You gotta fight for your right to cry
You gotta fight for your right to cry or like Sónia Baptista says “use sadness to activate anger and be able to fight for a better and fairer world”. Triste in English from Spanish peels off the layers from the happiness filter until we’re able to see what’s underneath. From melancholy to sadness until we get to depression with all the joy – a much more tangible feeling than that mythological animal called happiness – that can exist in the middle.
Does it spark joy?
The play begins with a sort of stand-up performance by Sónia Bapista in which she talks about her “condition”, as she puts it several times during this interview. She talks about claiming sadness as something that can and should be lived and – why not? – moaned in public; about the strength of admitting weaknesses and rejecting the smiley face society wants to stick on your face. She explains how being sad is one thing and clinical depression – her condition – is something else. “Sadness can be a spark for action, depression is the opposite. It’s non-action. Depression is not having a bad temper – I’m not like this. I wasn’t like this. I have the potential to be other things when I don’t have a problem with my synapses”, she says ironically. In short, depression is a clinical disease and sadness is “just” a feeling. Running the risk of sounding like something that came out of a book called Depression for Dummies – but some concepts can be clear to some people and foggy to others – it’s possible to be sad and be depressive and to be depressive and have the ability to feel immense joy (here you should read ‘depressive’ from a clinical point of view and not from the extremely light way we usually use the word).
Maybe because she understands these contradictions very well, contrasts are often the starting point for Sónia Baptista’s writing. The first draft is always heavier and, little by little, she starts sculpting the absurd and the lightness hidden behind the seriousness. At some point, we talked about Hannah Gadsby’s and Tig Notaro’s stand-up shows (Nanette and Hello, I Have Cancer) and about how much she identified with them and it all makes sense. There is a similar willingness to use their own experiences, no matter how hard they are, and dissect them with humour. “The play has a lot of joy because you can only understand sadness with joy by its side and vice-versa. When it’s sad, it’s very sad but I wanted it to have a lot humour. It’s not a conscious manipulation of the audience at all but I wanted to create a roller coaster of emotions because sometimes my mood, the mood of people that suffer from these things, is like that. It’s ‘everything is ok’ or ‘everything is ok socially and then you go home and cry’”, she says.
The artificial and the shallow walk among us
Starting from her own experiences, Sónia Baptista found connections with references that go from prosaic to pop and everything in between. We hear about Oprah Winfrey, Instagram, Dolly Parton and Victoria Abril, Emily Dickinson, classical music and even Marie Kondo, the Japanese guru for tidying up your belongings and your life (about everything and everyone ask “does this spark joy?”). After the initial solo act, the other six performers and co-creators of the play join Sónia on stage: Ana Libório, Carolina Campos, Cleo Tavares, Joana Levi, Márcia Lança e Paula Sá Nogueira. “At all times, they are more than mere representations of myself, they are other sides of this experience that is mine but also universal”, Sónia explains.
At the same time that she walks side by side on stage with the artificial and shallow that define daily life in the 21st Century, Sónia Baptista offers it a counterweight with references to Ecofeminism. This current of thought and social movement points fingers to the oppression and abuse perpetrated by the patriarchal society towards all-natural things, creating a parallel between women and Nature. As an alternative, Ecofeminism suggests an economic and political reorganization that will nurture the renewal of ties between mankind and the natural world. “Potentially, women will save the world. Women that like other women, that are not enemies of other women, women that don’t perpetuate the patriarchal system”, Sónia says. “But the patriarchal society is equally toxic to men and women. We are all hostages to this consumerist way of living. Life is such a mysterious thing, so miraculous, so incredible, how did we get to the point where money – an artificial thing we created – is the most important thing? No, the most important thing is love, living well, treating well things and people”.
Since there are no coincidences, Sónia Baptista’s next play is about anger and the hunger to change all this, a feeling that often walks hand in hand with sadness.
Together we were never sad
Triste in English from Spanish is also a tribute to the most important person in Sónia Baptista’s life, her friend Ana. She says she’s in the play almost from beginning to end but not in an obvious way. There is never a reference to Ana’s name because this time “I wanted to protect her, I wanted to protect us”, Sónia says.
They were next door neighbours and met when Sónia was four years old and Ana was eight. To Sónia, being an only daughter, Ana was everything: a sister, a friend, a mentor. “Since she died, all my plays have references to Ana. She suffered from clinical depression. We grew up together and were very happy. We never got mad at each other, we laughed a lot, spent days together, I read what she read. I never knew she suffered from clinical depression and she also never knew I suffered from clinical depression. We never talked about it…”. “Because you were so happy together there was no room for it?”, I ask. “Exactly. We were incredible”, Sónia answers.
From today until Saturday and for the rest of our lives let’s face sadness with an open heart and repeat, like a mantra: you are not the voices in your head.
Triste in English from Spanish
From January 17 to January 19, Culturgest
January 17 and 18 – 9pm
January 19 – 7pm
On January 18, the play is preceded by a conference about Ecofeminism with Yago Herrero, researcher in the field of social ecology. The conference starts at 6:30pm. The entrance is free (subject to room capacity) for those you reserve a ticket, on that day, from 18pm on.