Director Eliana Monteiro and assistant director Maria Emilia work with actor Bruna Freitag during a Teatro da Vertigem rehearsal
During one of my final weeks in Brazil, I was able to accompany Teatro da Vertigem to the Festival de Arte Serrinha, an arts festival in the interior of São Paulo state. Four company members led a workshop in developing theatrical pieces. They tried to condense their years-long processes into one week to teach students some techniques for collaboratively creating and presenting site-specific works.
The first day, company members discussed the history of Teatro da Vertigem with students. Though I had read about the group’s productions, this was a wonderful opportunity for me to hear them describe the processes of each piece and their personal experiences rehearsing and performing them. They traced how each piece had evolved from a theme and concept to a performance. To mirror this, they chose the themes of waiting and skin for the workshop in Serrinha. For each piece in Vertigem’s repertoire, they explained how each performance space had been selected. They emphasized the importance of a space’s history—the ghosts that stay in the walls of a room and how the space “contaminates” the actors, the play, and even the spectators. For example, during performances of O Livro de Jó (The Book of Job), which took place in a disused hospital, spectators would occasionally faint and comment on the smell of ether. However, company members explained that the space no longer had the smell of ether; it was the spectators’ associations with hospitals combined with performance that made them sensorially experience the memory of a smell as real. The company members’ use of the image of contamination to describe a particular kind of relationship between the internal space of the actors’ and spectators’ bodies and the external space surrounding them fascinates me. It emphasizes the porousness of the border between these two areas and stresses the dynamic exchange between interior and exterior of the body in Vertigem’s work.
MA Candidate, Gallatin