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JUDITH ISHMAEL BISSETT, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
HISTORY CONTINUES to be a significant element in contemporary Brazilian theater. On stage, historical formats frame political messages and increase their impact. Histories of the theater and theater criticism focus on past events and productions in order to reexamine theater and the people involved in its development during selected periods, particularly the repression of the 1960s and 1970s. Yan Michalski's statement in O teatro sob pressão: uma frente de resistência (item bi88-789) that his work proposes to refresh a collective memory which is in danger of weakening, characterizes many of the works reviewed below.
Augusto Boal's O corsário do rei (item bi 88000782) and the collection of three of his plays in Teatro de Augusto Boal (item bi 88000783) are examples of history as a didactic tool (O corsário) and as memory (Teatro). O corsário do rei points out the similarity between past invasions of Brazil and their disastrous effects on the economy and the "invasions" of today. All three plays in Teatro (Revolução na América do Sul, As aventuras do Tio Patinhas and Murro em Ponta de Faca) were produced between 1960 and 1978, and the first two are examples of the politically committed theater of the period, while the latter, also a protest play, will serve as a continuing comment on past repression because of its treatment of the plight of political exiles. The most interesting aspect of this volume, however, is the introduction to each work, in which critics Sábato Magaldi, Fernando Peixoto and Gianfrancesco Guarnieri analyze the plays according to their significance at a particular moment in history. Another excellent example of the use of historical events is Morte aos brancos by César Vieira (item bi 89004785), who comments on contemporary history by focusing on an Indian rebellion which took place during the colonial period. Roteiro para turistas by Jorge Rein (item bi 89004782) also uses history as a didactic tool, but in this case, it is a tour of the recent past that reminds the audience of the need for vigilance in the present.
Other interesting works which emphasize the difficulties Brazilian theater faced during the repression are Fernando Peixoto's Teatro em movimento (item bi 88000791) and Rofran Fernandes' Teatro Ruth Escobar: 20 anos de resistência (item bi 88000786). Peixoto includes articles in his collection which describe productions and theater groups, often revealing his and others' problems with censorship. Fernandes' work focuses on one actress and the plays produced by the Ruth Escobar theater, but the events documented are representative of those experienced by many groups.
Not all the selections listed below review theater history from the point of view of the above-mentioned works or use historical structures to make political statements. Two very powerful plays that do not are Um beijo, um abraço, um aperto de mão, by Naum Alves de Souza (item bi 89004784), and Ana Elisa Gregori's A casa da costureira Juliana (item bi 89004777). Here, the theme is the family and the individual in crisis. Other works represent an effort to look back and examine Brazil's theatrical production and playwrights from an historical perspective. Alberto Guzik's TBC: crônica de um sonho (item bi 88000787) is an excellent study of an important theater group and its contribution to the development of Brazilian theater. O Tribofe, by Arthur Azevedo (item bi 88000781), includes introductory and critical material which reveals that 19th-century Brazilian theater often used the same themes and faced the same problems with censorship as its contemporary counterpart.
The problems confronting Brazilian theater in the 1980s, according to Yan Michalski (O teatro sob pressao, item bi 88000789), are different from, yet related to, those it faced previously. Among the obstacles are the public's loss of interest in political theater and its insatiable appetite for television. Young prizewinning playwrights cannot produce their plays because commercial success is nearly impossible and yet a necessity. Still, experimentation and interest in the theater continues.