New Directions: The Cabaret Artist
“Getting a Tirolean eagle tattoo on your arm doesn’t show the love for your country,” says Gabriel Castañeda. The cabaret artist from Grins bei Landeck relies on “a mixture of Austrian easygoingness and Mexican passion”.
Outsider: Gabriel Castañeda creates cabaret about the countryside for the countryside – it’s rather an exception than the rule in this industry.
“In the theatre scene, everything that’s culturally valuable is subsidised. In cabaret, that’s not really the case: If you meet the taste of your audience, you can earn quite a good living. If you don’t meet the taste of your audience, you might not even be able to pay the rent. Fortunately, I meet the collective taste to some extent. Social satire is my domain. I throw barbs at typical characters. Characters you’ll find in nearly every village – the mayor, the priest, the teacher.
This article is part of the “Looking Ahead” series, which dives into the minds of individuals who have dared to step into the future, their story, and their views on Tirol.
In Tirol, there isn’t a comprehensive cabaret infrastructure: Almost all the locations for cabaret are in Innsbruck, and then there are a few in Wörgl, Schwaz and Imst. On the one hand, this is perfect, because this means there isn’t a great deal of competition between cabaret artists, but on the other hand, the lack of venues is a constant battle. It’s a pity that there’s such a limited cultural offer in the countryside. So many young people are drawn to the city; therefore, the rural areas are becoming more and more deserted. Rural areas are often at a disadvantage, especially when it comes to culture: Villagers think that everything that stems from the city is great. On the contrary, city residents don’t like anything from the countryside. They think that it can only be brilliant if it originally hails from the city.
The village structure of Grins inspires Gabriel’s cabaret stories and figures.
I also struggle with these kinds of prejudices as a ‘cabaret artist from the countryside’. However, the world is not black and white. There are great productions in the city and in the countryside – and also bad productions in both areas.
Apart from Tirol, I don’t know any other Austrian region where people are so proud of their background. Someone once told me that he would be extremely unhappy if he hadn’t been born in Tirol.
I replied: ‘That’s a bit stupid, because if you had been born somewhere else in the world, you wouldn’t know the difference.’ He didn’t understand my comment. I’m a stranger to this kind of nonreflective proudness of a speck of land where you were coincidentally born. Getting a Tirolean eagle tattoo on your arm doesn’t show the love for your country.
Grins: In the countryside in Tirol.
The past year has shown how fast our lives can change. If we don’t want this to happen over and over again in the future, then we shouldn’t reassume our wasteful behaviour: The resources of our planet are limited. The alarm bells are ringing, but some people can’t or don’t want to hear them. I’m aware that more sustainability requires lifestyle changes. This means that we all – myself included – have to make drastic changes. But I fear that there’s no other way to save our planet. Times are difficult. Therefore, I wish for us all to rediscover this easygoingness which used to exist. At the same time, we should be conscious that many things in our everyday lives shouldn’t be taken for granted. Hopefully, people won’t forget, despite all their worries, how beautiful life can be.”
The 41-year-old cabaret artist comes from Grins, a small village by Landeck in Tirol. His father is Tirolean, and his mother is Mexican. On stage, Gabriel Castañeda relies on “a mixture of Austrian easygoingness and Mexican passion” to pointedly caricature the figures of the fictitious village named Hinterschlapfing. He also writes scripts, among others for the show of the Austrian entertainer and former alpine skier Hansi Hinterseer.