Academic journal article TheatreForum

The Power of Words: Tiago Rodrigues' Text-Based Theatre for Today's Audiences

Academic journal article TheatreForum

The Power of Words: Tiago Rodrigues' Text-Based Theatre for Today's Audiences

Article excerpt

Tiago Rodrigues, recently appointed director of the Dona Maria II, Portugal's prestigious national theatre, is a major figure among today's young Portuguese artists. Author, actor, producer and director, he advocates a text-based theatre that introduces audiences to new dramatic writing, either by revisiting repertory pieces through a contemporary language or by creating original work.

His "memory piece" By Heart was a great success at the Festival Transamériques in Montreal in May 2015 and his Antonio e Cleopatra was received with glowing reviews at the Avignon Festival in July. He is invited to program a two-month event at the Théâtre de la Bastille in Paris from April 10 to June 12, 2016. Called "Occupation Bastille," the exciting season will include one of his own plays, Bovary, as well as residences, workshops and presentations run by artists selected by him.

Born in 1977, Tiago has been making his special brand of theatre for close to twenty years. As a young man he tried the conservatory for a year but preferred to join up with Flemish theatre company tgSTAN, a group of politically engaged artists whose dedication to the collective process of making theatre held special appeal to him. He collaborated closely with them from 1998-2003, co-creating seven performances, producing his own work, and touring with them. He also found time to develop a new show in 2000 with a collective of theatre artists, based on a collage of theatre and political texts including the writings of Subcommandante Marcos. The group took this piece to the Lacandone jungle in Mexico where they met Marcos and his Zapatista Army of National Liberation .

In 2003, he created his own theatre company together with Magda Bizarro in the kitchen of a two bedroom apartment in Amadora. From all reports, their company was more like an open home, resembling something like the corner grocery store where the kitchen table, bathroom and dressing room were all put to multiple uses. With the optimistic and ironic name of Mundo Perfeito (Perfect World), they produced over 30 pieces in twelve years. Some of these were Tiago's own plays but many were the work of other theatre artists. The company's mission was to champion new artists in a spirit of collaboration, offering a space and a team to both Portuguese and international theatre makers to help develop and promote their work. Our own Nature Theatre of Oklahoma spent time there along with Lebanese Rabi Mroueh and Congolese choreographer and theatre maker Faustin Linyekula. Mundo Perfeito also developed community-based artistic projects such as a creative writing project with institutionalized convicted adolescents. Tiago still teaches at Anne Teresa De Keersmacker's contemporary dance school, P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels and he has worked in television and film.

As the new Artistic Director of the National Theatre, the youngest in the history of this institution, Tiago now has a home for three years and a production structure to support his work and the work of other Portuguese writers and theatre makers. He has shut down Mundo Perfeito, but his new position allows him the opportunity to incorporate the spirit and ideals of his and Magda's company.

Among the many pieces created by their company, Tiago's prize-winning Three Fingers Below The Knee (created in June 2012) has made a lasting impression. A collage of excerpts from reports made by the official theatre censors under Salazar's 48 year dictatorship, the farcical play uses every possible approach to demonstrate the extent of the commission's oppression of artistic and political freedom. "We took their writings and performed them as theatre," he told me in an interview. "It was a sweet revenge to make them the playwrights." On a dimly lit stage two actors dressed in period costumes from a distant past sit across from each other. Behind them a colorful backdrop composed of pages from the censors' opinions, play scripts and photocopied pictures of famous authors (Jarry, Beckett, Molière, Aristophanes, among them) catches the eye. …

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