Zisc Fortezza, the clown who taught Mallorca to laugh

Zisc Fortezza, the clown who taught Mallorca to laugh

PalmaAt Christmas, in the 80s and 90s, there was an inevitable ritual for many Mallorcans: going to the Rialto Theatre in Palma to see the first performance of the comedian Xesc Forteza. The veteran actor Joan Bibelloni, who regularly attends his comedic acts, explains the keys to the success of one of the great masters of traditional island theatre who, in a single year, managed to gather almost 10,000 spectators: “Xesc had great charisma. He knew what the audience wanted and he gave it to them. He made Mallorcans laugh at themselves and at things in their daily lives. He knew our character very well. Her character reminds us a bit of that of Lina Morgan on the peninsula.”

Born in Palma in 1926, Forteza was the son and nephew of actors. He learned the trade as a child and collaborated in productions for the Cercle d’Obrers Catòlics de Ciutat, home of the Teatro Sans today. In 1947, aged 21, he joined the regional theatre company, later renamed Artis. It was the most important of its time. Eleven years later he was director. Totally bubble As a tourist, there will also be time for musicals and variety shows in Palma’s most emblematic concert halls. In 1967, Fortezza, aged 41, left two decades with Artis to set up his own company. Linguist María Magdalena Alomar Vanril knows this period well. She is the author of the doctoral thesis Theatre in Palma between 1955 and 1970published by Documenta Paler (2005).

commercial theatre

“Age indicates that Ziske was the only artist of his generation who was able to live exclusively from the theater. Once he left Artis, he went to Barcelona to act and direct at Parallel. He took the opportunity to make contacts with people from the show and to train in musical theater and mime. Then, in the winter, he dedicated himself to traveling through European cities with the aim of getting to know cabaret and street theater. It was clear that with his physical build he could not act as a brawler, so he chose to exploit his great theatrical abilities at the service of commercial theater intended for the general public. In any case, the type of popular comedy that he presented had already been developed in the nineteenth century by authors such as Bartomeu Vera, Pere d’Alcántara Peña and Miquel Puigserver.

However, the comedian proved that he could achieve higher records. In 1963 he played a small role as a civil guard in the film executioner By Luis Garcia Berlanga. In 1977 he dared to ride bya piece by Anthony Moss that dealt with the drama of the Civil War. In the late eighties he starred in two great works: Lavar By Molière, directed by Pere Nogueira, and The Great Illusion By Eduardo De Filippo, who was an actor in Barcelona on the orders of Hermann Bonin.

In 1975, Fortezza converted the Rialto Cinema, on Calle Sant Feliu, into a theatre to perform his own works there. Throughout his career he wrote nearly 250. The most important ones were used for the Christmas premiere and then toured all the cities of Mallorca. “Thanks to her funny face “He became a kind of clown who dragged people who had never set foot on stage before,” says the researcher. “Then there was no abundant offer of audiovisual entertainment today.” Forteza never showed any problems because of her status as a Shweta, which was a great social stigma at the time: “The disdain towards her group turned into applause on stage,” says the actress Cristina Valls, also of Shweta origin.

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– Lack of linguistic awareness

At the threshold of the transition period, the Palma comedian continued to use Catalan, as he had done, in full Francoism, during his time at Artis. At that time, the dictatorship was giving up on “regional theatre” because it saw in it a politically and socially harmless folkloric aspect. “Zisk considered Mallorcan and Catalan to be the same language, but he was not in favour of the struggle for linguistic unity. He just wanted his works to succeed, and to achieve this, he used barbarism and all kinds of vulgarity. He could have followed the path traced by contemporary playwrights such as Joan Mas and Martí Mayol, who made their characters speak a very correct Mallorcan language.

Forteza was a child who received a Francoist education that he had to live. “He integrated – Age confirms – the self-loathing that was prevalent at that time. At that time, it was assumed that if you wanted to see good theatre, you had to go to a theatre, where everything was in Spanish. He deliberately rejected the Catalan normativity. Although he knew that the correct option was “before”, he always insisted on the same thing: “If I said all my life”.before“And my audience too, that’s what I’ll say.”

Actor Joan Bibelloni has a different opinion about the situation of his linguistic teacher: “Xesc may not have been Camilo José Cela when he wrote, but he dominated the stage. I learned that the carpenter and the worker spoke one way and the miser another. In addition, he was a leftist. On February 23, 1981, the day of the Tejero coup, we were in Mahón, where we were doing a play. When he heard the news he told us: ‘Our Cajun! I’m tired of these people. I’m leaving Spain. ‘” In 1976, a year after Franco’s death, Fortezza had already dared to joke about the dictatorship with the only political comedy he ever made: Fermat and Ben Fermat. and was unable to release it. This was the only work that was censored.

This commercial theatre was severely criticized by the totems of high culture. “From the pages of the newspaper last hour – Age explains – Columnists Antoni Serra and Antoni Maria Tomás underestimated him. But the great drama is that in those days there was no theatre in the Catalan language at a higher level. And there were isolated cases. In 1981, for example, a year after the death of Lawrence Villalonga, Pere Noguera directed the first production of his famous novel dead ladyFrom 1931.”

One of the harshest criticisms that Forteza faced was that they described his production as “the theater of the ignorant.” “This,” the philologist points out, “was very busy. He insisted that he was the only one who filled the theater all year round, and therefore this statement meant that all the inhabitants of Mallorca were ignorant.” Al-Omar points out that these criticisms did not do justice to an artist with a very good talent: “He knew how to capture the themes of the moment. Divorce cure a Go up here, and you’ll see Portope. (1991) Feminism A I own it…! It’s a women’s war! (1978). In this sense, Zisk was to Mallorca what the actor Joan Capri was to [1917-2000] To Catalonia”.

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In 1981 came the premiere of one of the most famous comedies: MallorcaIt was about the relationship between a couple and their neighbors in a residential building in a village in Mallorca. The work was a great success in Catalonia when it was broadcast by TV3 in 1987. In this replacement, Mari Santpere, a comedian in Barcelona, ​​replaced Maruja Alfaro in the role of Cidoro’s wife, played by Forteza. Joan Pepiloni played Severino, the lazy “stranger”, and Margaluz, from singer Andalusian turned into deadly womanIn 1986, the comedy received similar acclaim. That’s it With the unforgettable Forteza disguised as a mother superior. In those years of professional consolidation, Mallorca was diversifying his playing style. In 1985 he participated in the film One, two, three… Ensaimadas and nothing else I go to TVE program Like Pedro to his housepresented by Pedro Ruiz. Between 1994 and 1996, he worked with Andrés Pajares in the series Antena 3. Oh my God!

“Fixat” in Catalan

One of Forteza’s greatest admirers is the cultural activist Antoni Mir, who between 1991 and 2003 was president of the Balearic Cultural Works (OCB). In 1989, he convinced him to be one of the visible faces of the “Language, action for all” campaign, which was promoted until 1995 under the intellectual leadership of the philologist Aina Mol: “Despite being so vilified as Catalan, he was a very popular figure that we could not miss. It was about rallying efforts to defend Catalan. I always burst out laughing at his works. You would laugh just by looking at him. Xesc accepted the guest willingly. He was a very intelligent person and a great school of life.”

Fortezza was also the protagonist of the first Language Day, organised by the OCB on 6 May 1995. Rejecting the well-known Rutger order, which made the language standardisation law approved in 1986 without any impact on education, “Zisk proposed – says Mir – a provocative slogan in the form of a scroll: ‘Don’t keep your hands folded’. Mallorcan: that’s not how it works’”. At the beginning of the 1990s, Fortezza had already created his own acting school in Palma. In 1997, the Balearic Government awarded him the Ramón Llull Prize. He died two years later, on 6 July 1999, the victim of a lung disease. He was 73 years old. “Then – Mir laments – one of the writers said: ‘It’s fortunate that this type of theatre has come to an end’. It was doing very well, but now it doesn’t have to continue on this path”. Since 2003, a theatre in the Calatrava area of ​​Palma has been named after the inimitable clown who taught the people of Mallorca to laugh.

Joan Mas, the forgotten playwright

Xesc Forteza shared his successes with another equally important and prolific playwright, Joan Mas Bauzà. Bauzà was born in Deia in 1929, three years younger than him. He graduated in law from the University of Barcelona, ​​but ended up working in the family shop located on the Plaça del Banc de l’Oli in Palma. In his spare time, he indulged in his great passion: writing comedies – he directed some of them, but never acted or managed any company. At first, in the 1950s, his works were represented by Artis, where Forteza started as an actor.

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“Soon,” notes linguist Magdalena Alomar, “Maas became very popular. He was very interested in the discussions of his time. He said he wrote comedies because he had never experienced any drama. He was inspired by the conversations he had with people who went to his shop.” Comedy godmother (1953) Describes a woman’s struggle to keep her grandson from emigrating to South America. for us (1965) deals with the sale of land to foreigners, i.e. Everything is smooth like silk. (1985), Drug Trafficking. Alomar asserts that Mas was Forteza’s greatest rival: “There was jealousy between them because they were committed to the same genre. However, Mas had a much greater linguistic quality and richness. He made his characters speak in the proper Mallorcan language. His works are more elaborate and contain strong social criticism. Another contemporary playwright, Martí Mayol from Palma, followed the same line. [1916-1997]”

In 1974, Mas received the special award for which he was born. Woman for the Kinga work that is clearly anti-sexist and claims to be women’s liberation. He also wrote a novel, the offerFor which he won the Sant Jordi Prize in 1980. The dean also dedicated himself to film criticism and participated in numerous conferences and debates. He died in 1992 at the age of 63. Seven years later, Xesc Forteza would do the same.

But he was the heir to the social theatre of Algaide Pere Capella (1907-1954), who spent four years in the Alcalá de Henares prison in Madrid at the end of the Civil War. “Age suggests that Capella has a work that resembles the theatre of the absurd, but is very political. It is titled the beach (1951). Its protagonists are two mad scientists who invent a bomb that can kill humanity. He laughs, he laughs, he talks about the Hiroshima bomb in World War II. It is a comedy that left the audience speechless. It was a pity that Capella died so young, at the age of 47. His theatrical evolution was very interesting.”

“During the Franco era,” the researcher points out, “the island’s theatre had to be self-taught, since there was no official theatre school at the time.” Since 2006, there has been one in our house, the Escola Superior d’Art Dramatic de les Illes Balears (ESADIB). It was promoted by the popular government of Jaume Matas. “Today,” concludes Age, “the new batch of actors has more technique, they are much more professional. This is very noticeable in Toni Jumilla. When Absorbs“He uses a wonderful, rich vocabulary. On the other hand, Forteza did not receive this training.”

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