There was no better way to celebrate their twentieth anniversary, or a better gift to take away the bittersweet flavor that has remained for its members after seeing, for the time being, suspended the intense schedule of commemorative activities that they had prepared. The organizing committee of the XXIII Max Awards for Performing Arts has awarded the 2020 Max Amateur or Social Character Award to the Municipal School of Theater ‘Ricardo Iniesta’ in Úbeda. An award that could perfectly replace the candles and the cake (it would be an apple pie for the well-known logo of the recognitions and the shape of the trophy), and that will have to be divided into as many portions as people have gone through this project of great social impact , marked by integration through the performing arts and that in these two decades has shown that another way of doing theater is possible. Although if there is someone who deserves to cut the cake and light the candles, that is its director, Nati Villar, who at the head of the school has played her best role.

When twenty years have passed since the creation of the Municipal Theater School, it continues to have as its basic pillars the values ​​of education, training and culture as ways to improve the quality of life of people and the community, and even today they consider the best way to experience diversity and to provide a state of physical, mental and social well-being to groups and individuals. For all these reasons, it is worthy of the Max Social Award 2020.

Born in 2000 at the proposal of Luis Carlos Latorre and Nati Villar, its current director, the school began as a performing arts classroom in the town, but it is from 2003 when it begins to grow towards a more social theater proposal, being a benchmark at the national level. This fact is corroborated by their participation in leading events such as the Festival of Performing Arts and Social Inclusion (Cuenca), the IgualArte Festival (Vigo), the International Exhibition of Research Theater-MITIN (Sala TNT de Sevilla), the European project Caravan Next o the Visible Festival (Sala Tarambana de Madrid).

The committee of the Max especially highlights the role that the group has developed as a cultural dynamizer and of community projects around diversity in the province of Jaén and, by extension, in Andalusia, and its constant commitment to a theater whose objective is, in the words of its director, “generate non-exclusive spaces for cultural participation by the entire community, in all the programs, influencing the most elitist”.

His way of doing theater is compromised, taking into account all kinds of users. “I have always understood the theater from the popular and from the community, starting from the base culture but moving away from mere entertainment,” says Nati Villar, who understands that “as a public theater research center, the school must place itself at the service of the city, leaving the classroom, reaching all the spaces and groups that need a powerful social and educational loudspeaker, without forgetting that what we do is not therapy, but theater, based on the fact that diversity is the great ally of creation, culture and the art”.

On September 7, if the situation of new normality generated by the Covid-19 health crisis does not prevent it, the director of the Utetense Theater School, Nati Villar Caño (Torreperogil, 1969), will take the stage of the Cervantes Theater from Malaga to collect the award during the gala of the XXIII edition of the Max Awards for Performing Arts, organized by the SGAE Foundation with the collaboration of the Malaga City Council and the Cervantes Theater itself.

“Receiving the Max of a social nature supposes for the school the recognition that social transformation is possible from the theater, since in art there are the most resounding and intrinsic tools that the human being has to produce social changes”, explains Villar. “This mention fills us with encouragement to continue in the line of creating a school with its own identity seal, strengthening social commitment, which we verify day by day with the groups that are part of our center,” he adds, and highlights his joy at the bad taste in the mouth of having forcibly suspended an anniversary program that “was already in the final stretch but that we will resume with energy to continue celebrating in 2021.”

Members of the Theater School, its director and a staging. / ROMÁN

Commitment to theater and society

The passion for art in diversity and using the structure of the school to offer a space of visibility to other experiences of theater and social intervention are two basic in the philosophy of this scenic research center. After the creation of the Municipal School ‘Ricardo Iniesta’ and a multitude of workshops and training activities later, in 2017 they also undertook the Festival of Theater and Social Inclusion, which shares the objectives of serving as a meeting space for this type of experience and consolidating community and social theater in the rich cultural program of the city of Úbeda.

“Only by including these artistic experiences in the cultural programs of our towns and cities will we be honoring what art itself is, inclusion and diversity,” says Nati Villar.

Given the commitment and the particular way of understanding the service provided by a municipal center of this nature, the school means for students to find a safe space in which to investigate from themselves and in which to learn and understand the other, generating a respectful coexistence between people with physical, psychological, mental and sensorial functional diversity, immigrants, the elderly, women, children and people without any type of disability.

This highlights the collaborations with organizations such as nursing homes, educational, occupational or Alzheimer’s centers, or groups to help Muslim women, through the municipal area of ​​Social Welfare, the Red Cross, the Association of People with Functional Diversity ‘Clovers’ or its counterpart ‘Roosevelt’, the provincial penitentiary center or the Atalaya theater company, whose director, originally from Utetense, gives its name to this school.

But there is a pending claim on the part of these Andalusian theater lovers, and that is that training in performing arts was part of formal education. “Art connects us with the essence of each one, personal creativity must be explored to develop as complete human beings and we cannot mutilate that innate need, something that public bodies have not yet understood,” Villar says, pointing out, in addition, that “training in culture is investing directly in the quality of life of citizens”, a fact that has been demonstrated during these months of quarantine.

Finally, in the face of this era of cultural uncertainty that marks the current situation, the director of the Úbeda School of Theater influences two messages. On the one hand, do not forget social intervention projects, “aimed at people who are going to need them more than ever”, adapting face-to-face training and assistance to virtual support programs and classes, “without forgetting that our greatest achievement is at work community of projects like ours, a clear public alternative for stage training open to all ».

And, on the other, he analyzes the seriousness of the health of the sector, “which is now in the UVI, despite having been great collaborators in the state of alarm and having made the day-to-day life of thousands of families at home more bearable.” “It is the social profitability, not only the economic one, in which the different public administrations must focus: a creative and cultural fact such as taking the stage is always going to be profitable socially, educationally and culturally, for all the positive effects it has on the population ”, Nati points out, at the same time that he firmly believes in the City Council’s support for his proposal, understanding for two decades its social and cultural profitability and endorsing it to continue creating a network of community meeting spaces through the theatrical event.

The award

The endowment of the Max Amateur or Social Character in 2020 is not only a deserved tribute from the sector and the profession to this social theater research center, but also to add new support to a cultural, educational and training initiative that has already been recognized by other institutions with the IgualArte National Award, the Roosevelt National Award for Rights to Women with Functional Diversity or with the consideration of Brut Theater Reference Center in Andalusia. The Municipal Theater School also received institutional recognition from the Úbeda City Council a few years ago, on behalf of the entire city, for its social and cultural work.

Three special awards and 19 categories

Organized by the SGAE Foundation, the most prestigious performing arts awards in the national sphere celebrate 24 years keeping their 19 categories in competition and three special awards: Max Honor Award, which will distinguish a person’s career for his contribution, delivery and defense of the performing arts, the Max Amateur or Social Award, which encompasses projects in favor of integration and social projection and amateur companies with an outstanding contribution to the performing arts, and the Max Audience Award, which will be awarded to the show that has obtained the highest number of votes from the public through the online application #VotaMax.

In recent years, the Max Awards for the Performing Arts have established themselves as the benchmarks in the sector, reaching an increasing number of followers and awakening the interest of companies of all kinds and throughout the national territory. In its latest edition, held on May 20, 2019 at the Calderón Theater in Valladolid, around 3,000 professionals attended and 359 shows were registered.

Jiennense accent in the Max

At the gala on September 7, it will be revealed if three other Janes from the world of the scene get the prized award, since they will attend as finalists in different categories, as revealed a few weeks ago. This is the author Paco Gámez, from Utétense by birth and from Jaén by adoption, who is nominated for Best Revelation Authorship for the work ‘Tenant (Numancia 9, 2A)’; the ubetense composer Luis Miguel Cobo, who competes for the award in the category of Best Musical Composition for Stage Show for ‘Play’, and who already won a Max Award in 2018 for ‘Solitudes’; and the vilcheño choreographer Mario Bermúdez, nominated for Best Choreography for ‘Anhelo’.

The Max Awards

Organized by the SGAE Foundation since 1998, the Max Awards, whose award is designed by the poet and plastic artist Joan Brossa (Barcelona-1919/1999), promoter of one of the renovating groups of postwar Spanish art, have been consolidated throughout throughout these years as the widest recognition in the field of performing arts in the Spanish state.

The organizing committee of the XXIII edition of the Max Awards for the Performing Arts is made up of renowned professionals from the field of performing arts. In this edition, the committee is made up of the playwright and director Juan Luis Mira, institutional director of Performing Arts of the SGAE Foundation; Óscar Castaño ‘Garbitxu’, playwright, director and president of the SGAE Territorial Committee in the Basque Country; Paloma Pedrero, playwright and director; the members of the SGAE College of Great Law, Eduardo Galán, playwright and producer, and the playwright and director Yolanda García Serrano; the playwright and director Alfonso Zurro; and the choreographer and dancer Daniel Doña.

Nati Villar and some of the works from the school. / ROMÁN.