The Tradition of Group Theatre in Brazil: Collaboration as Political Resistance
Brazilian theatre has mastered the art of transforming its adverse socio-political legacy into creative stimuli. Commercially oriented productions are not rare, but financial restraints do not allow for funding of state theatre companies nor welcome the emergence of many impresarios. A defining characteristic of Brazilian theatre is the stubborn presence of struggling theatre groups who tirelessly search for creative solutions to overcome the problems inherent to their condition as third world collectives. These often unfunded theatre groups usually opt for lengthy rehearsal periods and long-term collaborative processes. Although they do not enjoy the privileges of first world repertory companies, or the same benefits as other commercially-oriented Latin American colleagues do, these theatre groups are able to keep performances in the repertoire over long periods of time. After performing in extended runs in their homes towns, groups tour to major Brazilian cities and Latin American theatre festivals, where so much artistic exchange takes place. But what makes these theatre groups
Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento is an assistant professor of theatre at Wesleyan University. Also an actor and director, her current scholarly research focuses on the latest developments of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards.
remarkable is not just their ability to create productions out of almost non-existing budgets: it is the fact that their work sharply reflects the country's troubled reality. More or less explicitly, their performances recount Brazil's share in Latin American history, a continent that bears the consequences of five wars and seventeen military coups.
Members of the group theatre community-young dramaturgs, designers, actors, and directors-place great value on the dialogue between theory and practice, and join efforts to forge the different fragments of a unique but diverse national artistic vision: they put the puzzle together. The emergence of a number of excellent dramaturgs is a major contributing factor to the reflexive, research-oriented character of group theatre in Brazil. For over two decades now, the emphasis on the dramaturg's role in the active creation of a performance has been nurtured at graduate programs across the country.
Since the 1964 military coup, the resistance of Brazilian group theatre to political repression, censorship, and financial limitations has assumed many shapes. Some groups created performances from Brazilian literature, such as director Antunes Filho's Teatro Macunaima. Others drew from Greek Drama, such as José Celso Martinez Correa's Teatro Oficina, or Brazilian oral history, such as Luis Octávio Burnier and Carlos Simioni's LUME. Many reclaimed national playwrights, such as Eduardo Tolentino's TAPA. In spite of the lack of resources, it is unquestionable that these groups have created most imaginative and sophisticated performances. The 90s brought forth the next generation of Brazilian theatre groups: Grupo Galpão, Cia. Do Latão, Cemitério de Automoveis, among so many others. In this article I examine the work of Teatro da Vertigem, an outstanding example of how Brazilian group theatre continues to transform external limitations into high-quality performances.
Teatro da Vertigem: Trilogia Biblica (Biblical Trilogy)
In English, the Portuguese word vertigem means vertigo, and one can say that Teatro da Vertigem's members have embraced the abyss as their point of departure for creating theatre. Hailed by critics, scholars, artists, and spectators alike as one of the most significant Brazilian groups of actuality, Teatro da Vertigem's tremendous sense of urgency and striking perspective of its socio-political reality has originated three impressive performances: Paraíso Perdido (largely based on Milton's Paradise Lost), O Livra de Jó (which uses the Old Testament's The Book of Job), and Apocalipse 1,11 (for which The Apocalypse of Saint John was a point of departure). …