Francisco Gattorno has gone from telenovela heartthrob to becoming one of the most renowned character actors onstage. He returns to New York City in Repertorio Español’s revival of La fiaca, in which he stars as Néstor, a man who wakes up one morning and decides to stay home from work due to his “fiaca” (laziness). His wife, mother, and co-workers try to get him out of his funk to no avail, but as Néstor begins to enjoy life like never before, he realizes his lack of obligations comes at great cost. Gattorno’s subtle, naturalistic performance allows the play’s darker themes to seep through without us even noticing, which makes for a powerful, unexpected finale. But the stage isn’t the only place where you can catch the actor’s work, he’s also starring in the telenovela El bienamado, where he plays a character he described to us as "a Don Quixote mixed with the Lone Ranger, a vigilante", we also spoke to him about what makes characters attractive, the timeliness of La fiaca, and what he loves about NYC.
What makes you the most excited about returning to NYC?
Stepping on the stage at Repertorio Español and getting to work in that small theater between Lexington and Third Avenue. Central Park is also one of my favorite places, I love walking around SoHo, seeing people from so many places, from all over the world. I like to go to Blue Note because I'm a jazz fan, I also like seeing theatre, things like Sleep No More and that sort of experimental theatre which I love.The most beautiful of all is that it’s ephemeral, theatre only happens once. Click To Tweet
What does theatre give you that you don’t get from film or television?
The interaction with the audience. In theatre you have mutual communication, there’s an immediate reaction, you don’t have to wait to finish a sequence, there are no cuts, your relationship with the audience is direct. The most beautiful of all is that it’s ephemeral, theatre only happens once. In film or television you do a scene, then wait for it to be processed, so it’s like having a cigar or a good tequila.
Do you remember instances where you did something onstage and then tried to repeat it to no avail?
Every day in theatre is different, so you're experimenting and seeing what works and what doesn’t. The most important thing is that there is truth, you need to really be living what is happening onstage, you need to be in the story you’re telling. If something unexpected happens, you need to be good at solving problems. If you’re focused you discover new things, sometimes we’ve rearranged texts, which sometimes work and others don’t. There’s a process of endless search when you do theatre.
In Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands I remember thinking how much fun you seemed to be having onstage. Was that the case?
Doing that play was the most beautiful experience I’ve had at Repertorio so far, we put a lot of work into it. I think you can tell how much fun it was, because the show has been playing for almost ten years now, people keep coming to see it. I thank God and Gilberto Zaldívar who was the person who brought me to this theater, along with his fellow musketeers Robert Federico and René Bush. Doing theater is what I like the most in life!
How do you choose the characters you want to play? Why La fiaca for example?
La fiaca is challenging because comedy for me is the most serious and difficult of all genres. Before choosing a character I like to make sure the story is well told, that it has a well-developed conflict, that the work is well written. The fiaca is perfect, it’s a play that speaks about today. It deals with the laziness we have sometimes, the desire to stay in bed doing nothing, something which in the modern world is impossible because if you don’t work you don’t eat. Who hasn’t felt the urge to say "today I’ll stay in bed making love to my wife, eating in bed, watching TV"? The play was written more than 30 years ago, but it’s still relevant because the world moves so fast.When actors are on stage we forget what is happening beyond the fourth wall Click To Tweet
Remember some point during your career in theatre where you thought "I'd love to be sitting in the audience tonight"?
Oh yes of course! When actors are on stage we forget what is happening beyond the fourth wall, we are just trying to tell a story in the best way possible. I’ve done shows in which I interact with the audience while on stage, at the time we called them collective participation plays because in Cuba everything is collective.
Since you mention Cuba, what excites you most about the fact that US tourists will now get to see your home country? What would you like to show them?
Varadero is very nice, Calle Santa Maria too...it’s been almost 15 years since I last visited Cuba. I know Cuba well, so now I want to see the rest of the world, maybe once I’ve visited all the other countries I’ll return to Cuba. I didn’t like what I saw in Cuba last time, or what I’m seeing now, so it’s a topic I’d rather not discuss much. Our country experience a holocaust of sorts, so I think Cubans are now very confused, they do not know if they have capitalism or socialism. Cuba is a country that deserves a better future! It’s time that the world opens up to Cuba and Cuba opens up to the world. Cuba is a beautiful country, but it has gone through a process of tyranny and lack of freedom for over a century now. Cuba went from being owned by the Americans to being owned by Fidel, with both owners doing things wrong. But this is a larger issue, we’d need to talk about Cuba for at least three days...
You work all the time, but if you could give yourself a day of “fiaca” how would you spend it?
I would go to Finca Fifi in Panama in a place called Kuna Yala. I’d lay on a hammock with three women: a Brazilian, a Cuban and a Russian, who would be massaging my feet and neck with some oil. I’d also have a cigar, good Cuban rum and music by Seal. If they can’t find me one day, you know where I’ll be.
For more information on The fiaca click here.