Kulunka Teatro Presents “André & Dorine” in New York

Kulunka Teatro
Kulunka Teatro is Spain’s internationally-acclaimed theatre company that just announced their debut New York presentation of “André & Dorine."

Kulunka Teatro is Spain’s internationally-acclaimed mask and physical theatre company that just announced their debut New York presentation of “André & Dorine” which will run between April 27 and May 29 at Theatre at St. Clement’s (423 West 46 St) in NYC. The show will also run in Los Angeles June 8 – 19 in the Lupe Ontiveros Cinema Center at The Los Angeles Theatre Center. Through movement, puppetry and mask, “André & Dorine” tells the story of a pair of elderly artists as Alzheimer’s forces them to relive and reinvent their love.

Recently Garbine Insausti—the co-producer actress and co-author of André & Dorine—discussed this show and more via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): When did you first discover your love for the theater and how did you break into the industry?

Garbine Insausti (GI): I’ve have been attracted to both the theater and music since I was a little girl, but it was at around age 12 that, according to my mother at least, I returned from a school trip to see a Shakespeare play saying that’s what I want to do when I grow up. After that I participated in different theater workshops until, when I turned 18, I got a place at the Royal School of the Performing Arts in Madrid. After studying for several years and working with different theater companies, in 2010, Jose Dault and I joined forces to set up our own company so that we could tell those stories that most moved us and appealed to us as creators, but most importantly as people. At the time, we never would have imagined that, twelve years later, we would have performed in over 30 countries and would be preparing for a season in New York.

MM: What is it about puppets that so interests you?

GI: Although it may seem paradoxical, the language of masks is an incredibly powerful way of communicating; it appeals directly to our emotions without the rational filter of words. Due to their size and exaggerated features, masks are tools that, far from distancing spectators, actually have the opposite effect, enabling the audience to recognize their own universe in the play and even sometimes replace the masks with faces from their environment or memory. After the performance, many people come and tell us that they had the feeling that the masks changed expression or laughed or cried, despite being inanimate objects. Ten years ago, when we first started thinking about telling a love story during old age, we had a gut feeling that, in order to tell a universal tale, it might be interesting to use an equally universal language. And that was why, despite our inexperience, we decided to take a risk and explore the world of masks, a universe in which we now feel happily trapped.

MM: This show focuses on characters with Alzheimer’s, so what was it about that condition that inspired your imagination?

Kulunka TeatroGI: “You’ve just turned eighty-two. You’ve shrunk six centimeters, you only weigh forty-five kilos, yet you’re still beautiful, graceful and desirable. We’ve lived together now for fifty-eight years and I love you more than ever. I’m writing to you now to understand what my life has been; what our life together has meant.” So begins Letter to D., a long love letter written by the Viennese author André Gorz to his wife, Dorine, a few years before they decided to take their own lives together in their house in Vosnon, France. This moving testimony, which is sensitive, tender and yet eminently lucid, awakened in us the need to tell our own story about love in old age. We wanted to remain close to this feeling and this beauty, yet at the same time move away from the biography and work of André Gorz. But we kept the names André and Dorine as a tribute to the original letter that inspired us. The issue of Alzheimer’s disease arose a little later on, emerging almost as a paradox: how can something as devastating as this illness be the force that finally rekindles the forgotten love that these lovers once shared? André & Dorine is, above all, a story that is as universal in its content as it is in its language. It talks about love, of course, but also about forgetfulness, family, disease, the passage of time and identity. And, as in real life, comedy and drama intertwine in the telling of this beautiful tale.

MM: How long did it take you to develop this play and how did you find a production space?

GI: We always say that a guardian angel was watching over us during the development of André & Dorine. The whole team spent a very intense two months working very long days. It was a process of collective creation aimed at developing a play without words – working out how to tell our story to our audience in a simple, tender and emotionally-charged manner. After the opening night, we began to receive good reviews. The play generated a lot of interest and we were offered the chance to go on tour, both in our country and further afield, thanks also to the support we received from institutions such as the Basque Government, the Etxepare Basque Institute and the INAEM (the National Institute for Performing Arts and Music). Little by little, our project went from strength to strength, and of all the stable theater companies in Spain, we are now one of those with the greatest international presence and activity, having produced 5 plays which we have performed over 1,000 times in 30 countries.

MM: What’s your favorite part of this show and why?

GI: There is one moment, when the characters embrace, that you feel the audience’s emotions so clearly that, as an actor, it is impossible not to be moved yourself. But I would rather not reveal which moment it is – if you want to know, you will have to come and see the play!

MM: What sorts of reactions have you gotten from audiences?

GI: If we have seen anything during this long international tour it is that, as humans, we have many more things in common than things that divide us. It is amazing to see how audiences who are apparently so different respond to the play with the same joy and the same emotion, whether they are from New York, Kuala Lumpur, Havana, Patagonia, Shanghai, Kathmandu, Istanbul or London. Basic, universal emotions recognize no borders. We all laugh at the same things, and the same things can make us all cry too. You rarely perceive all these emotions in your audience, but with André & Dorine it is unavoidable.

MM: What are the biggest challenges associated with puppetry in theater?

Kulunka TeatroGI: As a genre, the challenge lies in convincing audiences those masks and puppets are not only for children but are languages capable of telling a wide range of stories and moving people as much as, or even more than conventional theater. We believe that André & Dorine is one of those stories that touches everyone, because as well as being amusing and, of course, moving, it reminds us that we need to make the most of every opportunity to enjoy our lives and the people that form part of them before it is too late.

MM: What has been the best thing about working in the theater industry so far?

GI: Sharing our plays with our audience and feeling them being moved; having them thank you for telling “their” story and hearing that the play has had a cathartic effect for them. All this makes us feel useful in a profession that often runs the risk of becoming frivolous or superficial and helps reassure us that the decision we made as children to dedicate our lives to this art form was the right one.

MM: What projects are coming up for you soon and is there anything else that you would like to discuss?

GI: Kulunka Teatro is currently working on its new masked play. It will be a co-production with the NATIONAL DRAMA CENTER (the most important drama institution in Spain), the Victoria Eugenia Theater in San Sebastián and the Arriaga Theater in Bilbao. The play will premiere in January 2023.

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More info at https://andreanddorinetour.com

Check out the show’s video trailer on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZilbhuzegpY