on him and his role in the development of the story.
“Nathan, my dear child”. Very probably one of the last children to live in the world we know, one that is falling apart. A child who becomes aware of the decadence and the widespread misery and vainly looks for answers from his father. A man disturbed by global problems. Lack of love and understanding make him travel set off on a journey of escape and need like in the film by Theo Angelopoulos, Landscape in the Mist. I am preparing the character with great love, as if it were a sponge cake.
Finally, what reflections and impressions would you like the audience to get from the play?
I would like the audience to be given a sensation of total awareness. I hope to give people the chance to remember being fearful children at some time in their lives. This play has taught me a lot and continues to do so. It is amazing how playwrights tell you things, through the stories and how these words, ideas and feelings become a part of your life.
Interview: Victoria Freire