by Sherif Awad
This is actress Vanessa Tor.
I was raised in a humble family and lived until I was 20 years old in l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, a city near Barcelona that has now become part of it. I had a completely secular education. At school, there was no subject of religion, but there were music and theatre. I used to read aloud to the class, learn poems by heart and organize games that I would make up at the break.
In my neighbourhood, as in all of Barcelona’s neighbourhoods, there was an amateur theatre group. I joined when I was 15 and stayed until I was 20. That’s when I discovered that the theatre was my home. Then I studied Philology at the University of Barcelona but left it unfinished to work on a theatre tour.
In my childhood and adolescence I was influenced by Pipi Langstrum, The Young Ones, Fame (“Mama, I want to go to that school”), Moonlight, Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, Robert Mitchum, Núria Espert, Lauren Bacall, Pepe Rubianes, Charlie Rivel, La Trinca, Mary Sant Pere, Lloll Beltran, Rafael Álvarez El Brujo and some great theatre companies and many splendid companions, with much more experience and background than me. Now some of my referents have changed, others have not.
-Studying and learning this profession ends never. So it is necessary to be patient with oneself, to be kind and humble. There are good schools, which, in addition to teaching different techniques in different areas (text, body, voice …) allow you to create a social network. I have preferred teachers to schools. Everything is valid, there is no single path. And no a way to create because everything has already been created somewhere.
-For me there is no more a place to achieve, but here and now. There is nothing I am supposed to do or have done. Maybe I would like to work on a complex character in a feature film. I also like what I am doing right now.
-About challenges related to gender, I say, well, as you know, in the fiction represented as the reality that is sold in television and movies, women from 35 years old hardly exist, if not to represent “the mother of”, “the wife of”… Also in the history we are told, it seems that women have not existed. The challenge for all of us, women and men, is to change that narrative that does not make us healthy, to become the drivers of our new story and our profession.
-In my view, entertainment is evolving and adapting to new paradigms. Culture, in Spain, where I grew up, is dying. I believe that this is a structural, grassroots problem, which is aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis. Culture is not economically profitable and also incites to question things. I’ve been living in Switzerland for not long and I don’t know enough to give an opinion. I have been very fortunate to be able to work in this country in the theatre and to obtain a small grant for my own production.
-I have rarely had a good time at a casting. In Catalan “càstig” means punishment, and that’s how I’ve lived most of them. That’s a pity. Fortunately, other times I have lived them as an opportunity to do what I like to do. Many times I get a role because they saw me working somewhere and there was no need for casting. Other times it wasn’t like this.
-The way as I approach the work that is offered to me is up to the kind of work. If there is a lot of text I do a deep reading and try to extract as much information as possible, that which is in the text and that which is below the text. I try to discover the character’s background and motivations. Some works I build from the outside in, that is, first I see what the character is like outside, how she dresses, her posture, how she moves, and that leads me to feel what she feels, to speak as she speaks. Other times I discover the psyche first and that leads me to build the external. It depends on the type of work. When it comes to bringing something to the stage that is not written, I discover it as we work, playing, from successes and failures, accidents, and my dreams.
-There is not one piece that I have made that I consider the best. Some I’m more proud of, or I’ve had more fun doing them, or they’ve been more challenging. It was a good thing and a pleasure to be La Colometa in La Plaça del Diamant, a masterful text and a character that is candy for any actress. It was a challenge, suffering and in the end, a great pleasure to play my role in “Mainstream”, in a theatre in Köln, 2 hours in a row on stage with a very long and complex text in German when I still didn’t speak a word…I was also able to commit suicide every day with the Julie from “Norway Today” and I discovered a very pleasant subtlety and precision in the Poemancia we did in Paris, there I discovered that magic was trickles.
-My other activities parallel to arts are always changing, I just try to do from everything a piece of art. Lately, I share the yoga techniques I know, a tool that has become indispensable for life on stage and off.
-Well, I don’t feel in a position to give an advice, I feel more also like a newcomer, even though I’ve been in this profession for 25 years. What I experienced, (could it perhaps be useful to someone?) that there is no need to wait for someone else to give us a chance to do what we love to do, to make our art, to express ourself. It’s possible to find many ways to do that. And that is perfect to fail. It is necessary to have your antenna well tuned, your instrument in tune, ready to go on stage. It is necessary to become a constant observer, outside and inside, to know ourselves deeply.
-I don’t make any equilibrium between my private life and my professional practice. I feel it’s the same. Dedicating oneself to art is a way of understanding life, without timetables or spaces, all the time. I am who I am all the time, even when I am someone else.
-I was about to premier a very personal work, a solo in a nice Theater in Baden, Switzerland. I also wrote it, and fort the very first time I produce it, with the direction of Xavier Mestres Emilió, who came from Paris to work on the play. Four days before the opening night the Swiss government decided to close all the theatres because of the pandemic. Now I’m trying to improve what we hat and developing new ideas for other plays, without knowing when are we going to back home. Just here and now, trying to enjoy the moment, the process, just living life as it comes.