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Howdy Doody thumbs a ride from Robert Wilson in the caatinga: mamulengo theater is part ventriloquist act, part Carnaval parade, part religious procession. (Not shown above is Ventoforte; these popular theater forms are widely cultivated.)

Neuza takes me to see an (unscheduled supplementary) technical rehearsal of “[If This World Were So Great, The Owner of It Would Live Here, Too]” at the Teatro Ventoforte, based on a story or play, not sure which, by Ariano Suassuna.

(We saw a bigger-budget production of his A Pedra do Reino directed by Antunes Filho and staged by the Teatro Macunaima last year, I think it was, at SESC Santana. Suassuna was feted by Rio carnival society this year, I think. Or was it in Sampa?)

Over there in Itaím Bibi.

It was a lovely, lovely way to spend the evening.

Later, we eat a huge, smoking chunk of lovingly charred, pampas-style, cow with a deeply melancholy Malbec at Martin Fierro in the Vila Madelena, where, contrary to the general tendency of the neighborhood, things are quiet and civilized and the waiters wear white smocks, like barbers and 19th-century doctors.

A local culture-vulture blog, in brief:

Pioneiro do teatro popular em São Paulo, o grupo Ventoforte estréia hoje (dia 29) “Se o Mundo Fosse Bom, o Dono Morava Nele”, em seu próprio espaço. O espetáculo é inspirado em “A Pena e a Lei”, de Ariano Suassuna, e tem prólogo e epílogo escritos por Ilo Krugli, que também assina a direção.

A pioneer of popular theater in São Paulo, Ventoforte opens a new production today [February 29] of “If the World Were a Good Place, the Owner Would Live There,” in its own space. The show is inspired by [“crime and punishment”] by Ariano Suassuna, with a prologue and epilogue by Ilo Krugli, who also directs.

Como em outras montagens da companhia, a revelação do “fazer teatral” é o que prevalece na peça, que acontece no quintal do teatro. Conflitos como a disputa pela mulher mais linda da cidade e a investigação do roubo de um novilho são encenados por um grupo de brincantes, com mamulengos e máscaras.

Like other Ventoforte productions, [a sort of metatheatricality] predominates in the play, which is staged in the theater’s backyard. Conflicts in a dispute for the attentions of the most beautiful lady in the town and an investigation into the theft of a calf are portrayed by a group of festive players using puppets and masks.

Poor Benedito.

He schemes so hard to win the heart of naughty Marieta, risking life and limb, and it all comes to naught in the end.

The play is actually staged in a sort of warehouse, whose space is used in an extremely creative manner.

The players joke constantly about the precarious nature of their infrastucture (there is a fictional electrical blackout at the close of the second act, and a generator requisitioned in the name of Art from a TV Globo soap opera is used to complete the third act.)

Ilo is an ancient, Argentina-born naturalized Brazilian who also, we hear from the poor players at the end, does Yiddish theater.

My wife took dance and movement classes at Ventoforte in the 1980s and has many stories to tell about it, over an (overpriced, watered-down) Jack Daniels on the rocks at a (unbearably creepy) local night spot known (absurdly) as Milk & Mellow, with a parking lot full of up-armored SUVs and an army of leões de chácara costumed as Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard.

The local city government has reportedly given up trying to dislodge the theater from its squatted premises with riot police (2006) and given it a grant.

I am still sketchy on the details.

Reading up on the local scene at the Web site of the local theater cooperative.

Teatro Ventoforter.
Brig. Haroldo Veloso, 150, Itaim Bibi, tel. 3078-1072.
60 lugares. Sex.: 21h. Sáb.: 20h. Dom.: 19h. Até 6/4. Ingr.: R$ 15

The local Indymedia circulated a letter in defense of the company in January 2006.

Eu não entendi a interdição do Teatro Ventoforte no Parque do Povo. Talvez o Senhor não se lembre ou conheça pouco a história do Teatro Brasileiro; mas o grupo ventoforte, juntamente com o seu mestre Ilo Krugli, tem dado uma contribuição de grande relevância no panorama artístico brasileiro.

I do not understand the forced closure of the Teatro Ventoforte in the People’s Park. Maybe you [Mayor “Diamond Joe” Quimby] do not remember or are not very familiar with the history of theater in Brazil, but the Ventoforte group, along with its director, Ilo Krugli, has made a very important contribution to the Brazilian artistic scene.

É um dos grupos mais respeitados, premiados e que vem de muito tempo dando vida aos teatros do Brasil, seja pela a capacidade de nos fazer emocionar até chegar as lágrimas, através de sua poesia e música, como também pelo o respeito as crianças e aos jovens com seu teatro inteligente e desbravador.

It is one of the most highly respected and award-winning and has for many years been giving life to Brazilian theaters, with its capacity to move us to tears, with its poetry and music, with its respect for children and young people and its intelligent and peace-loving theater.

Prefeito, vai ficar muito feio para o senhor e seu partido se a sua gestão jogar na sarjeta um grupo como esse. Saiba que nós, cidadãos da classe artística, estamos de olho e não vamos medir esforços para trazer de volta à comunidade, esse espaço de expressão: autêntico e vivo.

[Mayor Quimby,] it is going to be really ugly for you and your party if you throw a theater group like this out into the gutter. You should that we citizen artists are watching and will spare no effort to restore this authentic and lively space of artistic expression to the community.

Vou contar-lhe uma história verdadeira que aconteceu com o Teatro Brasileiro em 1974:

I am going to tell you a true story about Brazilian theater in 1974:

Um Mestre chamado Ilo Krugli foi convidado para fazer um espetáculo em 15 dias e se apresentar no Festival de Curitiba, pois bem, deste convite nasceu um dos espetáculos mais bonito para crianças e adultos assistirem; Um divisor de águas para o teatro no Brasil, segundo os críticos.

A director named Ilo Krugli was invited to put on a show within 15 days to be presented at the Curitiba Festival, and from this invitation was born one of the loveliest progams ever for children and adults to attend. It was a watershed moment for Brazilian theater, the critics say.

Este espetáculo é chamado “Histórias de Lenços e Ventos”, que inclusive foi proibido pela a ditadura militar, da qual o senhor padeceu e, desse espetáculo, nasceu o Grupo Ventoforte, atualmente nos honrando muito estando em São Paulo e no Parque do povo.

The show was called [“Stories of Sheets and Winds”] …Probably a reference to Caetano Veloso’s hit song “Alegria Alegria,” from roughly the same period.

Caminhando contra o vento
Sem lenço, sem documento

… and was even banned by the military dictatorship, under which you yourself suffered, and from this show the Ventoforte group was born, whose presence still honors us in São Paulo and [“People’s Park.”]
I believe that José Serra was still mayor of São Paulo’s capital city at the time.

The 2002 presidential candidate broke a campaign promise and stood for governor that year.

It is true that Serra, a respected free-market economist (Marxist dogma is all very well, but what of monetary policy? what of supply-chain optimization? what of the measurement of results?) from the same intellectual circles as former President Cardoso, nearly faced a firing squad at that infamous soccer stadium in Santiago de Chile.
Think Missing, by Costa-Gavras, with Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek (1982).

Sem mais

That’s all.

One of the most shocking things to read about in (the 2007 Esso Prize-winning) Lucas Figueiredo’s The Ministry of Silence was the state-sponsored terrorist bombing campaign against theaters and musical shows in that period.
Culminating in the botched terrorist bombing of the Riocentro in May 1980.

The idea was to splatter and scatter a good portion of the 20,000 people in attendance and blame it on (phantom) Commie insurgents.

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Ilo, 1999. Source: CBTIJ (Brazilian Center for Youth and Children’s Theater)


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