Pepe Otal’s Casa Taller de Marionettes... is oozing phantasmagoria. This place sits quietly on a lonely side street in Barcelona’s medieval ghetto of El Raval. Every inch of wood well worn with a million touches. Brick walls hidden beneath layers of cobwebbed puppets. Banners of forgotten circuses framing peculiarities: a human skull, a novel handwritten in pencil, a bowl of anciently stale tootsie rolls.
Pepe himself started the workshop decades earlier, providing a permanent space for his and fellow puppeteers to have a home to fabricate, pontificate, and perform.
Pepe passed away in 2007 yet the workshop continues as a collective.
There is a bi-monthly cabaret on the semi-secret back stage venue, and anyone is welcome to approach the collective with a proposed performance piece at their weekly meetings.
El Raval, long a home to immigrant family communities, is unfortunately located next to La Rambla (Barcelona’s drop off spot for cruise ships, once a street performers paradise but no longer) and the entire neighborhood is being rapidly transformed into a vapid tourist trap, with international real-estate investors bulldozing historic buildings and replacing them with glassy condos and Starbucks. You know the drill. Fortunately though, Pepe Otal is safe for now. The local government has protected the space.
Armando showed us around as several puppeteers diligently worked at their stations in quiet attention. If you are a maker or artist of any kind a space like this would make you giddy with excitement. The cavernousness of the space made it hard to photograph and we barely took any photos in order to avoid disturbing the atmosphere of the workshop. Every venerable puppet on the wall had a story. Every random item had a mystery. Each fading poster kept us wanting more. And there is a nude and naughty puppeteers of Pepe Otal for sale if anyone is interested!
Zillion thank yous Armando for being our friend and taking the time off from crafting your ethereally spooky creatures to show us around and tell us tales. Oh my... we hope to perform here sometime!
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