Argentine playwright Roberto ‘Tito’ Cossa dies at 89

An icon of independent theater, he wrote classic plays such as La Nona and joined Teatro Abierto activism group during the military dictatorship.

Renowned playwright Roberto “Tito” Cossa, an icon of local independent theater, has passed away at age 89, author-rights association Argentores announced on Thursday.

A sharp and sardonic social commentator, Cossa penned such Argentine classics like La Nona, Yepeto, and Tute Cabrero.

Born on November 30, 1934, in Buenos Aires, Cossa began his professional career as a journalist, writing for local newspapers Clarín, La Opinión, El Mundo, and El Cronista Comercial, as well as Cuban news agency Prensa Latina. He produced his first play, Nuestro fín de semana (‘Our Weekend’), in 1964, but it wasn’t until 1976 that he decided to focus all of his efforts on dramaturgy.

Cossa quickly stood out as one of the country’s finest exponents of a movement known as “New Realism” along with fellow director and playwright Carlos Gorostiza, who would direct Cossa’s 1976 hit La Nona.

The play is a grotesque comedy about a hundred-year-old Italian Argentine woman who burdens her working-class family with her senile dementia and endless appetite. An Argentine theater classic, Cossa later adapted into a screenplay for the 1979 film version directed by Héctor Olivera.

His work in film includes an adaptation of Osvaldo Soriano’s novel Funny Dirty Little War (No habrá más penas ni olvido) — also directed by Héctor Olivera in 1983 — and of his own play Yepeto (directed by Eduardo Calcagno 1998). Cossa also co-wrote with Carlos Somigliana the screenplay for Fernando Ayala’s 1982 social drama El arreglo (The Deal), about a working-class man who finds himself in a moral conundrum when a corrupt city official offers him to extend a much-needed water line in his neighborhood in exchange for a bribe.

An outspoken advocate for social justice and human rights, Cossa was a founding member of Teatro Abierto, a theater collective created in 1981 that challenged the military dictatorship.

The group premiered their first festival on July 28, 1981, at the Picadero Theater. The evening programme featured the play Gris de ausencia (Pale of Absence), Cossa’s tale of immigration, exile, and identity.

The dictatorship firebombed the Picadero shortly after, forcing the group to relocate.

Throughout his awarded career, Cossa earned the National Theater Prize, the Honorary Award by Argentores, and the Platinum Konex Prize in 1994 as the most relevant Argentine playwright of the decade. Buenos Aires City named him an Illustrious Citizen in 2007. He also received the award “Twenty Years Together” from the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo for his commitment in the fight for human rights.

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