Actresses. Creators – Decentralization
This is the first of three articles on actresses, creators, directors, performers and activists in Portugal. They are women from several parts of the country, who have chosen the performing arts. They strive for everything: educational work, from childhood to adulthood, the creation of an art object, the subversion of old and new dramaturgy in conventional and unconventional spaces, in urban or rural locations.
The strength of each of these women motivates anyone not to be afraid. Not to apologize for existing and to believe that freedom is built daily, by putting ourselves at risk, convinced that knowledge and emotional intelligence can only materialize where they live (and where they produce) if that place is progressive and stimulating for those around.
This article’s focal point is decentralization. Umbigo spoke with Ana Luena (co-director of Malvada Associação – Évora), Isabel Craveiro (artistic director of Teatrão – Coimbra), Maria João Luís (actress and artistic director of Teatro da Terra – Ponte-de-Sor) and Tânia Leonardo (actress and artistic director of Teatro da Pessoa – Caldas da Rainha).
Ana Luena lived in Porto for 24 years. She ran the Companhia Teatro Bruto and then moved to Évora, where she founded the Malvada Associação Artística, which she directs with José Miguel Soares. She went there “to teach, something I already did and like very much. After a year, I was invited to teach a semester at the University of Évora. I’ve been here for almost three years and it hasn’t been repeated yet. I’m not teaching, but I’ve developed many projects here in Évora. I still have a privileged relationship with Oporto, a city where I’ve created very strong roots and where several programmers know my work. With Malvada, we make our creations, including collaboration with artists not only from Évora, but who come here to work with us, under the context of an artistic residency, taking advantage of the place where we live. It’s 5km from the city centre, in a parish of Évora, but it’s rural. It’s a privileged context: time is different, the movement is different compared to Oporto and Lisbon”. Ana Luena says that Évora has a greater cultural offer than three years ago, when she moved to the city. “Festival Artes à Rua takes place in the summer and provides more cultural vivacity. It’s programmed by the city council. The program of Teatro Garcia de Resende has also grown. The idea is not just to stay here, but to create a relationship with Lisbon and Oporto, and other cities”. In 2020, they will present, at Teatro São Luiz, from March 27 to April 5, the show Bonecas, “based on a text by Afonso Cruz, who lives in Alentejo. The show is written by me, combining the universe of the painter Paula Rego and the experiences we had with women victims of domestic violence. It’s a co-production between Teatro Nacional São João, Teatro Municipal São Luiz and the City Hall of Évora.”
Isabel Craveiro also tells us about the path of Teatrão, which she develops and directs in Coimbra, involving the city and its inhabitants. “Teatrão began as a theatre company dedicated to children. Today, its DNA is still the same, as a structure that works in close proximity with people and the audience. The rooms are always full. This is related to the work done since the beginning of this project, which is close to the population. Being an educational service and presenting a wide-ranging set of proposals, including training in theatre, stimulates people of very different ages – young people, children and even the elderly. There are also partnerships with universities and knowledge production centres, establishing strong bonds between the students and our structure”.
In relation to the method of creation of Teatrão, Isabel stresses that it’s “very eclectic when creating its shows. But the basis is always a very critical look at the present, at what is happening in the world and how we react to it. It’s a very engaged project, which seeks to discuss things through its own creations. We’re always looking for partners, we work with everyone in the city, we’re an open structure. Also, we’re always attentive to other people and looking for those who challenge us. This also has a lot to do with the space we inhabit in the city, because having a black box allows us to do everything. It makes us always want to create different shows, take more risks in our relationship with the public and with the audience. Whether in the form of a route, an arena, a runway, something upside down, very small or massive spaces, or even on the street. We do or have done all these things, with or without live music, crossing dance with the theatre. We are always associated with the interpretation of the present time and what worries us. Teatrão has this restlessness in its DNA, this enormous desire to reach people and trigger something. Not long ago, we finished the second season of an adaptation of Richard III, which was extremely successful in its relationship with the Coimbra’s audience, which will be a tour this year and the next”.
Maria João Luís considers Teatro da Terra to be the fulfilment of a dream: “That’s why we do staging and these things. That’s also why we walk in this permanent difficulty, in the search for better conditions. When I dreamt of doing this, which began as a project related to a departure from Lisbon, the aim was to take professional theatre to the interior part of the country! Making productions as if we had a theatre in Lisbon, with three productions a year. We also work with the Ponte-de-Sor community and schools. During these ten years, we’ve carried out several activities. We even taught in schools and held workshops. We had students from Abrantes coming here to finish their work and courses. This project is also the dream of living with my family outside Lisbon, although I’ve always lived in the countryside… but I wanted to leave that circuit – even the artistic circuit –, the city. The possibility of having my company staying in Lisbon was not that motivating. I felt it made more sense to take my work elsewhere, while also taking my family to a rural area. We found a hill near Ponte-de-Sor. Then we looked at a theatre in this town and thought “let’s create things here! Let’s propose this to the mayor. There is no theatre company here, so let’s propose this to the mayor, let’s try it!” The proposal was immediately accepted and we have been here for ten years!”
Tânia Leonardo, a native of Caldas da Rainha, where her association is located, explains to us that Teatro da Pessoa – Partilha e Intervenção Cultural “appears in the context of the laboratory held in 2013. A theatre lab for students studying theatre in Caldas da Rainha, namely at ESAD. Some had been with me since they were six years old. From this lab, a nucleus of women was born – curiously and fortunately. Our work works with dramatic expression workshops for all ages. Not to create artists, but to support the development of a human being. She says that “Ana Sequeira, vice-president of the association, presented the project to OPJ (Young Participatory Budget) in 2018, and won. It’s a project that includes the creation of a space with work studios, a concert hall, artistic libraries for research, a social store – exchange-based – and an exhibition gallery. We are now in the project’s implementation phase, together with the ministries and the IPDJ (Portuguese Institute of Sports and Youth). That’s where the support comes from. We developed a methodology called the Methodology of Sharing – The Principle of Truth. It’s a process that’s always growing. It’s a document that is always being updated, based on the studies and proofs that I find every year”.
By Pedro Sousa Loureiro