Teatro do Mar and the foam of its days
Teatro do Mar [Theatre of the Sea] – a name that mirrors its own condition.
And its origin as well.
It was born in Sines.
By the sea that forces us to embrace the horizon. The immensity. The distance.
It grew in Sines.
In a land as violent as the waves,
welcoming and capturing at the same time.
Teatro do Mar justifies its epithet, as it transforms the salty tears
in tides to be sailed.
Because it wanders without thinking and inspires us like an ocean.
Teatro do Mar is 32 years old now. The age of an adult woman, the will to grow of an adolescent.
Sines is its home, the world its stage.
I wanted to tell you the story of a theatre company that is writing its own. And there is no one better than Julieta Aurora to do it, the founder, director, artistic director and mother of the project Teatro do Mar.
Mariana Machado – “My grandma on the father’s side ran away with a circus clown, my grandpa directed the popular parade shows, my aunt wrote poetry and my mother enjoyed theatre.” Julieta, did you have any way to escape from art or did genetics take the biggest stage in the end?
Julieta Aurora – When we are kids, our passions pop up and we don’t know what they are. We are now inside what once was my classroom and I remember the moments when the teacher left the room and I turned into the “little clown” of the class and I’m not even an actress! I created stories, made up characters and showed them to make everybody laugh. Perhaps I had that in me already. And, on top of that, my imagination was quite fertile, something primarily in writing. I started writing at a very early age. I had a diary where I wrote on a regular basis and today, when I read it, I realize that there was a lot of truth but also tons of fiction. So, yes, I think we end up inheriting a certain kind of sensitivity.
MM – How can one build 32 years of Teatro do Mar?
JA – With lots of resilience and resistance. And truly believing what you do. It started in ’86. Directed by professionals, but without the intention of creating a professional theatre. We wanted more than to make people aware of theatre and the project’s beginning was amateurish. But amateurish is always something done by someone who loves something and, over time, a couple of individuals started very young in our workshops and took out to join professional theatre schools and then they came back. They came back and helped the project’s professionalizing effort. The quality of work was growing, the group was already doing shows outside of Sines, and the demand of time and rigor forced us to take the decision to professionalize ourselves and that’s pretty much it, it happened and it’s still an ongoing thing.
MM – The team remains the same. Do you have a formula to keep it tight?
JA – There are several factors. Like in all relationships, the import thing is to keep the dialogue in motion and be somehow transparent in the way we talk to each other. I have tried, as far as possible, to foresee the problems just to avoid them. Truth be told, there are no formulas for this but we have tried to sustain some coherence between what we say in our work and what shows in our relations. Conflict exists, of course, but respect and consideration for the others remain intact. And, above all, respect for the space of the other. This, together with a great friendship (the one kept at the core). Obviously, there is love between us. A lot.
MM – Teatro do Mar had to sporadically reinvent itself. What is the source of this willingness to be reborn?
JA – Being part of the team. It’s looking back, looking at everything that has been done, thinking about what can be done and not stop when facing adversity. From a fire that destroyed basically all we had, the risk of ending up with no support whatsoever, among other things that happened to us… the image of the re-emerging phoenix follows us. We go through terrible adversities and we come back with more strength.
And then we have a love relationship with the city. We have a strong connection to the people and local communities and the city acknowledges the company as theirs. It makes me so proud to hear “our Teatro do Mar”. That’s what keeps us going.
MM – In Germany, it started to rain cats and dogs during a show and you kept going. If we could pick a moment to describe Teatro do Mar… Was that the one?
JA – A bit, yes. We were on a 3-month tour and we covered just miles and miles to get there. That show in particular involved lots of acrobatics, dance and doing it in the rain was quite dangerous. But we decided to do it anyway. It was raining a lot and the audience stood still. There were people in the front with umbrellas open and those behind asked to close them. Suddenly, everyone began to close the umbrellas and the public shared the rain with us. It was a very beautiful moment.
It’s a hard life and we have to believe a lot in what we do, but then there are magical moments that make things worth it.
MM – Would Teatro do Mar be different if it was rooted in a city with a different size?
JA – Everyone knows that groups in big cities have other possibilities. They are close to media outlets, opinion makers and all of that gives them visibility. Being in a small town, the best thing is the relationship with the community. The difficulty is that same invisibility. The fact that we were in a small town could also instil in us the idea that, because we are the only ones, we would not have the need to make an effort to survive. But, since we are from a land of the sea, we have the horizon open and this keeps our eyes peeled, and above all, we don’t feel inferior in what we do, because we work for it.
MM – You started as street theatre and you are still on the street. Is the street your beach?
JA – For Teatro do Mar, street began because, at the time, there was not a national network of auditoriums yet and we wanted to take our shows to the highest number of people and places. We started doing theatre in the street and we managed to have the equipment we needed to guarantee the show – lights, structures, costumes. That was how we acquired this know-how of having to adapt to a time when there were more difficulties. And we kept evolving like that.
We started as street theatre and today we are street theatre.
We merged the more physical theatre with contemporary circus, dance, video, and so we invited other artists as collaborators to our team, depending on the project.
MM – What impact does street theatre have on the people that venues cannot attain?
JA – When you set up a show in a public space, that interferes with people’s daily lives. When there is a show in a room, people go there and know what they are about to see. That doesn’t happen in the street. Except those who have previously planned to catch us, people stumble upon us by surprise and encounter our work.
Moreover, the artistic object transforms the spaces of the cities. It creates memories and relationships with places and public spaces. And it is a meeting space, the street space nurtures the possibility of an encounter – and everything that the meeting incites is urgent nowadays.
MM – How did MAR happen – Mostra de Artes de Rua (Street Art Show)?
JA – The south of the country was really in need of a street art fest. We have Imaginarius in Santa Maria da Feira, but the south was stripped of something focused on this form of art – raising awareness to the growth of street arts. And MAR was born out of that. But it’s still a baby, with only 2 editions so far.
MM – You work with people of all ages. 8 to 80, literally. How do you handle 2 generations that are different?
JA – Working with children is a regular and daily job. Music for babies, theatre workshops.
With the elderly, the projects tend to be sporadic. Our last show was about them. “A Idade do Silêncio” (The age of Silence) and it forced us to spend every day in the nursing home of Santa Casa to realize what it’s like to live there. I’m particularly sensitive to this topic. To this aging issue, maybe because my parents had a house facing a nursing home. And, every time I looked at it, I saw people in the same place gazing at nothingness. So loneliness is also a subject encountered in many of our works. The sense of departure and rejection that those who are old feel nowadays is just overwhelming. People no longer age at home; family members are less and less related to them. There are people in nursing homes who cover their own faces ashamed of being old. There are lucid people laid down on the bed looking at the ceiling – but what sort of lucidity is this? There is an increasing number of severe cases of dementia. There is much to talk about this subject of being old, particularly to the younger ones.
MM – The creative process, does it still bear fruit?
JA – It always starts with a sense of restlessness. A book, a conversation, anything palpable…
Sometimes I need to talk about this or that and, in my case, I try to do a job that contributes to something. For a fairer, more conscious, more balanced society. My work and motivation go way beyond that. What motivates me is this responsibility and urgency to talk about what it is really necessary.
Currently the company is on tour with InSomnio and will continue like that until the end of the year. The play debuts in Sines this weekend (22 and 23 June) and talks about sleep and dreaming, the balance between the body and the spirit, weight and weightlessness, darkness and light, forgetfulness and memory. It will run the country from north to south and reaches Barcelona. There will be plenty of opportunities to see the play. Until then, it is worth to know a little more about Teatro do Mar.