From 23 March to 1 April BaixoCentro took place, a self-managed Street Festival in São Paulo that is organized collaboratively, horizontally and independently by a group of producers and...
Estado Novo & Post-War: Crimes against theatre
Under the Estado Novo (1937-1945), populist government of dictator Getúlio Vargas, theatre suffered censorship under the establishment of the National Service of Theatre. Themes that were not interesting to the government were suppressed. Only the chanchada were allowed a naive form of low-quality theatre that didn’t threaten the government. The government hired intellectuals to write favorable articles about the government. Others who wouldn’t collaborate (like Monteiro Lobato and Graciliano Ramos) were arrested. Some companies adhered to government demands. Others didn’t and the first experimental theatre appeared. In 1938 diplomat Paschoal Carlos Magno founded the Teatro do Estudante do Brasil which engaged in psychological construction of characters and did away with the ponto (the souffleur). In 1943 Nelson Rodrigues wrote Vestido de Noiva, directed by Ziembinski. This was the beginning of modern Brazilian theatre. For the first time the director controlled the entire scene. The freedom of the leading actor, who once used to do whatever he or she pleased to attract an audience, was curbed. Nonetheless, it was Nelson Rodrigues who as playwright would change Brazilian theatre forever with themes never before seen on stage like sex, incest and most of the taboos of his time.
At the end of the 40s the Teatro Brasileiro de Comedia or TBC was formed with 30 of the greatest talents of the time giving rise to smaller groups in São Paulo. Television began to take on some of these actors. The Teatro de Arena founded by José Renato in 1957 prioritized Brazilian productions and artists and reacted against high prices of theatre tickets. Its most renowned author and actor Gianfrancesco Guarnieri wrote Eles Não Usam Black Tie (1958), Gimba and A Semente bringing to stage social problems caused by industrialization. Jorge Andrade, on the other hand, having been born on a farm, brought to light social issues of rural Brazil. A theatre of myths and tales, rural and religious themes was spearheaded (and still is) by playwright Ariano Suassuna born in Paraiba but moved early to Recife (State of Pernambuco). He is famous for O Auto da Compadecida. Another renowned north easterner was Dias Gomes who surprised critics in 1961 with O Pagador de Promessas.
In 1958 Teatro Oficina was born first as an amateur company of students from the law school at Largo de São Francisco in São Paulo. They craved something different from elitist TBC and the nationalist Arena theatre companies. Oficina was home to José Celso Martinez Corréa (the same Zé Celso humbled by Indian Kaka Werá at the seminar in 2008), Renato Borghi, Amir Haddad (who today directs the group Tá Na Rua in Rio) and Fauzi Arap. Zé Celso’s group changed name to Oficina Uzyna Uzona in 1971. Their production O Rei da Vela in 1967 gained notoriety and launched the famous Tropicalist Movement. Oficina invited the American group Living Theatre to Brazil and Oficina went international.The Dictatorship Years 1964-1985:Dark pages in Brazilian History begin — a military coup in April of 1964 - one of many coups to take place in Latin America over the next years. In December of ‘64 Augusto Boal directed the hit show Opinião, (Opinion). Opinion was also the name given to the student movement against the dictatorship. Grupo Opinião gave voice to traditional artists and samba composers. But in 1968 the AI-5 (Institutional Act 5) required that all music, theatre, movies be screened and censored before public display. Police cut texts, invaded theatres during plays, beat up actors on stage, destroyed sets, prohibited performances - in essence declared war on all forms of artistic expression. Artists who resisted were arrested, tortured and went into exile. In spite of all this the theatre class remained steadfast in its opposition to the dictatorship, holding symbolic demonstrations and by writing subtleties in between the lines. But the middle class moved away from theatre being branded as violent, perverse and full of subversives. Although the Arena and Oficina Theatres opposed the dictatorship in their own ways, they accused each other of being politically alienated rather than joining forces. Arena believed that to resist censorship they had to work metaphors into their texts. Oficina believed in being more direct by questioning customs and moral values. Zé Celso of Oficina ended up spending 5 years in exile in Portugal returning in ‘79. Augusto Boal of Arena was arrested, tortured and exiled in 1971. In Argentina he established the Teatro Invísivel. In ‘73 he went to Peru and started the Teatro Forum and developed it further in Ecuador with Indian populations under the name of Teatro Imagem. The technique of both theatres was based on facts; the oppressed and their oppressors confront each other, objectively defending their own interests and wishes. In this confrontation the oppressed loses. The audience is then invited by a facilitator to enter the scene and substitute the oppressed in order to find alternatives to the problem. After two years in Portugal Augusto Boal went to Paris where he developed the Theatre of the Oppressed before returning to Brazil in 1986. In Rio he created the CTO, The Theatre of the Oppressed. Boal has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
A group appeared on the scene in Rio in the 70s, Asdrubal Trouxe o Trombone (Asdrubal Brought the Trombone) which put on reinterpretations of classics that influenced an entire generation of artists. They were known for their collective creative process, language experimentation, open-ended structures and improvisation. Ricardo Almeida and Miguel Magno from São Paulo and Pedro Cardoso and Felipe Pinheiro in Rio were the forerunners of a movement which took the 80s by storm and till this day fills theatres across the nation more than any other type of theatre: besteirol (“foolishness”). Miguel Falabella, Mauro Rasi and Vicente Pereira were also proponents of this theatre. With the end of the dictatorship and theatre’s newly achieved freedom of expression, unbridled humor and bad language took off through besteirol.