What one person says is not the same as what another person hears. The way a scene reaches the audience is not the same as how it leaves the actors on the stage, and actors are also expressing something that is not exactly the same as what is written in the script. The eight artists of fledgling Cia. Hiato are seeking to investigate these gaps in understanding which, in the end, are the source of many questions in the contemporary world: intolerance and preconceptions, for example. Just six years after the first play, Cachorro morto (Dead Dog), they have been piling up awards and have distinguished themselves as one of the innovative groups in Brazilian theater, and they continue to ask themselves: What is there between what we see and what we understand?
The approach may seem excessively cerebral for a group of artists, to whom common sense customarily attributes more intuitive methods. But with Hiato, the opposite is true. The starting point for these processes is theoretical. “I supply an initial provocation, a question, and I ask the actors to respond with scenes,” says director and playwright Leonardo Moreira, who has a master’s degree in theater arts from the University of São Paulo (USP). For example: “What would theatrical production be like if it worked the same way as memory?” This was the question that triggered O jardim (The Garden) (2011), one of the group’s most acclaimed plays and the one that has been performed most to date.
In the rehearsal room, the replies from the actors, which are normally autobiographical, are being discussed, tested, dissected, dissolved and structured as schemes and modules that bring everything together and compose a narrative that is fragmented and that is intact at the same time. This terminates in the viewer’s mind. This feeling of incompleteness, the gap and the deliberate communication failures have sparked comments, such as those by critic Nelson de Sá, of Folha de São Paulo: “Hiato’s work points out the risk and the result in simplicity and inventiveness, with great discoveries.”
The first meeting of Luciana Paes, Maria Amélia Farah, Thiago Amaral, Aura Cunha, Aline Filócomo, Fernanda Stefanski and Paula Picarelli, who went on to found Cia. Hiato (all of them have bachelor’s degrees in theater arts and attended USP), was held in 2008. They met to stage Cachorro morto (Dead Dog), a play that explores the mathematical thought process of an autistic boy. The play was a sellout, and a season was added at the Serviço Social do Comércio – Social Services for the Retail Trade (SESC) on Avenida Paulista. Theatergoers were surprised. The artists themselves were convinced that they should forge ahead, and they officially established the company to stage Escuro (Darkness) (2009). This play was about other impediments to communication, such as blindness, deafness and speech impairment, in a play staged around a swimming pool (there was actually a pool on the stage). The play scooped up over 10 nominations for the leading awards in Brazil and won three (best author, best scenic design and best costumes) for the 2010 Shell Award.
Two years later, the square filled with cardboard boxes that made up the scenario for The Garden at the SESC Belenzinho left it up to the viewer to decide from where to watch the play – and thus which elements to use as a basis for staging the narrative puzzle. Stories from several generations of a family were superimposed on each other. They contradicted one other, self-completed each other and were mixed together, and again the gap between them is what takes shape in the mind of the audience. The company won two more 2011 Shell Awards (best actor and best scenic design), not to mention nearly 20 nominations and other awards.
“The actors and actresses in Cia. Hiato have to deal with the ‘gap’ in the acting and the communications breakdown. The production is constructed not by what the production recounts, but by what it fails to explain, almost in an interstitial mode,” writes Milena Moreira Filócomo in her master’s dissertation for the São Paulo State University (Unesp) Institute of Arts. “With these elements that are present and fundamental for the current scene, the structure of the theatrical machine is brought out into the open.”
The other two plays that Hiato has already produced are still being staged. Ficcão (Fiction) (2011) consists of six monologues (one hour each) in which the actors tell and dramatize personal experiences to the point of confusing the audience between what is real and what is invented. To get an idea of the seriousness, actor Thiago Amaral brings his own father up on stage to reconstruct the memory of a celebration from his childhood.
In 02 Ficções (02 Fictions) (2012), the questioning of the limits of fiction is dealt with in greater detail. “02 Ficções still needs work, and we are giving this research the time it needs,” the director says. The play has never been staged the same way twice, during the seasons at SESC Pompeia and at the KunstensFestivaldesArts in Belgium. This has made critics skeptical, because they insist on Hiato getting it right.
Leonardo Moreira is concerned with protecting the company from the demand for excellence and innovation, and he aims to keep the crew focused on studies and experimentation with new types of language. The Restauração das horas (Restoration of the Hours) project, now in progress, will create a new play based on 02 Ficções. “We have always been very truthful on the stage, and we showed what we had to show,” he says. The director attributes the high acclaim and the substantial recognition to this fact, even though little time was spent working on it. It seems that critics and the public are understanding what the company is trying to say.Republish