Something Is Happening In Barcelona

by Benjamin Nathan-Serio

On the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, something momentous and historic is in the air. 

It's a reservoir of energy and resources that have been rising for years now, but the waters are about to crest and the international flood-gates are opening this November.

It's the theater. Specifically the English language theater scene.  This city's subculture of artists, thespians, bohemians and creatives of all walks of life have always had a firm presence. But over the past five years the English language theater scene has exploded. Just this past year, two new companies debuted their first shows and yet another company resurfaced. That, on top of the handful of regularly performing groups.

Globally, the tides are shifting. In times of societal challenge and change, people innovate, invent and re-invent. Communities return to self expression. Creativity, spectacle and ceremony are therapeutic and often free (or at least cheaper than the cinema).

From this new prevailing tide of creativity, a buried treasure is exposed. One of the crowning Jewels and indeed a catalyst behind this Barcelona creative renaissance is the Barcelona Improv Group (BIG).

BIG was cured in the basements of bars in the gothic quarter and in members' apartments (to the chagrin of many a roommate) and in any number of other makeshift, back-room, rehearsal spaces more then three yeas ago. It is the conglomeration of comedians, actors, aficionados and finally, in the Fall of 2011, the anchor, task-master and some might say guru of BIG, Noah Levin, a professional improviser and comedian, fresh off his flight from New York.

For the first time in Barcelona, a consistent, adult, bimonthly, English Language theater show had come to port. And as the water flowed under the bridge the audiences came and grew!

Two years later BIG is harboring Spain's very first International Improv Festival. 8 teams from 6 different countries and around 100 participants representing almost 15 different countries.

 The prevailing winds tell it all. This festival is an event that is worth you scribbling into your diary/calendar/ship's log. If you're an actor/comedian/performer/naval admiral, if you're in the entertainment/production/nautical business, or if you just want to take life by its veritable bollocks, laugh (a lot) and generally be entertained, you need to not miss this opportunity. 

Even if you're reading this in New Jersey or Shanghai, I urge you to set a course.  I'll be performing on Friday night the 8th at 22hrs.

The creative juices are flowing in Barcelona and from the 6th thru the 10th of November you can rely on some serious (but mostly funny) white water.




by Benjamin Nathan-Serio

If we were to seasonally classify the memories of our youth, we'd likely find the most fond, fun, carefree of those memories under the summer category.

Of all those epic summers, and they were epic, my mandatory, inoeffesively rebelious, middleclass liberal summer backpacking of Europe went down as one of the top summer memories of my youth. The year was 2002, the countries were Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. On trains, buses and even hitch-hiking I conquered Western Europe and left an elipses in my adolesence that wouldn't be concluded until after college.

Whatever magic occured on the road those 10 years ago, convinced me to relocate perminantly to this ancient cradle of western civilization and nest of monarchs, four years later.

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As an "American (the US ethnocentric reference for ourselves despite the presence of 34 other countries on said continent)" Europe, feels like; going to my grandparents house.  

Europeans have a seasoned, composed, at times old-fashioned understanding of human existence. They've lived it, their previous generations essential scripted it with their own quills.  And as with many an ancient, there is a sage-like understanding regarding the rawness and earthiness of human life.  People eat, defecate, have sex. We're naked under our clothes. Every one of us has our particular deviation and vice. In general folk seem to appreciate this here. After seven years living in Spain I sum up their philosophy on coexistence with the adage "live and let live".

In the US, we're in a hurry to reach our goals, to accumulate our fortune, to make our family, to build our ideal home and to realize the American Dream.  We've been instilled with a feeling of deserving as long as we work hard (or in spite of not doing that).

In Contrast, Europeans are more in touch with the day to day.  Sure they have goals. I've met many whom idolize the American way of life, but on the whole, they know better how to live. For me the proof is in the bar/café life.  According to the website, Spain has the second most bars per person, in the world.  They spend it doing exactly what they love; eating, drinking and being with their community.

The way to live this life, is to do it in both places. I'm going down to my local café right now to raise a glass to bi-continental living and my decision in the summer of 2013.

The Apple doesn't fall far from the tree

by Benjamin Nathan-Serio

In Spain, a country where more than half of young people of working age are unemployed and more then a quarter of the workforce overall is in the same category, the government with the aid of the media has effectively poisoned the quotidian lexicon of it's people.

On the street, in commercial centers, in households, the financial crisis is on the tongues of everyone you meet. Things like "...well, we're lucky to have work at all" and "... the way things are going we can't hope for better..." are essentially a mantra repeated day after day.

As a result or perhaps more accurately, exploiting the opportunity, the government has begun to enforce and create new laws. They're putting sanctions against businesses (mostly medium sized and small) for the smallest violations. This, with the excuse of generating money for the state.

But what about the behaviour of the state?

This Wall Street Journal article talks a little about allegations against the head of the ruling party Mariano Rajoy regarding unlawful handling of funds. And the situation seems to make a lot more sense. Everyone is taking the piss. No one wants to pay the system. And the very, very few who take it upon themselves to follow the letter of the law, find themselves supporting the weight of a majority of "free-loaders" and quickly find themselves wrapped up in an agonizingly confusing exercise in futility. Joseph Heller could write three more sequels to Catch 22 based on the Spanish legal system.

In Summary:

In Spain a chorizo, aside from being a very flavorful type of cured sausage, is another way of saying thief. The saying goes: "There is not enough bread for so much Chorizo"

Indeed, in Spain what there is plenty of, is bread (See Marie Antoinette's PR disaster regarding cake circa French Revolution). And this abundance on Bread in Spain makes me wonder: Perhaps the abundance of "Chorizo" is in fact due to this omnipresent Bread...