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Volume 64 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL: Drama


SEVERINO J. ALBUQUERQUE, Professor of Portuguese, University of Wisconsin-Madison

COMMERCIAL PUBLISHING HOUSES AND government agencies continue their effort to make the complete drama of major playwrights of the 19th century widely available in carefully edited volumes. Particularly noteworthy is the Martins Fontes series (items #bi2007001829# and #bi2007001830#; see also HLAS 62:3158 and 3161) under the general editorship of João Roberto Faria. The FUNARTE volumes (items #bi2007002506#, #bi2007002507#, #bi2007002508# and #bi2007002509#) are also important, some editorial shortcomings notwithstanding. Researchers are grateful to see the appearance of two different editions of the complete drama of Gonçalves Dias, José de Alencar, Machado de Assis, and Artur Azevedo in the same decade.

Attention has also been given to the heretofore unpublished complete drama of authors best known for their works in other genres; such is the case of the novelists Antonio Callado (items #bi2007002504#, #bi2007001846#, and #bi2007001835#; see also HLAS 62:3162–3165) and Lúcio Cardoso (item #bi2008004730#), and poet Renata Pallottini (item #bi2007001847#). Revered playwright and cultural figure Ariano Suassuna continues to be honored (see HLAS 62:3174), this time with a work honoring his 80th birthday (item #bi2008004728#).

Research on the history and practice of the Brazilian theater remains a strong trend (see also the Drama sections in HLAS 60 and 62) and is represented here by the publication of two very important research tools: Dicionário do teatro brasileiro (item #bi2008004725#) and the pictorial history, Brasil: Palco e paixão, um século de teatro (item #bi2008004726#); the collected reviews (1946–1960) of the esteemed Paschoal Carlos Magno (item #bi2008004727#); and a collection of essays on contemporary performance and theatricality (item #bi2008003556#).

The trend to document the work of key theater groups continues but unlike most of the items in HLAS 62, which focused on groups of the 1970s, these items concentrate on groups of the 1990s and 2000s such as Os Satyros (item #bi2008004729#), Companhia dos Atores (item #bi2008004723#), and Teatro da Vertigem (item #bi2008004724#), with the latter retaining their position as the most important group in contemporary Brazilian theater.

While critical books focusing on the work of theater groups have been appearing, we are not seeing the publication of the original texts being staged by Os Satyros, Companhia dos Atores, Latão, and many others; Vertigem is the exception here. In many ways the period has been characterized by the prominence of the stage, in that the text, while important, is secondary to the impact of a body in performance. Thus, concerns such as selection of a place of performance are more important than an effort to publish the playscript in book form. Key examples are Vertigem's choice of sites of exclusion (e.g., prisons, indigent hospitals, the banks of a polluted river) and the intersection of urban ruin and performance in Os Satyros' community activity in Praça Roosevelt, a rundown area of São Paulo's inner city.

Among the contemporary new plays, of interest is another instance of Maria Adelaide Amaral's works in celebration of key women from the late 19th and early 20th century, in this case, Tarsila do Amaral (item #bi2007001838#; see also her play on Chiquinha Gonzaga, HLAS 62:3159), as are several Rio-centered comedies where Flávio Marinho continues to explore the intersection of the individual and the collective against the backdrop of recent Brazilian history (item #bi2007001828#) and where Maria Carmem Barbosa and Miguel Falabella make abundant use of their vast stage experience and lasting creative partnership (item #bi2007001831#).

Also important are the newly available print versions of key plays from the 1960s that had been censored by the military regime, Millor Fernandes and Flávio Rangel's Liberdade, liberdade (item #bi2008004731#) and Antonio Bivar's Cordélia Brasil, Abre a janela e deixa entrar o ar puro da manhã, and O cão siamês ou Alzira Power, the last three collected in one volume (item #bi2008004736#).

Despite their uneven quality, several new plays reflect a vibrant theater scene in different parts of Brazil. Given the traditional bias for the Rio/São Paulo area, this is indeed an important new development in Brazilian theater. While it is true that most of these plays would not have been published without government sponsorship, what matters most is that they are now in print and thus more readily available for staging by groups in other parts of the country. A number of them display features typical of traditional regionalist theater with heavy use of local color, myth and folklore (from the Amazon, items #bi2007001827#, #bi2007001839# and #bi2007001840#; from Ceará, item #bi2007001848#) but others show a concern for innovation within the regionalist subgenre (from Pernambuco, item #bi2007001836#). Still other plays from these areas do not fit the regionalist mold and instead show a concern for historical drama (from Pernambuco, item #bi2007001841#), existentialist and absurdist drama (from Goiás, item #bi2007002502#), recasting of Greek classics (from Amazonas, item #bi2007002501#), and political theater (from Bahia, item #bi2007001842#).

As previously remarked in HLAS 62, the work of new, outstanding playwrights (e.g., Newton Moreno) and performance artists is for the most part not being published, or not being published fast or adequately enough, which is detrimental to innovative research on the theater. On the other hand, the original plays reviewed here are evidence of ongoing vitality and diversity, including regional diversity, while the critical works bespeak a concern for the past, especially the vibrant theater of 19th-century Brazil, at the same time that they look at the present scene, especially the key groups of the last decade and a half.


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