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Performing Arts

New luggage

Companies explore Brazilian cities in search of material for theatrical creations

Chekhov in the northeastern countryside: performances of The duel in cities in the state of Ceará by the Mundana Companhia de Teatro in 2013

Camila Marquez Chekhov in the northeastern countryside: performances of The duel in cities in the state of Ceará by the Mundana Companhia de Teatro in 2013Camila Marquez

With 15 years experience in their luggage, the Companhia Brasileira de Teatro (Brazilian Theater Company), from Curitiba, decided to weigh anchor and set sail.

Since early this year, the group has been navigating far from the confines of their small theater located in an old building in historic, downtown Curitiba, capital of Paraná State. They are carrying the Brazil project in their luggage, a plan involving the creation of a show based on trips around the country.

The group’s history had already foreshadowed a desire for territorial expansion. After the celebrated pieces Life (2009), Oxygen (2010) and Does this interest you? (2011), in 2012 its members formed a partnership with actress Renata Sorrah in Rio de Janeiro and created This child, based on the text by the Frenchman Joël Pommerat. In recent years they have also conducted  creative workshops in the Northeast.

The Brazil project, according to Márcio Abreu, company director, seeks to pierce the previously calcified scope of the troupe. “It’s like overcoming an obstacle created by the group’s own history. By leaving our circuit, we intend to create new mappings,” he explains, referring to the series of destinations visited this year, including Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and Salvador.

The trips include activities such as the presentation of the company’s repertoire, workshops, interviews with the residents of these cities, and exchanges of information and methodologies with theater groups based in each city. “We prefer to move away from themes. We don’t know what the play will be about,” said Abreu.

While the theatrical work has not been defined by a topic, the director says that the group’s discussions ended up including at least one specific issue: the cities visited may have unique identities, but the group is seeking a common element as they travel through their vast landscapes. “It’s not a play about Brazil, because we cannot cover anything that would be in the field of anthropology or sociology. But it’s our view of the country,” he explains.

Documentation of the voyage by the Companhia Brasileira de Teatro will be used in an exhibition scheduled for 2015

Giovana SoarDocumentation of the voyage by the Companhia Brasileira de Teatro will be used in an exhibition scheduled for 2015Giovana Soar

As part of the project, in Rio de Janeiro the Companhia Brasileira de Teatro worked with two other groups, the Teatro de Extremos (Theater of Extremes)  and Favela Força (Slum Strength), the latter based in the slum known as Complexo do Alemão. The two groups focus on issues such as multiculturalism and civic engagement and their work is often shaped by the reality in their immediate surroundings.

However, in Brasília, the group decided to investigate the relationship between architecture and the city’s inhabitants. They covered clichés, for example talking about the fact that Brasília was planned to encourage automobile use. “But there was another side that progressed beyond the clichés,” says Abreu. “We interviewed a girl who talked about her habit of crossing the city through the superblocks, and she dismissed those who say that Brasilia imposed only one type of relationship between the people and the city,” he says.

The troupe’s journey has been fully documented, resulting in trip logs, videos and photos. Beginning in May, in a second phase, this material will be processed and reviewed in the rehearsal room. Still untitled, the show is scheduled to make its debut within a year. 

Others journeys
This type of process is not new. There was, for example, the circuit followed by the Teatro da Vertigem (Vertigo Theater) for the composition of BR-3 (2006), a play staged in locations on the Tietê River, including inside a ship sailing on it. The text was created from the experiences of the group members in three locations: the São Paulo neighborhood Brasilândia, the nation’s capital, Brasília, and the city of Brasileia, in Acre.

Last year, the Mundana Companhia de Teatro (Worldly Theater Company) also toured the countryside of northeastern Brazil to incorporate regional culture into an adaptation of the novella The Duel by Chekhov. The group’s performances took place in three cities in the state of Ceará: Iracema (14,000 inhabitants), Arneiroz (almost 8,000 inhabitants) and Lavras da Mangabeira (31,000 inhabitants). None of them even has a theater, and the performances were improvised in warehouses under the direction of Georgette Fadel.

The plot of the book The Duel, about a man who seduces a married woman away from her husband and takes her to live in a city in the Caucasus Mountains, began to include cultural elements foreign to its original setting. “But the result of the immersion is not exactly a transposition of the argument to the scrublands of the Northeast,” explains the actor Aury Porto, one of the troupe’s founders.

Not at all. The mention of the Caucasus Mountains remains in the text, and the passage through Northeastern Brazil only pervades the staging of aesthetic elements unrelated to the original. There is, for example, the recreation of the protagonist’s crisis after being challenged to a duel. The scene takes place in a bar whose ambiance uses references observed in bars that the company visited during the trip: there is a mirrored, spinning globe and kitschy music in the background.

The play was presented at the Centro Cultural São Paulo (São Paulo Cultural Center) in the second half of last year and included the well-known actress Camila Pitanga among its cast. Now, says Porto, the same group will recycle that kind of theatrical creation process on a trip to São Paulo to adapt In the jungle of cities, by Bertolt Brecht. The expedition begins in October 2014, in search of an as yet unexplored neighborhood.