Skip to main content

Looking In to Reach Out: In Conversation with Sergio Blanco

Sergio Blanco and Marcio Beauclair with a broken glass effect on their faces, set against a broken glass image of a man on a black background.
/By / May 18, 2023

Some might say it’s unusual for plays to star their writer. But in speaking with Sergio Blanco, playwright and protagonist of The Rage of Narcissus, however, one quickly realizes this play is not about him. 

The Rage of Narcissus is an autofiction play, meaning it mixes both fiction and reality from an autobiographical viewpoint. Following the character of Sergio, the play is set entirely in a hotel room. Upon arrival, Sergio arranges a hookup with a man, then notices a strange stain on the hotel carpet, which he quickly realizes is a bloodstain. The audience then follows Sergio’s descent into obsession with what happened in the room through a dark exploration of the self.

“[Autofiction is] the crossing between a real story,… an experience lived by [the author], and a story fictitious, an experience invented by him,” explained Blanco in an interview. “It is my way of launching myself into fields of fiction.” 

And although playwriting is all about storytelling and creativity, Blanco also uses it as a way to connect to himself. “Every time I start to write a new autofiction is like starting to reinvent myself,” he said. “Somehow in each new work I am recreating myself. It is so I can experience different and infinite possibilities.”

Autofiction opposes the binary that something has to be true or false.

Previous reviews of The Rage of Narcissus, which premiered in 2015 in Montevideo, Uruguay, said it was unclear whether the play was really about Blanco or not. 

“[It] is very seductive to me,” said Blanco, adding that truth and fiction merge in his autofiction writing process, making it difficult to separate reality from story. 

“This is how episodes linked to my life begin to appear [in my writing] that are… as true as they are false.” 

Although this conflation between life and art often happens unintentionally, writing autofiction has a natural connection to myths for Blanco. Working with myths is like “working with a story that already contains in itself the essence of what I want to say,” he said, which, for him, enhances the creativity of the writing process and the connection between writer and audience. “There is no firm distinction between what is real and what is unreal,” he continued. “Autofiction opposes the binary that something has to be true or false.”

Along with opening up his own creativity and fluidity in storytelling, Blanco uses autofiction to open up to others. “Autofiction is not an egotistical confinement in oneself as is often mistakenly believed,” he explained. For Blanco, it is actually the opposite of ego-boosting. Starting with a personal experience, Blanco said he develops his own lived experiences “to go beyond that self” and rather “go towards others and thus try to connect with [their] stories.”

Marcio Beauclair, director of the Canadian premiere of The Rage of Narcissus, embodies Blanco’s autofiction approach. In an interview, Blanco described how when any of his works are produced in a new country, he encourages bringing that locale’s culture into the production. Beauclair, working with Matthew Romantini (who plays Sergio in the Toronto production), strove to include Canadian culture — and Toronto specifically — in the show. The play is set in Toronto for this production, and local audience members will notice familiar places and names.

“I always want the same thing,” Blanco said. “That the story we are going to tell together with the whole team is something that can reach the public… that it excites them and [they] experience [it] collectively. Because that’s the most fascinating thing about theatre: that it’s something collective.”

Because The Rage of Narcissus has been performed in so many locations across the globe, Blanco encourages artistic freedom with local directors, to make it both their own and suited to the culture and people of the city in which it’s being performed. 

“I always tell the directors… to transform it,” he said of the text. “This is quite a challenge,” he continued, saying it often tempts theatre workers in different countries to work with the piece. Expandido Theatre Group, the producers of Toronto’s production, are striving to incorporate a sense of Toronto culture within the performance, and have set up an art exhibition by Renato Baldin, one of the co-founders of Expandido. 

Beauclair also plans to take Blanco’s autofiction to new levels with an additional production of the play scheduled after its run at Theatre Passe Muraille. Since the play is set entirely in a hotel room, Beauclair has staged another version in an actual hotel suite, making it site-specific. “There is a line in Sergio’s play that says that everything happened in this room, this exact room,” explained Beauclair. “Nothing is more autofictional than stag[ing] The Rage of Narcissus in an actual hotel room here in Toronto.”

Beauclair plans to bring in another form of self into the Toronto production through his and Expandido’s queerness. The entire Expandido team is queer, as is Romantini, playing Sergio. In his direction, Beauclair includes moments from Romantini’s real life, changing “issues related to Gabriel [Calderón, the actor who premiered the play in Montevideo in 2015], and added issues related… to our life in Toronto.” There is also a song featured in the Toronto production by Ceréna, a local trans Latina singer, further contributing to the city’s culture, the autofiction style of layering selves, and the adaptation to include queerness as a central ‘self’ and character. 

“We wanted us to be reflected in the story as well,” said Beauclair.

And ultimately, that is what Blanco wants as well. “For me, the most important thing in terms of impact is that each viewer finds in this story the message that they think is relevant,” he said. 

“I like my works to remain open so that everyone can find their own message… [and] the messages of The Rage of Narcissus can be infinite.”

The Rage of Narcissus runs at Theatre Passe Muraille through May 28. Tickets are available here.

Hélène Crowley

Hélène Crowley

Hélène is a queer musician, editor, and writer in Toronto. She is currently an intern at Intermission. She holds a BMus from Wilfrid Laurier University and an MSt in Musicology from the University of Oxford. Currently, Hélène is actively involved in the Canadian publishing industry through volunteering, writing, and freelance editing. When she has free time, she loves to go for runs, play piano, crochet, and travel.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


According to director-dramaturg Karin Randoja, Cliff Cardinal’s darkly funny new solo show is ‘a big leap forward’

“There’s a lot of emotion in this one,” says Randoja of Cardinal's newest work. “You have to track and direct the emotional states throughout the play, and how they rise and fall. I call it a solo show, but in my head, it’s sort of like a movie, where all the other actors are invisible."

By Aisling Murphy

Inspired by ‘80s rom-coms, The Waltz explores young love and the intimacy of sharing stories

“Authenticity may include trauma or suffering, but it doesn't have to end in sadness,” says playwright Marie Beath Badian. “It isn't the end of the story and it isn't the point of the story.”

By Mira Miller
Black and white images of Joelle Peters (left) and Tara Sky (right) set over an image of the Stratford Festival Theatre. Sky wears a long dress, while Peters wears layers of scarves and furs. Peters holds a teacup in her right hand, and hand emerging from the left side of the photo pours coffee into the cup from above. Original images of Peters and Sky by Ted Belton. iPhoto caption: Joelle Peters (left) and Tara Sky (right). Original images of Peters and Sky by Ted Belton.

Change for the Better: On Indigeneity at the Stratford Festival

Both [Sky and Peters] want to honour the Indigenous artists who have worked with the [Stratford] festival for years, quietly carving out space for public and visual representation.

By Robyn Grant-Moran
(left to right) Jamie Robinson in a black t-shirt (photographed by John Bregar) and Walter Borden in a velvet jacket, lilac shirt and dotted cravat (photographed by Michael Meehan) smile towards the camera. The two men's headshots are superimposed over a poster for (Re)Casting Shakespeare in Canada: A Symposium. An image of Shakespeare's face is partially obscured by strips of red and yellow paper, as well as strands of white paper bearing classical text. iPhoto caption: (left to right) Jamie Robinson (original photo by John Bregar) and Walter Borden (original photo by Michael Meehan)

(Re)Casting the Shakespearean Mold: In Conversation with Jamie Robinson and Walter Borden

This is the heart of what (Re)Casting Shakespeare is about: examining how casting can influence the audience’s interpretation of the story.

By Jessica Watson

Making Theatrical Ghee: In Conversation with Philip Akin and Aldrin Bundoc

“[Directing Maanomaa, My Brother] was about putting a magnifying glass on what the story was…like making ghee, or butter without all the solids that could go bad.”

By Aisling Murphy
iPhoto caption: Photo by Dahlia Katz

Spotlight: Seana McKenna

The recipient of an Order of Canada and winner of a clutch of theatre awards — not to mention a mountain of critical bouquets — during her four decades onstage, Seana McKenna is routinely referred to as one of the country’s finest actors. But she refuses to coast on her reputation.

Written by Martin Morrow, Photography by Dahlia Katz