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Volume 52 / Humanities


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

Research on the history of the Brazilian theater remains a strong trend (see earlier volumes of the HLAS) and is well represented in Elizabeth Azevedo's "O teatro em São Paulo, 1554–1954" (item #bi2005004854#), Sábato Magaldi and Maria Thereza Vargas' Cem anos de teatro em São Paulo (item #bi2005004864#), Silvia Cristina Martins de Souza's As noites do Ginásio (item #bi2005004868#), and Silvana Garcia's collection of testimonies, Odisséia do teatro brasileiro (item #bi2005004860#). While solid and essential for the field, the vast majority of research and publications focuses almost exclusively on the theater of the Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo axis, neglecting the rest of the Brazilian territory.

Well-known playwrights are being revisited with new editions of their works and critical studies of their theater. A hardcover new edition of Ariano Suassuna's Auto da compadecida (item #bi2005004880#) and a special issue of Cadernos de Literatura Brasileira (item #bi2005004853#) help celebrate half a century of the career of the major playwright and cultural figure. The drama of another revered playwright (and novelist), Antônio Callado (d. 1997), is receiving new attention with the publication of revised editions of the four plays that comprise his "teatro negro" (items #bi2005004873#, #bi2005004874#, #bi2005004875#, and #bi2005004876#). The Martins Fontes publishing house continues the publication of the extremely carefully edited series, Dramaturgos do Brasil (João Roberto Faria, series editor), focusing on 19th-century playwrights such as José de Alencar, Castro Alves, Gonçalves Dias, and four masters of the "comédia de costumes" (comedy of manners) (items #bi2005004870#, #bi2005004871#, #bi2005004869#, and #bi2005004877#).

Scholarly works on playwrights such as Betti on Vianinha (item #bi2005000817#), Facina on Nelson Rodrigues (item #bi2005004859#), and Magaldi on Oswald de Andrade (item #bi2005000808#) and Rodrigues (item #bi2005004863#), as well as publications on groups such as Fernandes on 1970s groups (item #bi2005000821#) and Heloísa Buarque de Hollanda on Asdrúbal (item #bi2005004857#), are now available. In addition, introductory essays for mass consumption and focusing on key directors such as Labaki on José Celso (item #bi2005004861#), groups such as Almada on Teatro de Arena (item #bi2005004852#), and trends such as Marinho on besteirol (item #bi2005004865#), are now widely accessible.

Excellent new playwrights are appearing, such as Newton Moreno (author of the acclaimed Agreste), but with few exceptions (e.g., Melamed, Regurgitofagia (item #bi2005004878#)) their work is not being published, or not being published in a timely manner. The work of most of these playwrights is fertile ground for new research but remains virtually unexplored. The groups, however, are better served. Of these, Asdrúbal has received special consideration (see, for e.g., item #bi2005004857#) and a substantial chapter in the Fernandes volume on groups of the 1970s (item #bi2005000821#), a reflection perhaps of the relevance of some of its former members in the contemporary scene. Considerable attention is being devoted to a key group of the 1990s, Teatro da Vertigem (item #bi2005004881#). Meriting the scholarly focus, this group's work in many ways typifies the period in that the text, while important, is secondary to the force of a body in performance, and where selection of the place of performance is all-important as Vertigem shuns the traditional stage and deliberately seeks sites of exclusion (abandoned churches, decrepit hospitals, and prisons). The texts of the Vertigem plays are available in the volume while those of other groups (Latão, Galpão, etc.) are not readily available; some of these stagings are so unconventional and so little dependent on the verbal sign that publication is not a consideration. Another body of work not being published are the lengthy stagings put on by Teatro Oficina as the group revisits classics of Brazilian literature such as Euclides da Cunha's Os sertões (1902).

One of the Vertigem plays, O livro de Jó, is part of a strong trend of the 1990s and early 2000s to represent AIDS on the stage. A relatively large number of plays have been written on this serious subject, which is the focus of critical works such as Albuquerque, Tentative Transgressions (item #bi2005004048#). These plays fall into diverse categories consequent to the different approaches taken by the playwrights, directors, and groups. Many of these texts were written and/or staged as part of education and prevention efforts by numerous groups and institutions; 14 representative works are gathered in AIDS e teatro, edited by Souza and Porto (item #bi2005004879#).

The diversity of critical works in this section reflects the ongoing concern for the past at the same time that it takes inventory of the present shape of the Brazilian theater and turns toward the future. The original plays that are being published reflect only a portion of what is happening on the contemporary stage, but this may not be reason for alarm given that so much of what is being staged is not as dependent on the written text as in the past.

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