Sunday, July 09, 2006

How did we end up in Germany?

Our group during rehearsal in the Consol Theater. Photo: Laerte Késsimos.

This is an English version of a post originally written in Portuguese.

We travelled to Germany because of our play Vestir o Corpo de Espinhos (Dress your Body in Thorns). The play is the practical result of one year's research by our theatre group: Núcleo Experimental dos Satyros. We are theatre students and Os Satyros (The Satyrs) is an acclaimed theatre group established in Brazil since 1989 and which has travelled the world with their award-winning plays. If you have never heard about Os Satyros, please read my last post. Our group (the Núcleo Experimental : experimental core) is formed by actors and students selected from the annual theatre workshops Os Satyros promote in their theatres. Every year we choose a subject of research, and develop scenes, seminars, short interventions and finally a play which usually shows for at least two months.

We spent the year of 2005 studying the life and works of Antonin Artaud, reading his plays, discussing his views, and exploring his ideas through improvisations and creative exercises. The resulting play was an accidental result. What I mean is: we did not plan it; we really had no idea where we were heading or what story we were going to tell. Not one line in our play was written by Artaud, nor any part of it (except the radio recordings we use as sound effects) had anything to do with Artaud, the artist. Of course the scenes, images, themes and text were inpired by the process, the artaudian obsession to innovate, but near the end of the year we still had no play: only a bunch of conflicting ideas and no agreement within the group. Everything was fragmented, including our group. There were conflicts of opinion among the actors and also disagreements with our teachers and directors. In face of the possibility of not achieving anything with such a chaotic process, some people gave up and left the group. The rest of us sought ideas we had in the beginning of the process, when we hardly knew who was Artaud, so all the work wouldn't be in vain. And then, when everything was nearly lost, somehow, we came up with the text. Several texts sprouted. During the second crisis, came the music, the dance, and something that resembled a play. But it wasn't that easy. The play was born at the last minute, like a premature child, moved by the necessity of survival. If it had taken any longer, it would have died in its uterus, shattering the group which had tried to bring it into existence. The play happened because it would be unbearable for all of us survivors if there was nothing to be shown, nothing to be seen by an audience, after a whole year's work. And so it happened that, on the last week of december before Christmas, after once more having considered to cancel everything, we put together everything we had and staged two performances during two days: a Saturday and a Sunday. They were to be the only performances.

Scene of the nine sisters, in Studio-Bühne, Essen. Photo: Play-off/06.

But they weren't. The audience reacted to our play in an unexpected way. People left the theatre with tears in their eyes, or frightened, or looking thoughful. Since during our first performance most of the audience consisted mostly of other actors and directors from Os Satyros, our teachers and invited guests, I thought that reaction would not repeat. But it did. I spend the whole play busily concentrated, either acting or playing an instrument, and never get to watch the whole play, so I never understood why people reacted that way. What did our play make them think about? What did they feel? Was it what they saw? Was it what they heard? The fact is we were surprised with the reaction (at least I was), but we still didn't know what would be of our play in the next year. We didn't know if it would survive.

When the Play-off/06 project was published in 2005, interested parties from all over the world were invited to submit their plays. We didn't know about the festival, but in December, Gustavo Fijaklow, from the team of organizers of the Play-off/06 festival, saw our second performance. He told our theatre directors about the festival and suggested that we should participate.

In the beginning of the year, we had to get together one more time to stage the play a third time and record a DVD which had to be sent to Germany before the deadline. There were other candidates from Brazil and the selected group would represent our country in the festival.

Maria Campanelii Haas, during performance of our play at Flottmann-Hallen, Herne. Photo: Benjamin Stöß.

Moved by the possibility of being selected and stimulated by the new weekly acting workshops coordinated by Roberto Áudio: fantastic teacher and actor from the Teatro da Vertigem theatre group, we again started to meet more than once a week, and finally returned with a two-month season of shows every Saturday night. And it was during this period that we received the news: we were chosen to represent Brazil in the Play-off/06 festival in Germany.

Preparation was not easy. We translated some scenes to German, others to English, and left part of it in Portuguese. We rehearsed, we argued, we quarrelled, and in the end, we staged two performances in Brazil one day before travelling to Germany: a regular performance in Portuguese, and an open rehersal in English, Portuguese and German for invited guests. On the next afternoon we left São Paulo to Düsseldorf in an Air France flight, and that's how we ended up in Germany.

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