When everything closed down, on March 14, Joan Negrié was in Morocco. The actor, who is the manager of Sala Trono in Tarragona, needed a break: “It had been a very hard year for me, with a lot of stress and a lot of work. I went to Morocco for a week and I was confined there. We had to come back a week later. And it was very hard to go home and have to be confined. It was a really surreal and very depressing situation“, he explains. But he did not want to let discouragement in: “From that moment on, I had a change of mindset, and thought we mustn’t let ourselves sink. I told my colleagues that we had to work on future projects, in the hope that one day everything will return to normal. “
So they started organising the Tarragona International Theatre Festival (FITT). The seventh edition was to be held at the end of June, but the circumstances marked by Covid forced it to be postponed and it ended up being held from September 2-5. They were working hard without knowing if it would be held or not: “I was very convinced that we had to do it; I had this enthusiasm and drive to work on a daily basis. The FITT had to be done anyway, despite all the restrictions we had, Tarragona had to have a theatre festival. As a company, this was the goal we set for ourselves”, Negrié explains. They achieved their goal and, in spite of everything, the September edition of FITT “was a success”: “We managed to have our best ever festival”.
In the meantime, Sala Trono, which is a small-format venue that focuses on independent and contemporary theatre, had to be closed for three months (March, April and May): “We lost the Trono season and as there was this collective discouragement and frustration, I told the team that we had to work with enthusiasm to prepare a festival and a new season“. The work will not be in vain: “the works that we have not been able to present this year will be scheduled for the next season”.
It has not been easy to comply with all the measures required to allow the public into the theatres: “It has been very hard and very expensive, with a significant economic investment. But we don’t want this to lead to another crisis; if we have to enter the theatre with a mask, then we will; if we have to take our temperature, then so be it... But it was hard and sad. And more so in a theatre, which is a place of freedom of expression; wearing a mask on your mouth is contradictory, but if we have to do it like this, then we will”.
As a member of the culture sector, he is used to being treated badly. The pandemic has only made this tougher: “We have always felt mistreated, but now it has become clear more than ever that culture is not protected enough. We were really left helpless. It was the time where we saw ourselves most naked.”
Negrié also notes that the precarious situation the sector is experiencing has become more than evident: “In all the meetings with the government, we put the figures on the table, they have seen the precarious situation in which we find ourselves; they have seen our misery, and they cannot allow us to continue in this way“, explains the cultural manager and actor.
Despite all this, he does not want to abandon his optimism: “From this point on, many things and many ways of working will change. I want to believe that society will make a qualitative step forward. People are increasingly disappointed, but I have seen collective solidarity, at the FITT festival, for example. Everyone was very respectful, generous, supportive, and I think that makes us stronger in the face of an adverse situation.“ And he says: “There are a lot of people who have had a very bad time of it, and it is we ourselves, society, who have to help make this better; politicians aren’t doing it, it’s we who have to go shopping at the neighbourhood store, not Amazon, and it’s we who have to go to a small theatre. If we don’t, the politicians will not fill our theatres, cinemas or museums.”