The Portuguese theatre presents a paradox: the country has a long tradition of doing plays but has yet to produce a major dramatist. The only playwright to achieve some fame outside the country was Gil Vicente, who wrote in the sixteenth century and who in some histories is claimed by Spain, inasmuch as the language of his plays alternates between a very literary Spanish and an early Portuguese. He cannot be called a major playwright, however; the country's only other playwright of note is João Baptista da Almeida-Garrett (the real Father of Portuguese drama), whose play Frei Luis de Sousa ( 1843) is Portugal's national drama.
Portugal, like many countries in Western Europe, has undergone decentralization in recent years which has been much to the country's good. Until fairly recently, Portuguese theatre was the theatre of Lisbon. Now companies, most of which receive some form of government subsidy, dot the whole of the country. The major company outside Lisbon is undoubtedly the Teatro Sperimental do Oporto, which has fostered new playwrights and introduced playgoers in the North to an international repertory.
The best theatre in Portugal is still found in Lisbon. Lisbon's commercial theatres feature a wide variety of plays, much as the theatres of New York, London, or Paris do. The commercial houses present current hits from abroad, classic plays, or works by contemporary Portuguese playwrights. Portugal, similarly to many other Southern European countries, admires acting; the average Lisbon playgoer is less apt to ask who wrote the play than who was in it.
Apart from decentralization, the most important change in the Portuguese theatre has been its loss of censorship. Since the 1920s (and even before that), conditions of censorship in Portugal sapped almost all creative ability, and, until the late 1960s, plays were still being closed by censors, often for frivolous reasons. Even the prestigious Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II was not immune.
Another significant change in the Portuguese theatre is the recent rise in importance of the encenação or stage director. As mentioned earlier, until re-