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Gustavo Fiorati

A brand new generation of playwrights

Courses created by four Brazilian institutions are revitalizing theatrical texts in Brazil

Thiago Amaral in O silêncio depois da chuva, written by the very young and celebrated Gustavo Colombini, 22

PUBLIC DOMAINThiago Amaral in O silêncio depois da chuva, written by the very young and celebrated Gustavo Colombini, 22 PUBLIC DOMAIN

Surprising as it may seem, Nelson Rodrigues (1912-1980), Plínio Marcos (1935-1999) and Augusto Boal (1931-2009) were not the last Brazilian authors to write for the theater. But which writers of the genre today can match their distinguished peers of the past? Gerald Thomas, Antunes Filho and José Celso Martinez Corrêa? These are directors who only wrote plays for their own productions. Those inclined to look carefully will find no works written by them on bookstore shelves.

Here, then, is a question that haunts today’s generation of active dramatists: has the independent playwright lost his throne? The answer is: he lost it for a time, at least in Brazil, and this phenomenon occurred at a time when companies and directors were gaining importance, not to mention a wealth of supportive laws and funding opportunities. The last decade to a large extent placed its bet on texts created in collective processes.

This same figure of the independent playwright, the solo-career writer, however, now wants to return to its rightful place, with strong and heretofore nonexistent allies: four Brazilian institutions have in the last six years created schools for those seeking to devote themselves to solitary writing, an activity known among colleagues as “alone-in-a-room dramaturgy.”

Ana Paula Grande and Bruna Anauate in Existe alguém que nos odeia, by Michelle Ferreira: a play reminiscent of writers of the English fringe theatre

Léo RamosAna Paula Grande and Bruna Anauate in Existe alguém que nos odeia, by Michelle Ferreira: a play reminiscent of writers of the English fringe theatreLéo Ramos

In 2007 a partnership between SESI (Social Services for Industry) and the British Council filled the gap for awhile: there were simply no good playwriting courses in São Paulo, not even in the top performing arts schools in the state, including USP. The same was true in Rio de Janeiro. The few playwrights who appeared on this arid stage (Plínio Marcos, for example) were self-taught. They were sprinkled here and there in workshops taught by veterans. Sérgio Roveri, who won a Shell award for his play A cólera de Boris (The wrath of Boris), for example, took a course lasting only a few days with Samir Yazbek, the author of O fingidor (The pretender). Mario Bortolotto taught himself and survived as a playwright thanks in large part to the support of his own theatre company, Cemitério de Automóveis (Car Cemetery).

In 2009, the SP Theatre School, founded by the state of São Paulo, joined the chorus along with the SESI-British Council partnership: a two-year course in playwriting, consisting of 20 hours per week was set up there, administered and run by artists of the group Os Satyros. Both initiatives had a predecessor: the course given by the Center for Theatre Research, created by director Antunes Filho, at the SESC Consolação, which began in 1999, lasted just over five years and did not continue.

Smaller courses accompanied this playwriting revival in São Paulo after 2010. Club Noir, a small company located on Augusta Street, began offering classes lasting two to three months, taught by playwright and director Roberto Alvim. The plays written by students were mostly produced by the group based there.

Hidden gems
The results were bold: Zen Salles, 38, Gustavo Colombini, 22, Michelle Ferreira, 31, Lucas Arantes, 27, Ricardo Inhan, 27, and Murilo de Paula, 29, are some of the young people who came from these centers. They wrote plays that were produced, and they have, in some cases, found employment in television.

Scene of the play Existe alguém que nos odeia, by Michelle Ferreira

Léo Ramos Scene of the play Existe alguém que nos odeia, by Michelle FerreiraLéo Ramos

Part of the revitalization, says Colombini, who studied with the SESI-British Council, “has to do with the boom in drama schools. In addition, this craft of writing plays mirrors the traditional motto of “do it yourself,” he believes. “Anyway, I think we’re living in a time when people are taking a fresh look at the theatrical text,” he says. He is currently writing a play that is due to open very soon. In 2011, his play O silêncio depois da chuva (The silence after the rain) was chosen from among those written by students of the course to be produced and directed by Leonardo Moreira (Ficção e Ensaio [Fiction and Essay]). It was a surprising gem, hidden among hundreds of works of varying quality on display in the city of São Paulo—these days there are almost 400 premieres per year.

The discovery of talent thus becomes independent of the good will or spirit of adventure of some directors. “I’m well aware of the importance of the institution, as a place that each year encourages a commitment to training, and not the act of valuing playwrights for a limited time,” says Marici Salomão, who heads the SESI-British Council drama center and is the drama course coordinator of the SP Theatre School. She cites the example of Zen Salles, who wrote the piece Pororoca in 2010, the year in which he studied drama at SESI—the extension course lasts one year. The play was produced by veteran director, Sergio Ferrara. In 2012, Salles moved on and became part of the writing team for the television series Sessão de terapia (Therapy session) (GNT). A new theatrical production with his text will debut in São Paulo, again directed by Ferrara.

Evidence that companies and directors are eyeing the new crop of playwrights is the young Michelle Ferreira, a former student of the CPT. She has two plays in theaters today: Existe alguém que nos odeia (Does someone hate us?) at the Augusta Theatre, directed by José Roberto Garden, and Os adultos estão na sala (The adults are in the room), at the Tusp until the end of September, with the Má Companhia Provoca (theatre company).

Ana Paula Grande and Bruna Anauate in Existe alguém que nos odeia, by Michelle Ferreira

Léo RamosAna Paula Grande and Bruna Anauate in Existe alguém que nos odeia, by Michelle FerreiraLéo Ramos

Michelle’s plays have formal aspects reminiscent of productions by English fringe playwrights. The dialogue has traces of psychological content, but the passage of time does not conform to the realism of the Brazilian playwrights of the 1960s, or the Plínio Marcos generation of the 1980s. Realism, incidentally, is often seen by the new generation almost as treason. English writers such as Sarah Kane and Harold Pinter appear to be direct influences on this new generation, mainly because of fragmented content, frequent time lapses, and economy of segments. Many principles considered by the new writers unfold from philosophical viewpoints. Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995), for example, is very often cited by the new generation. A point that cannot be ignored, says Salomão, is that of interfaces, “the intersection between drama and other areas of knowledge, such as the visual arts, music, philosophy and film.” Words or phrases try to encompass not only the outlines of the situations, but also their expansive poetic dimensions. It goes a long way.

In some cases, especially among students of Roberto Alvim, there is talk of the “subjectification of the subject.” In sum, they are producing works not with characters but with voices that transcend the condition of the subject. Darkness, in the suggested staging for the works of these young writers, opens up new pathways, and the economic use of light becomes commonplace. The day has finally arrived in São Paulo when drama did without (or tries to do without) a fundamental element: the subject itself on stage.

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