Europe Edition

2019 Number 1

Moisés Kaufman

More than Tolerance, Empathy

Nominated as Best Director for the Tony Broadway Awards in 2004 and creditor of the National Medal of the Arts in the United States in 2016, Moisés Kaufman is a playwright, director and one of the founders of the theater company Tectonic Theater Project (New York), one of the most important theater companies of that North American country. His works “Indecent acts: the three trials of Oscar Wilde” and “The Laramie Project” (also a television script for the HBO network), have been widely represented in many countries and alert, directly and indirectly, on the dangers of intolerance and social sanctions derived from it at different times and places in our agitated world.

 

Your plays (“Indecent acts: the three trials of Oscar Wilde”, “The Laramie Project” and “33 Variations”) are based on real events or characters. What elements should a story or character contain to inspire you to write about it and turn it into a theater?

 

I love locating my works at the intersection between art and reality. Art in general (and theater in particular) allows us to put our existence under a microscope and examine it through the artistic lens. Life happens to us so fast! Art allows us to bend over time, reduce daily speed and live more important moments. The things that attract my attention are mysterious and unpredictable. Inspiration – and I know this is a cliché – is capricious. Sometimes a piece of music inspired by Beethoven inspires me (and makes me write my work “33 Variations”); others, a story by Tennessee Williams (“One Arm”) and others, the real events that led me to write “The Laramie Project” and “Indecent Acts.” It is impossible to say why someone reacts to certain issues, ideas or events and not to others.

 

Do you think that your works in particular and theater in general have the potential to transform or remove consciousness?

 

I think that art in general, and narrative arts in particular, have the power to engage in conversations with the public and highlight the best of our humanity. The theater reminds us of the similarities within the human condition that we all share. And this makes us more empathic.

 

Is theater a fact intrinsically linked to tolerance, inclusion and plurality, or can theater also be done from conservatism?

 

Theater can have any type of speech. And it can be used for many different purposes.

I must admit that I don’t like the word “tolerance” too much. I think we are making the challenge very easy. Instead of proposing tolerance, why don’t we propose empathy? In this way we would make an effort to understand the life experience of the other. Wouldn’t that be better than asking for tolerance? I am not sure that tolerance is enough to achieve a better future. When I tolerate someone, I barely stand it. Why aim so low?

We need to be more ambitious. Let us ask for empathy, ask for acceptance, ask for a deep understanding of our equality.

 

Theater has only been a massive phenomenon in certain times and contexts, however, what should a playwright or a director take into account if he wants his works to be appreciated by a wider audience than the usual or scholar?

 

I think the general public wants to be spoken intelligently; they want the stories we tell them to directly affect their way of thinking and living. They want – as I said earlier – that we remember their humanity. One of the biggest mistakes we can make in theater is underestimating our audience.

 

In “The Laramie Project” and in “Indecent Acts”, the central characters are condemned by a hypocritical and conservative society, although the contexts of both works are totally different. Do you consider that your works contain a tone of complaint?

 

I try to illuminate human nature. I want to talk about how we behave as individuals and how we behave as societies; how we think and how we act with each other. If that results in a complaint, I accept it.

 

/ BY MARTÍN BRASSESCO

Martín Brassesco / Actor, teacher, screenwriter and director, was born in Uruguay and grew up in Venezuela where he studied Arts at the Central University of Venezuela and developed a broad career as an actor. Resident in Barcelona, for 14 years, he is the Content Coordinator of «Reflector».

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