Ana Graham and Antonio Vega are the ultimate theatre-couple. Partners in both life and work, they travel the world with their company Por Piedad Teatro. Six years ago, they brought their work A Special Day to Fringe, garnering full-houses and critical acclaim. Luckily for Adelaide, they have brought it back this year.
Glam caught up with them for a chat over lunch.
NOTE: Ana=Ana Graham; Ant=Antonio Vega.
Por Piedad Teatro was originally founded by Ana, who tells the story.
Ana: I was a child actress then I stopped because my family believed it was not a real profession. They convinced me to go to college where I studied marketing and business and I was very unhappy. After college I decided to go back to acting. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do in theatre, so I said well I am going to build this company around what I want to do as an actress. I’m not going to be waiting for people to hire me. I ‘m going to hire the directors I want to work with, and the actors I want to learn from. The company started to transform, trying to establish this dialogue between playwrights from Mexico and those from around the world. And then Antonio came along. First he was cast as an actor and then we started working and translating together. We had the same vision of theatre and we decided to move together to New York to explore opportunities the other way round, as in what can Mexicans do outside of Mexico?
A Special Day is co-produced with The Play Company of New York. This has been an on-going working relationship.
Ana: The Play Company is the shadow of our company. They produce contemporary theatre of playwrights that are not American necessarily. And most American companies don’t do that. I met Kate the artistic director and it happened that we had produced the same playwrights: me in Mexico and her in New York. She is like my twin-soul in New York. She’s been so supportive of our work.
A Special Day is based on the Italian film Una Giornata Particolare. Credited with the original idea for this work are Laura Almela and Daniel Gimenez Cacho, also based in Mexico City.
Ant: Ana has a very good eye for things that are going to work or things that are special. Some colleagues of ours did this play in Mexico with the same basic idea of doing the set with drawing and chalk. We borrowed the concept and we developed it. So we credit Laura and Danielle because they had the original idea. This is a different show. We needed to do something in New York where our Mexican accents don’t get in the way. We pretend and say openly “we are playing” we are Mexicans but we are pretending to be Italian and you’re going to believe it because you are going to play with me and I’m going to use your imagination to create this show. Your imagination and two pieces of chalk!
Ana: This is a play from the 70s, but looking back, how feminist, how inclusive, progressive this was for its time! It’s unbelievable, because these are things that we are talking about recently. And fascism, although it was a regime, and it’s coming back in a way, I think it is more a state of mind. We all have our fascist inside. At the beginning seven years ago, we weren’t looking at these far right and far left movements with figures like Trump and Le Pen. Sadly, for us, it’s becoming more correct, the play. It was a little harder to explain to people seven years ago when Obama was president. And we love the play because it’s just so much fun, as actors. We have the time of our lives and so does the audience.
Ana is somewhat notorious in Mexico for her hubris when it comes to securing a project she is interested in. Most famously, she managed to obtain the rights to adapt Woody Allen’s film Interiors for the stage.
Ana: It’s a wild story!
Ant: It’s a famous story in Mexico. Ana is always used as an example of things producers can do or should do. Ana had the idea, and everyone told her she was crazy, Woody Allen will never give you the rights. Forget about it.
Ana: I wrote to him and he said no.
Ant: And then Ana just packed a little bag and went to New York and basically stalked him. She went to the place where he plays [clarinet].
Ana: It was at the time when he was having a big fight with Mia Farrow, around 1991 but Soon-Yi was sitting in a dark corner, so I sat beside her and I told her what I was wanting. I was very naïve obviously! I had a little folder with the project in it. She was very nice, and she said she’d make sure he sees it. And two weeks later I received a letter, signed by Woody Allen, saying that he was allowing us to do the play in Mexico. So that was my first production. And it did very well.
One gets the feeling that if Ana wants to do something, she does it. Both her and Antonio’s passion for theatre exudes every pore. They never back away from doing mindbogglingly difficult productions.
Ana: The biggest production we’ve done is 10 out of 12. In the States, that’s how they call the tech rehearsal. Because you have the space for 12 hours but you can only rehearse for 10 of those hours due to the union.
Ant: It’s a play by Anne Washburn. We saw that in NY and I was in love with it. And I begged Ana let’s do this please!
Ana: It’s a celebration of theatre. The whole play is a technical rehearsal. The audience gets an earpiece where they can listen to all the communication between the stage manager and the technicians. It’s a big cast, big set, big lighting. It’s a huge production. We were also directing it both and in it. We’re actually very minimalist in our productions usually.
Graham and Vega have a busy schedule ahead, as always, but hope to get back to Australia soon.
Ana: We just did Perth then we go to NY for a couple of weeks and then back to Mexico where we start a production of the Beauty Queen of Leenane: because that is the character I want to do as an actress!
Ant: We want to bring A Special Day to other fringes around Australia probably next year. And I’m so in love with Australia: the wildlife, the beach, the ocean.
Ana: And the people are so friendly! We made friends six years ago and we kept in touch with them. They lent us their bikes and we’ve already had a BBQ with them.
And with that this talented and passionate couple popped on said bikes and rode off to their next media appearance.
A Special Day runs from Friday 28th Feb – Sunday 1st Mar and Tuesday 3rd Mar – Sunday 15th Mar at 9pm, Black Box Theatre, Adelaide Botanic Gardens.
Click here for bookings and further information.