Sunday, August 17, 2008

Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda died last Wednesday July the 30th.

Not long ago I decided to write an entry about Emilio Carballido, and today my heart feels the duty of writing about Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda.

Once more, memories pile up in my mind.

When “el grupo de los doce” (the Group of Twelve) (1) was formed in the mid-eighties, with Mexican playwrights who were part of the old and new Mexican dramaturgy (from the sixties as well as from the seventies), González Caballero would tell me how pleasant one of the new playwrights was, that he supposedly was a “banker” (in fact, he really was one, Rascón Banda was an important employee at a banking enterprise), that he seemed sincere and that he had some interesting dramaturgical work (2).

I sensed the beginning of a fruitful friendship between them both, a friendship that Rascón Banda knew how to handle diplomatically during the times González Caballero was minimised by other Mexican playwrights. Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda maintained his friendship with González Caballero until Gonzalez’s death and even beyond; he was one of the few playwrights present at the last homage made to González Caballero at the Mexico City’s Teatro Hidalgo.

Rascón Banda was looking to quit banking at some point and dedicate himself fully to writing, and when the opportunity came, he became a full time writer. Using his administrative skills he landed a job where he could be of most use to his fellow playwrights, the SOGEM.

The first time I saw Rascón Banda was at a lunch he invited González Caballero to, at a French restaurant within the former Lion’s Desert Convent; as González Caballero used to do, he invited me to go with him and, of course, I accepted. It was the eighties, I was an adolescent in search of his way, meeting the people who managed the stage business in Mexico was always a tempting opportunity. Rascón Banda picked us up at some place in the city centre, in what I considered was a big and luxurious car (González Caballero agreed with me). Rascón Banda was tall, handsome, well-dressed and didn’t look much like the Mexican playwright stereotype; I still remember his deep, clear and confident voice.

González Caballero was impressed by Rascón Banda’s ability to be a “banker”, to have style and to dedicate himself to dramaturgy. Rascón Banda admired my teacher, he was honest and very responsible. Even though he talked about theatre with clarity and knowledge (he was a well travelled man), he had a pleasant conversation, he didn’t try to argue and looked for a sincere exchange.

Victor Hugo Rascón Banda’s plays are among Mexican theatre’s many successes (particularly during the nineties), and great Mexican actors took part in them. Even though he’s known by other plays, the one I treasure the most is the one that got me close to him, Tina Modotti, because it was one of the first plays I read that came from the hands of a Mexican playwright, with a supple dramatical structure (3). He got involved with cinema, theattre, and everything with a dialogue, a story, characters and a performing space.

Víctor Hugo Rascón knew well how to move the influences on his theatre and to adpat them to his personal style. I remember how Chekhov and his Cherry Garden ran subtly in the background of Playa Azul (Blue Beach), with characters from the PRI era that were losing power and territory (literally), losing their old way of life. He became a master of the realist-naturalist atmosphere, his plays echoed the times and got fused in a clear and direct character study.

I remember him as someone always close to independent groups, close to power too, and close to those who looked for a push to continue in the theatrical world; always approachable, at times, at very few times, when unable to offer all the aid that was required, the sorrow of impotence showed on his face, and yet a solution would arrive.

I didn’t know he was afflicted with cancer until I left Mexico. My colleagues would tell me how he would keep working, even when weak because of his illness. To talk about him always involved talking about a man who was admirable for his human side. Now, at the news of his passing away, I feel somewhat perplexed, and I see time pass by, how I prefer to remember González Caballero when he had dreams and plans, when at the source of his creativity he dedicated himself fully to theatre, I want to keep seeing him during his moments of success.

The losses will continue, there is no way of stopping them, we will have to find a way to preserve Rascón Banda’s work in the theatrical memory of Mexico.

(1) In my hands I hold an ediition of “Doce a las Doce, Teatro Breve” (Twelve at Twelve, Short Plays), the book that gathered those twelve playwrights in a beautiful anthological way where each published a short play that referred to (or took as starting point) one of the 12 hours of a day. The group’s members were: Alejandro Licona, Willebaldo López, Pilar Campesino, Tomás Urtusástegui, Miguel Angel Tenorio, Antonio González Caballero, Tomás Espinosa, Dante del Castillo, Pablo Salinas, Norma Román Calvo, Marcela del Río y Vìctor Hugo Rascón Banda.
At the time, 1989, Rascón Banda was already known by some scandalous premieres. His polemic, relevant and well written plays offered him a place not only in theatre but, some time later, in cinema and television.
The play was part of a theatre volume by Rascón Banda, part of the mythical collection of books edited and republished by the Public Education Ministry in the eighties, called “Lecturas Mexicanas” (Mexican Readings).

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