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Volume 58 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL


Drama

SEVERINO JOÃO ALBUQUERQUE, Associate Professor of Portuguese, University of Wisconsin, Madison


IN THE MID-1990S, encenadores remain at the forefront of Brazilian theater. Criticism has duly reflected the prevalence of an encenador-oriented theater, with its leading name, Gerald Thomas, as the subject of an important work, Um encenador de si mesmo (item #bi 97006864#). A key predecessor of the encenador figure, Polish-born Zbigniew Ziembinski, is the focus of a seminal biography, published posthumously in 1995 by another Polish émigre to Brazil, Yan Michalski (item #bi 97006850#).

Since encenadores like Thomas and others show little concern or support for the work of younger Brazilian playwrights, the 1990s saw a relative scarcity of good original plays. Still, a few new works deserve the attention of theater students. Of note among published texts is the anthology, Cinco textos do teatro brasileiro contemporâneo (item #bi 97006840#), which includes works by Miguel Falabella and Mauro Rasi, the two leading names in comedy and light theater in the late 1980s-90s. Falabella's contribution to this collection ("A partilha") and Rasi's Pérola (item #bi 97006885#) are among the top grossing plays of the last 10 years in Brazil. Less known, but nevertheless worthy of attention, are younger playwrights such as Luiz Fernando Botelho, whose award-winning works, Reis andarilhos (item #bi 97006880#) and Menino minotauro (item #bi 97006883#), blend children's theater, classical mythology, and the folklore of Northeastern Brazil; and Vera Karam and Arines Ibias, whose plays, Dona Otília lamenta muito (item #bi 97006853#) and Fogo cruzado (item #bi 97006863#), are part of the same series, Teatro: textos e roteiros, an important joint initiative of commercial publishers and the Instituto Estadual do Livro on behalf of quality theater for young audiences in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Also noteworthy among new plays are Roberto Athayde's attempt at historical drama, Carlota Rainha (item #bi 97006886#); and Plínio Marcos' A dança final (item #bi 97006871#) and especially, his intriguing experiment, O assassinato do anão do caralho grande (1986). A long overdue publication, the complete verse drama of the late Vinicius de Moraes has been carefully edited by Carlos Augusto Calil in Teatro em versos (item #bi 97006858#). In Exu, o cavaleiro da encruzilhada, Zora Seljan continues her theatrical exploration of African-Brazilian themes (item #bi 97006861#). Equally significant is the publication of plays by two important names in 19th-century Brazilian theater, Uma pupila rica (item #bi 97006859#), the recently discovered manuscript of a comedy that Joaquim Manoel de Macedo wrote in 1840, and Raimundo (item #bi 97006854#), a historical drama by the lesser-known, but definitely notable Santa Catarina-born playwright, Alvaro August de Carvalho; these two publications are part of an ongoing effort to make available to contemporary audiences and the reading public a number of texts and documents from a vital period in the history of Brazilian theater.

Three broad topics seem to dominate theater criticism in the period under scrutiny. The first, black theater, is the subject of three books, two of which were originally written as doctoral dissertations and later published without major editing: Miriam G. Mendes' O negro e o teatro brasileiro (item #bi 97006874#) and Leda Martins' A cena em sombras (item #bi 97006884#). Martins' book is clearly the more solid of the two; Mendes' work, a companion piece to her 1982 book on blacks in 19th-century Brazilian theater, though well-researched, is marred by shoddy writing and unconvincing argumentation.

Politically committed theater, the second topic, has occupied four noted critics in recent years. In Teatro da militância, Silvana Garcia has penned a key contribution to the study of the intersection of popular theater and leftist politics (item #bi 97006872#). Equally important is Camargo Costa's A hora do teatro épico no Brasil, which bravely challenges previously accepted notions of the nature of epic theater in Brazil (item #bi 97006867#). Two other significant works are compilations, in one case a series of interviews on the repression of engaged theater in Pernambuco in the 1960s and 1970s (item #bi 97006866#), and the other a collection of essays and short pieces on popular and political theater in Brazil and elsewhere (item #bi 97006877#).

The study of the theater is the third theme, and one that has absorbed the attention of such established authors as Oswald de Andrade, Oduvaldo Vianna Filho, and Plínio Marcos. The critical approaches used in their books is as varied as the interests and orientations of the several playwrights and thus range from the thematic (item #bi 97006869#) to the psychoanalytic, and from application of cultural studies (item #bi 97006852#) to cultural anthropophagy (item #bi 97006889#).

Finally, the mid-1990s also saw the publication of reference works (item #bi 97006878#), biographies (items #bi 97006838# and #bi 97006850#), lengthy interviews with key figures (item #bi 97006841#), as well as difficult to locate research materials, such as documentation on the theater scene outside of traditional centers (items #bi 97006839# and #bi 97006881#).


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