Curitiba Festival Features English Language Play
By J. Bruce Bell
Here ye! Here ye! Welcome drama lovers and theater neophytes alike to another edition of the Curitiba Festival. You may have seen the big event guide being distributed in the malls, bookstores, and other businesses around Curitiba, but have you bought your tickets yet? They’re selling out fast and the 21st Edition of the festival promises to be better than ever.
In the performing arts, you’ll find everything from the big-stage productions at the Caixa Theater to the more intimate art-houses of the Fringe series. Of course, the Curitiba Festival isn’t just meant to be watched. It’s a multi-faceted experience, with stand-up comedy routines at Risorama and DeRepente, fine cuisine at Gastronomix, and events for children in the fun of Guritiba, and much more.
Every year the Festival brings new and exciting dramatic adventures to Curitiba audiences and this year is no exception. This year the festival will host the first English-language play by Curitiba playwright João Luis Fiani. Fiani’s play, “How to Handle the Bones” brings a modern, Brazilian interpretation to the “comedy of the absurd”, a theatrical genre that matured with great names like Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Jean Genet.
The cast of “Bones” includes the Old Woman, played by Joel Vieira; the Army Captain: Jader Alves; the Nympho Daughter: Kefera Buchmann; the Gay Son: Leo Castillos; the TV-Addicted Daughter: Luna Tosin; the Zen Cousin: Andressa Medeiros; the British Butler: Everton Vidal; the French Cook: Anna Xavier; the Handsome Gardener: Sidnei Junior; the Old, Old Grampa: Luis H. Fernandes; and finally the German Reverend: Marcelo di Napolli.
Curitiba in English had the rare opportunity to sit down with “Bones” director Franklin Albuquerque and actors Jader Alves and Sidnei Junior to talk more about the play.
[Curitiba in English] Is this your first time at the Curitiba Festival?
[Franklin Albuquerque] This must be my sixth or seventh year.
[CIE:] Why this piece? Why direct a play in English?
[FA:] It’s a play that I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s a very funny comedy. It’s by João Luis Fiani. He wrote the play in Portuguese and he’s done it in Portuguese before. He was the producer and director the last time. But then just last year I was taking my Master’s degree in Portugal, and I took this course with Adriano Cortese who is an Australian Director, and I was telling him about the play and I thought, You know this play sounds funny in English, because he was laughing a lot. I don’t know. I had this [idea] inside and I had been talking to Fiani. We wanted to have a play in English. We just didn’t know what. I thought this play had some Brazilian humor. People who want to practice their English or just people who like speaking English or people who only speak English and live here. I think they would be interested, so it was just an idea, one of those things. It just happened.
[CIE:] And it had to be in English because the humor is English?
[FA:] Well he wrote the play in Portuguese … so the humor is kind of Brazilian. But it’s a nonsense comedy, but it’s not Monty Python. It’s very, very different. You would have to watch it to see, to understand… I don’t know, I think it goes very well with English. You know it sounds funny in English, and the characters are characters you would find in a British comedy. I just thought it would go well. Hopefully people will like it.
[CIE:] It’s a bit of a risk. Were you at all worried that because it’s in English, people won’t understand and won’t come? Maybe that’s the point? You want to target your audience?
[FA:] I don’t think so. If people come, it’s because they’re interested, right? So they either speak English or they want to speak English and they want to practice or I don’t know maybe they’re just interested in watching a play and guessing what’s happening. So I think we’ll have just a different audience from our regular audience. I think we’re gonna have people who normally don’t go to the theatre very often – people who are studying English and you know that’s a good start. Getting people to go to the theatre.
[CIE:] And you would know better than most that a very good way to learn English is through theatre, because you create context…
[FA:] Right and it’s also interactive, so it’s a chance for people to practice.
[Sidnei Junior] All my friends who speak English are very excited about the play.
[CIE:] So tell me about your background in theatre?
[FA:] I’ve been working with the theatre since I was 18. At first I didn’t know it would be my profession, so I took 2 years of mechanical engineering and then I quit. Then I took a year of that [sic], then I quit. And then I started taking drama direction and stage direction. Now this is my degree [sic] I’m a director. I’m taking my Master’s degree in Portugal but I’m still writing my final thesis. I have worked here [at the Lala Schneider Theatre] for many years teaching because we have a theatre course as well. So I’ve been teaching here and also performing and directing sometimes professional plays and sometimes plays that the students write. I directed a play in English before – just one – with Razz Mattazz group, a different group from Lala Schneider and it was a lot of fun. I really liked it the first time.
[CIE:] And Sidnei, how did you arrive here?
[SJ:] I’ve been here for about 2 years so…
[FA:] He was tossed in with the professionals!
[SJ:] I wanted to pursue a career in acting. I’m studying law, but I’m taking classes here too. I’ll take my law degree in 2 years and then I’ll decide what I’m going to do. My mom doesn’t want me to pursue acting. She’s worried that I won’t finish the law degree.
[CIE:] And your part in the play is the protagonist?
[SJ:] No, I’m not…
[FA:] Actually, there aren’t really any protagonists in this play… It’s a big mess.
[CIE:] I was a little confused by the paragraph in the program. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
[Jader Alves enters.]
[FA:] Jader is a teacher here as well.
[CIE:] And how would you describe your character?
[JA:] He’s a former military servant. And he’s crazy, as all people think. And he thinks that Hitler is still among us. Actually, if you look at him he’s the most normal of the family, but when he goes mad, he really goes mad…This play was written especially for one cast, ten years ago. And the author asks each cast member, ‘which kind of character would you like to play? What’s your dream character?’ ‘I would like to be someone who’s crazy.’ ‘I would like to be someone who’s dying.’ Everybody told him which one they’d like to be. And so he did the job of tying these characters [together] and it turned out to be this crazy thing.
[CIE:] It was created interactively with the cast at that time?
[JA:] We didn’t create the story, but we told him which kind of personality we wanted.
[FA:] I think that was good for us because now we have very rich characters, and they’re all very funny. That’s why we don’t have a main character. They’re equally funny and equally important for the story.
[CIE:] So it’s a common story? Or not? In what way is it a unique story and how can your audience relate?
[JA:] It’s common if you think that there’s a family and the family has a problem to solve. But this family is not common and the problems they have are not common.
[CIE:] What’s the take-home message you want to relate to your audience?
[FA:] Accept differences. Because they’re all very different like this former military man has a gay son, for example. And then there is the young girl who is already crazy about sex, because her parents are not quite there for her. So she’s got this important issue. And then there’s the TV-addicted girl who is just a model character for many, many girls nowadays. And there’s the French cook and the British butler…. So I think we have some important discussions, but the most important message is: accept differences.
[CIE:] Tell us a bit about the casting? How many in the cast? Any challenges?
[FA:] Eleven. It was funny because at first I just wanted to have play in English and then I had an audition, and for [sic] my surprise not many people came to the audition. Because people were not confidant enough or something. So then I went looking for people that I knew could speak English, among the teachers and among the students. So I pulled [in] a friend who’s a professional actor who had worked with me six or seven years ago. He then went to live in Detroit or Seattle and then he came back but I needed him because I needed people who could speak English. I had eleven characters and I didn’t want to cut any character from the play. So it was a struggle at first, but I think I found some very good actors. And well I think the play is very funny, but of course I’m a little suspicious [sic]. I guess because I am the director and I’m in love with all my plays but I love this play.
[CIE:] So a bit of marketing here. How would you convince someone who could only come to one play, to come to this play?
[FA:] Well I think first of all because it’s not a very common play. You can watch plays in Portuguese every day, but it’s not very common to have an English play in Curitiba and plus it’s a very, very funny comedy. Sometimes when you have a play in English it’s usually Shakespeare or something. I really love Shakespeare, but sometimes people don’t speak English good enough to understand Shakespearean English which is very, very difficult. So it’s a good chance for people to practice their English and to have fun!
[SJ:] It’s really, really funny. We have lots of fun in the rehearsals. The best thing is to watch each other.
[CIE:] What would you say, Jader?
[JA:] It’s unusual to have a Brazilian cast playing in English. The festival in past years has become commonplace. The plays are looking a lot alike. The intention of the festival is becoming common, and we have a different intention. Beside the funny [sic], we’re trying to teach English and practice English with non-native speakers. And we’re telling these people, ‘Well we can!’
[FA:] That’s right. We are Brazilians but we can communicate in English.
[CIE:] Well the play caught our attention not just because it was in English but also because it wasn’t a classic English play, there was a Brazilian director, a Brazilian cast —
[SJ:] Well it’s interesting too because most of the movies we watch are in English.
[FA:] But there are no subtitles!
[CIE:] You’ve got to slug your way through it!
[FA:] None of those subtitles like in some operas, but I’ve done that before too. I actually directed a play in Portuguese, the “Little Shop of Horrors.” But the songs were in English and they had subtitles.
[CIE:] Excellent. Thank you all very much. I look forward to going to the show!
“How to Handle the Bones” will be presented on the 4th and 5th of April at 9pm at the Lala Theatre, Rua 13 Maio, 629, Centro. Phone: (41) 3232-4499. www.teatrolala.com.br. Tickets may be purchased at any of the Curitiba Festival sales desks at the Palladium, Mueller, or Barigui Shopping Malls or online at: http://www.bilhetedigital.com.br.
J. Bruce Bell is the co-editor of Curitiba in English and works as a freelance translator. He may be contacted at: email@example.com