- Risk As a Material Path to Explore Theatricality and Brazilian ContradictionsA Reply to William Stanton
William Stanton's essay raises questions about the kinds of relations we can observe between theatrical phenomena and reality—the frontiers, the ethical, and political implications in contemporary performance. I suggest that Apocalipse 1, 11 was intended to overcome the theatrical, not to reproduce it. The invitation to the middle class to visit a jail indicates clearly the intention to work at the border of theatre events. If we consider that every theatrical performance represents a deferred social ceremony (Duvignaud 1970, 1979, 1980), Teatro da Vertigem proposed to establish a ceremony that started with the voluntary act of entering a prison at night.
Teatro da Vertigem's theatrical purpose is not an original idea. The occupation of public spaces for theatre was the subject of many experiments in the 20th century. Like many others before them, I believe this company abandons the traditional theatre building because it wants to develop different kinds of links with the audience. Their idea is to put us in a new context, to change our references, to break our defenses. I believe that Teatro da Vertigem's purpose is to contact a new reality.
The prison space can be considered the womb that generates new lines of possible meanings in the text. Teatro da Vertigem's earlier productions—O Paraíso Perdido (Paradise Lost,1992) in an abandoned church and O Livro de Jó (The Book of Job, 1995) in a half disused hospital—questioned the use of space and presented the possibility of an experience based in an altered perception of what theatre is and where it can most successfully take place. In this way Teatro da Vertigem's work represents a strong contribution to Brazilian theatre.
The rupture of orthodox theatre codes constitutes a practice that resists a theatre culture organized by market forces. To occupy a suburban prison, to define it as the scene of the theatrical event, and to summon the audience there is to question theatre itself. That is why the question proposed by Stanton about whether the show "either existed in or summoned an underworld, despite the prison location" cannot be an element for our reflection. There is no previous text strictu senso. The Biblical text used in the performance cannot be considered as some original play or drama text. The core text of Apocalipse 1, 11 is not a drama but the environment, the prison. What takes place is an interaction with the space. The prison is not a consequence of the drama, a stage set; the staging did not illustrate an author's requirements. The structure of Apocalipse 1, 11 is the organic connection between space, actor, and dramaturgy. This relation is the axis of creation; other elements constitute expressive materials that are born from it. Thus we need to look for a meaning system starting from the space. For me, [End Page 101] the reception of the performance is absolutely conditioned by the rules and feelings imposed by the space.
Stanton discusses the way that real sex is used in the performance. In fact there are three aspects of this part of the show that present uncomfortable issues: the real/theatrical conflict, real sex used in the context of Índios, and hiring sex performers from an underworld night club in São Paulo. I will start with the last. Director Araújo wanted an explicit sex scene and his team found professionals capable of performing this fully. This is not unusual in itself. Theatre companies often employ professionals who can deliver skills that its own actors are not able to provide. The circus consists of "specialty acts," very specific and difficult skills ranging from animal management to high-wire acts and clowning. Why should these professionals be hidden just because the scene deals with sex? The question remains:Was there a contradiction between the sex actors and the actors of Teatro da Vertigem? Was there a class distinction in which the underworld sex performers occupied a subordinate place? It was fundamental to Araújo to play down almost all these possibilities of marginalization and...