Friday, August 6, 2010

Madalena Laboratory - Theatre of the Oppressed (English)

Bárbara Santos and Alessandra Vannucci*

Madalena’s idea was growing, in us, for quite a while. One of us, while working in Italy with a female theatre company, was researching stories of women who fought in the second world war, women trapped by their own frustrations in a mirror of a gym, saints, witches, people who ended up playing major roles in three theatre scripts between 2005 and 2010. Further on, she organised a festival focused on female body in 2009. The other one, while travelling between Brazil and Africa to coordinate a Theatre of the Oppressed project called “de Ponto a Ponto”, focused on the qualification and diffusion of the theatre method created by Augusto Boal, saw that the oppression against women was a common denominator to all the Forum Theatre plays. This brought her to write the musical Canção para Madalena (Song for Madalena). This the text gave life to our first brainstorm in this field, more or less around 2004.

Winning the 2009 award of Aesthetic Interaction and Artistic Residency in Cultural Points of Brazilian Culture Ministry – Funarte made possible to transform our encounter, started in 1995 in the internship program of Centre of Theatre of the Oppressed and maintained, even from a distance, with exchange of experiences, into a productive one.

Our starting point was the female body, who went through radical changes, stored aside for centuries, protected or banned by the male body and that today plays a major role in the media society and in our imagination. Naked body, exhibited, sexy or trivial, reinvented, squeezed and sliced in the outdoors, in the pages of the magazines, on the catwalk and in the samba parade. The body became the best vehicle to sell any products and a site for the battle between the culture (contemporary and/or ancestor like) and the fundamental human rights.

The program that we developed was done through experimentation. We mixed ideas and stage and characters building exercises, results of our paths in the professional theatre as director and in the research of the Aesthetic of the Oppressed as Kuringa**. We created an open route, leaving things to be discovered, a ‘laboratory’ rather than a ‘workshop’. Starting from the theme and images researched, we developed dynamics that investigated essential questions: which ancestor models still influences the modern woman? Which social contexts play upon the way of acting and the body of a woman? Which places are we occupying and which one we would like to? Which hopes, which dreams? Which alternatives?

We use Newspaper Theatre, Image Theatre, Rainbow of Desire, Forum Theatre, Aesthetic of the Oppressed and different other theatrical techniques to stimulate the participants in recognising and uncovering their oppressions and, especially, analysing their posture within them. In less than a week, the time of each laboratory, Madalenas produced declaration of identity, poems, individual and collective painting, sculptures, performances, scenes of Forum Theatre and events that opened the political and aesthetical discussion for society at large. As well, we performed the ritual of the “hands that counts”: Madalenas painted their hands and used them as rubber stamp to sign a textile of 10 meters long, which was given to all participants. The shows: EVA, in Cariri; MADALENA, in Rio de Janeiro; MARIA- RITUAL DE PARIDEIRA (Maria – Parideira’s Ritual), in Guinea Bissau; A VOZ DE ROSA (Rose’s voice), in Mozambique.

The domestic violence and macho theme had been central issues, as a justified worry outburst in personal narratives and outlined by statistics. But a great number of questions where not related to the oppressor, but, instead to the oppressed, investigating, so, over the posture, ideas and behaviours that contribute, ratify and enable oppression. The goal was not to psychoanalyse oppression, but, instead, ripping away the veil of incomprehension and outline the social mechanisms of persuasion and conditioning.

Madalena is a magic mirror and a creative common space where every woman can recognise herself in another one, a process that transformed us through a playful, poetic, emotional and intense experience where we really felt together. The discoveries were many. The historical ownership and the exploration of the female body for production and re-production at a time when our capitalistic and patriarchal society brutally came to life. The blame inflicted on women, since the first Eve in the Genesis, in the Jews-Christian tradition, as a weapon that, still nowadays, limited us in our “being” and in the exercises of our daily rights. The “controlling head” (not always male) which takes over our brain is our worst and most pernicious oppressor, by avoiding violent and conflict action, we end up restraining ourselves, alone. How many times do we give up what we want? How many times we reproduce habits that we are not part of us anymore?

The laboratory enabled us to modify the paths to follow and to investigate on the discoveries. In the ancestors’ research, we followed the body path from the mother to the grand mother and so on until the most distant ancestor. In one laboratory the participants created bodies of sad women, using gesture of monotonous work, expressions of extreme tiredness, timeless weeping. We changed day, hour and century. They keep working, with the imaginary body of the ancestors as if was theirs, yesterday, as much as today. In another, we lived an intense and emotional journey to the sacred space of motherhood and to the nostalgia of the female bodies that gave life to women, transmitting us all the gender weapons. In another, we looked for the ancestors’ signs in our bodies, behaviours, habits, influencing our judging and the one of our contemporaneous. We kept going, investigating the bodies of remembered women, known or imagined, creating conditions where they could meet in a trustful space even if was only to look inside an imaginary mirror.

We noticed, on one hand, that the ancestors’ memory appeared in a lot of work and, on the other, signs of apathy, fragility, reliance and resignation. However, in the laboratories in which we proposed the experience of primitive woman, come out strength, dynamism, independence, boldness and alliance. would have happened to this image of strength and independency if lost in the female imaginary? Could it be related to the Genesis that describes the bravery and the desire of knowing as the universal sin and blames females and punish them out of heaven? Would this be related to a dominant production way, where the woman is considered inferior? We are faced with a woman stigmatised by the blame of picking the forbidden fruit of the tree of the good and bad, of the knowledge, against the will of a God….a male one.

We let the places explore us: in Juazeiro do Norte, land of pilgrims, we went to a devotional fair in front of the church, singing and dancing our song, Madalena’s Pilgrimage, to invite the public. In Rio, we improvised “urban guerrilla” parade, in the middle of Lapa, armed with red lipstick and good humour to help us to modify the macho images and signs scattered along the way. In Guinea Bissau we took part at the ceremony of “Paridas” (women-mothers), taking part of the experience of Africans people with their ancestors.

We work with different women: housekeepers, cultural and social agitators, stage and life artists, females looking for identity and visibility, opened to write a new history for themselves and the whole women world. Brazilians, Italians, Argentineans, Mexicans, Portuguese, people from Guinea Bissau and Mozambique, who believe that a new world concept is possible.

Valuable partnerships: women and men of the Centro de Teatro do Oprimido, SESC – Ceará, Carroça de Mamulengos, Caixa Cultural of Rio de Janeiro, Abaeté, WDF – Berlin, GTO-Bissau, Cultural Centre Brazil Guiné-Bissau, Grupo AMIZADE of São Domingos, Federal University of Ouro Preto, GTO-Maputo, Cultural Center Brazil Mozambique, Radio Mozambique, Rede Globo, friends, female and male ones. Claudia Simone, of the CTO team, began as a participant and switched into a producer, becoming part of us.

Madalenas tree and its fruit: Madalena laboratory is now a course at the University of Minas Gerais; it formed three nucleus, Madalenas of Ceará (Cariri and Fortaleza) and Madalena Santa Catarina with the help of the trade union (Sintrafesc); it participated in the World Women March in São Paulo; it occupied the Web of Cultural Points of Fortaleza; a multiplication in Portugal with the partnership of NTO-Porto; more multiplication are planned for 2010: Germany and India. A wide path of possibilities opens for Madalena Laboratory – Theatre of the Oppressed.

Translation: Chiara Rimoldi

*Alessandra Vannucci is theatre director. Together we design this exciting experience.

**Curinga is a title which comes from a creative process of acting that Augusto Boal developed in the Teatro de Arena, in São Paulo-Brasil, during 1960s. Afterwards he used the same title to identify the practitioner of his Method - Theatre or the Oppresse who has the function to stimulate the theatrical dialogue in Forum session. The literal translation into English is Joker that is also used in several languages. To refer to the Theater of the Oppressed expert in any language I chose to use the original terminology created by Boal in Portuguese but write it with K: Kuringa.

No comments:

Post a Comment