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This is Dito e Feito, a Teatro do Bairro Alto podcast where talking is a way of doing and vice-versa. It is not published on a regular basis and has different formats. It sometimes closely follows the programme; at times not so much; and at other times not at all.
My name is Laura Lopes. I curate performing arts at TBA. In this episode, choreographer João Fiadeiro talks to Italian artist Alessandro Sciarroni, the author of the solo piece Chroma_don’t be frightened of turning the page, which will be presented at the opening of Teatro do Bairro Alto on October 11, 12 and 13. The first weekend at TBA also features the performance HideBehind, by Brazilian choreographer Josefa Pereira, and the lecture Poetry and Chaos, by Italian philosopher Franco “Bifo” Berardi.
Sciarroni met Fiadeiro while studying on the Erasmus programme in Lisbon. We will listen to them talking fifteen years after that first encounter. The talk will be held in English.
João Fiadeiro Are we on? What I did was to go back to some of your work, which was very helpful. The shows, the performances, I was very excited about it. For me, it’s very rewarding and very beautiful to witness a proposition that has the kind of clarity—and the kind of simplicity at the same time—of what you are proposing. I was curious about the version that we will be seeing next week. I understood that you have two versions (I’m curious to see it live, because I saw it on video) and how important is this other layer.
Alessandro Sciarroni The parallel dramaturgy with the lights.
JF Right. And the sound? Is it also more complex?
AS The sound is the same. It’s called Chroma, the version we’re going to present at Teatro do Bairro Alto, because the chromatic aspect of the piece is quite important in that version. The subtitle is don’t be frightened of turning the page. It works for both versions, but one with do like in Cartaxo or in galleries with a natural light, and we call it only don’t be frightened of turning the page. I’m happy that you’re saying that, because I was approaching your work many, many years ago [laughter], and I remember the first time I found your name it was because I was very passionate about visual arts and performance art, and all of that kind of artists that were close to that territory or inside that territory.
JF Working in the frontier.
AS Yeah. I think that in that moment of my artistic life (as an artist, but also as a student, because the first time I arrived in Lisbon I was a student of art history) I had a kind of misunderstanding about performing arts, because I thought that a certain type of contemporary dance or contemporary theatre was using the same language of performances that were presented in galleries. I remember the truth at that time was these two worlds were almost not communicating.
JF Performing arts?
AS Yeah. And contemporary dance and theatre. Nowadays everything is more mixed, everything is completely different, but at that time… I remember I was studying…
JF Helena Almeida?
AS Helena Almeida, of course. And I was a huge fan of body art and that historical period from the 1960s and 70s. But I was only studying these performances in books. So I didn’t know how was the rhythm of that kind of performance.
JF And the actual experience.
AS Yeah. I remember that I came to you, because I was writing this essay on Helena Almeida, and I was making you a lot of questions (you probably don’t remember), and treating your work as a visual work, como um trabalho plástico, não?
JF Sim, sim.
AS I remember that you were a little bit… Not disappointed, of course not, you were being very gentle with me, but really explaining to me that that was not…
JF That’s very interesting. When we met in Paris (two years ago, I think), you said that maybe you would look for this essay and if you’d find it, you’d send it to me.
AS Yeah. I have it.
JF I’m very curious.
AS I forgot to bring it. I’m so stupid.
JF No. We have time. When I was involved in the project of Helena Almeida, when I somehow embodied, not so much her work, but her way, or her modus operandi, her process, I was doing it from the perspective—or from the heritage—of the choreography, from the dance. I was very fascinated with her work, being for me an example of what could be a choreography, let’s say. Of course, she didn’t have this in mind, but I took it from this angle. Even Delfim Sardo, who was the curator who invited me to work from Helena’s imaginary, his first proposal was that I would perform in a gallery. I think it was maybe in the same period that we met. I said: “No. I really want to approach her universe from the choreography point of view, so I need to be on the stage, because that’s my place.” But actually, since then (this was like twenty years ago), I came closer, and I do recognise in your work this line of thought or this approach towards performance and towards the relation of the dispositive and the way a visual artist’s thinking is behind every dramaturgic decision that is being taken. It was such an amazing work of depuração [refinement], of taking the excess. You can feel in the proposition that there’s a lot of work inside on taking out, because no one arrives at something so simple and clear without a big process of saying no to things. What remains is what cannot be out. The context, of course, activates another layer, which no one can control, not even you. Many of the actions that you did with your arms, for instance, that in a theatre would have a certain outcome, meaning. The one I remember best is of course the gun, but all the others, even actions that somehow look like something, but then they’re not, and then they become something else in the context of the arena. Then you travel, your imaginary travels. Like the way you stopped, which is the way you stop also in the theatre piece, but there you had something else, which was with your arms almost like as if you are in front of a pelotão de fuzilamento [firing squad], which somehow also reminds this face-to-face relation that the touro [bull] has with the forcado [bullfighter]. This has to do with things that no one controls and emerge. I’m a true believer in this proportional relationship between simplicity, precision and openness of the imaginary, which I think in your work is very obvious.
AS Yesterday, for me, it was a very different journey. When I was spinning, there were the layers of the tribune. The place, the building had different colours. It was red and white, red and white, red and white. So, when I was spinning, they became horizontal lines, and I was almost hallucinated by that. [laughter] It was really strong, and it is another of the things that I discovered.
JF You didn’t anticipate.
AS No, no. The premiere of this piece was already two or three years ago, and we did it already a few times.
JF Also group versions?
AS Yeah, and I know how to train it, so I don’t do exactly a general rehearsal when I arrive at a new space. I also like to leave a little open window to whatever can happen there. The name of the project is Turning, which in English besides spinning means also changing, evolving. The idea was that was I was going to make a series of pieces about that. I was thinking about the body that turns around its own axis, but in every piece there are different performers, different musicians, different designers.
JF You call it The Turning Project.
AS Yeah. The one that you saw and that we are going to present at Teatro do Bairro Alto is the solo version. We did a version for Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon, and we did another version that premiered this year always with ballet dancers who are spinning on pointe shoes.
JF So the first version was not a solo.
AS Actually it’s a very long story, because everything was born in a project that was called Migrant Bodies. It was a European project, but with some Canadian partners. The first year, I was invited just to go to all these places in Italy, in Croatia, in France, in Quebec and in British Columbia to receive information about migration. Immigration of human beings. In Zagreb, for example, we went to visit and to talk with the people who were working in a centre of first assistance for refugees. But it was also migration in a wide sense. For example, in Canada, we were studying the migration of salmons; in Croatia, the migration of the storks. Especially studying the migration of animals, I realised how the routes are very circular. If you think about the salmon, he is born in a river. Then, he has his first migration. He has a physical mutation that allows it to change from the water of the river to the water of the sea. They spend most of their lives in the sea, and when they feel that it’s time they have another physical mutation to go back in the river, and they go back exactly to where they were born. They reproduce themselves, and they die after a while. So I was starting to think about the circular movement of these migrations. Also some birds. And I was intrigued in that moment to create a series of works that were just having one action for the whole duration of the piece. I asked myself, “What is the movement of the migration?”, and I said, of course, “A circle”. So I went to a studio, and I said, “Let me try”, but I don’t have ballet training, I never did it before in my life, and I didn’t want to know, for example, why they do it in the Sufi dance or how is the technique. So I just went to a studio, and I just started spinning, and it was horrible.
JF For sure, the first time you were not able to stay for a long time.
AS Yeah. It took me a long time to understand how to avoid getting dizzy. I remember once I had to do an open sharing, I had to show 10 minutes. I was already working for two months, but I had a fever, so I called a friend of mine who is a dancer, and I told him “Would you like to…”
JF Substitute me.
AS Yeah. “I’m not able to do that.” He was very sure of himself. He came to the studio, and I explained to him how it was, but I was not able to teach it. He tried, and after five minutes he went to the toilet and started puking. He felt bad for two days. Then, in that moment, I had a click in my brain, like: “OK, I have to do that. I don’t have any excuses any more.” And from that moment I never got dizzy anymore.
JF Somehow, you told your body: “That’s it”.
AS I think so.
JF When you share with the students, for instance, in the summer school, what do you say?
AS When I learned it, I thought I was able to teach it, but I was not, because I didn’t have the right words to explain my process. It took me another group of five girls who I was working with. I did experiments with them, tried to teach them, but after one week they were not able to, and I was not able to explain how. Then, one day, I remember I took a glass of water, and I said to them, “Let’s try now to think that this glass of water are the liquids that you have in your brain and that the glass is your head. So, when you spin”, I said, “you have to imagine that the level of the water stays horizontal and doesn’t do waves.” After they visualised this…
JF Did you show it?
AS Yes, I showed. It needs to stay horizontal. This is the first information that I do. And then the dancers start practising, putting a hand in front of their eyes to establish this horizontal relationship with the gaze. Then, little by little, they are free to let it go and to discover the same feeling. Just feeling that the room is spinning around.
JF I’m sure it also has a lot to do with trusting that your body will know.
AS Yeah. Actually, you have to be brave from one point of view. But at the same time, you have to play safe, because once you feel that you start getting dizzy, or that you start having nausea, you have to stop, because it’s not going to get better. You have to try again after a few hours.
JF So, this work in particular was not a work that came from research that you were already developing. It was like a coincidence. Someone asked you, and you kind of started digging in.
AS Actually, for me, that’s the best way sometimes, because it pushes you to start researches on things that you would never do on your own. Like I’d never start a research about migration. Such a huge…
JF I understand that. You, for sure, but I have both experiences. It’s very challenging when you have restrictions, someone offering you restrictions, which become a pretext for you to discover things of your own interest around the subject that is not something that you would explore. And this also happened with your previous trilogy, your previous project [Folk-s] will you still love me tomorrow? Or this was more a consequence? Because, from what I knew (and now that I read a little bit more), in all three projects that are part of this trilogy, Folk-s, Aurora and Untitled, what you do is you bring practises that already…
JF …exist, and you reframe them.
AS The first piece that I did was Folk-s. It was about this folk dance from Tyrol that is called Schuhplattler. I knew, because there are many clichés connected to that dance. You imagine these people from the mountain, drinking beer, and doing these stupid jokes, and screaming, and you know… In a way, it’s true. [laughter]
JF [laughter] Like every cliché.
AS I was very fascinated with the dance. I thought that, if I was removing the folk music, there was something very mysterious in that dance. And then, just by chance, I was talking about this to a programmer, and he told me, “I love this region, I love this dance”, and then he introduced me to a real company. We went to South Tyrol that (after the first world war) is now an Italian region. Before it used to be Austria, so they don’t really like to be Italians now. It was like this dance was crossing many controversial aspects of history as well. Also the concept of tradition is quite controversial. When I got there, I discovered that the dance is very old. The first time they wrote about this dance it was the year 1050, so it’s super old.
JF And it goes from generation to generation.
AS Exactly. And it’s still alive. It’s not something that they only do for tourists. It’s something they really teach to the new generations, and they have their own rules. Like, if you were not born in that little village, you are not allowed to be part of that company. We were very naïve. Every time I approached a new work, I was asking them if they wanted to teach me, and they said, “No, because you were not born here.” They also explained to me that, once you get married, you don’t dance anymore, because actually it’s some kind of acrobatic dance to show off to the women. So once you get married, you don’t dance anymore.
JF You don’t need anymore to be acrobatic.
AS Then I went back to my house. I was very depressed. I wrote another e-mail and I… Because I really wanted to be blessed in a way by them. It was very important. Even though it’s Italy now, I didn’t want to make an appropriation about that, you know? And I really wanted to establish a collaboration. So I just asked them, “If we learn on our own, would you like to give us feedback, like to say yes or to say no?”
JF That’s interesting. It’s a little bit the same approach you have with the glass of water.
JF First, you are blind. Then, you’re depressed. [laughter] And then you find a plan B, a way to… That’s great.
AS Yeah. And actually we went there, and there was one Spanish boy, one girl in the group. We were feeling like showing a piece about Catholicism to the Pope. We were really shaking. They were impressed, because we were dancing without music. For them it was even more difficult to maintain the unison without the reference of the music. I think something very beautiful happened. The programmer decided to programme both pieces, the traditional one from the company and my piece.
JF That’s great. So they were generally impressed with the work you guys did?
JF Just a parenthesis. I’m performing sometimes with Boris Charmatz in this…
AS I know.
JF … 20 Dancers for the XX Century, and the last time, someone was performing…
AS In Switzerland, no?
JF Marco. Yes, Marco. He was performing from the piece. Just now I’m connecting both, because we didn’t have so much time to exchange. I was wondering why Tyrol, and now I realise.
AS I was supposed to be there, but I was not available, so I asked Marco to go, and he was very happy.
JF Sorry, it was just a parenthesis. The trilogy. Aurora and Untitled. You applied the same modus operandi?
AS No, because every practise has its own nature in a way. For example, Folk-s: the piece that came out was a super strange format, because I thought I was in front of a huge subject—tradition—and I asked myself when is tradition going to finish, if it’s going to finish one day. In particular, this tradition that is very alive. The answer, of course, is that we don’t know, but in a philosophical way the answer could be that the dance is going to finish when no one is going to be able to practise it anymore or…
JF Out of exhaustion or…? I know, not in that case.
AS I was thinking in general. When no one is able to dance anymore, it’s going to be extinguished. Or if no one is going to be there to witness anymore the dance, it’s like the dance doesn’t exist anymore.
AS So, in the piece, the proposal that we do to the audience is that we take the microphone at the beginning, and we announce that we are going to dance until there is going to be at least one person in the audience watching the performance, or at least there will be one dancer on the stage dancing. So we did pieces from one hour and fifteen minutes of duration (that was the shortest one) to three hours, and ninety per cent of the pieces composed in real time.
JF So exhaustion is a factor.
AS Yeah. We wrote the rules—we call it Manifesto Folk-s—for the performance. One of the rules is that when you feel that you start thinking about the choreography, and you start thinking about what is happening next, maybe because you’re too tired, it’s time for you to be honest with the others and to leave the performance. This is one of the rules. Probably because this format was so weird for many people, I felt there were a lot of expectations [laughter]. The next piece was about the practise of juggling, classical juggling. It was just a fifty-minute performance.
JF I saw it, and it’s amazing.
AS Thank you.
JF It’s amazing. I’m a big fan, I have to say.
JF I am, I am. I’m a big fan. You know, it’s great that Teatro do Bairro Alto organised this meeting, because of course I knew you and I knew about your work, but now I had to dig in a little bit, and I feel very connected. It’s beautiful.
AS You know, I was shaking yesterday when I saw you in the audience. When I come here to Lisbon, I have a lot of déjà-vu…
JF Is it your first time after…?
AS No. Actually, we did the interview not twenty years ago, but I think fifteen years ago, because I came back to write my essay. So that was the moment when I was interviewing you. The piece I Am Here.
JF It was 2003. You came what? 2000?
AS No, I came here the first time in 1999. And then we did the interview around 2004, 2005.
JF Oh, it was more or less exactly when I did the work.
AS Exactly. When we did the interview together fifteen years ago, I quit my job as a performer (because I was working as an actor for an Italian contemporary theatre company for nine years), and I didn’t know exactly what to do. And I still hadn’t done a piece. I was only working directed and choreographed by others. When I came here and I was talking with you, I took a little bit of time. I spent here two months more, because I wanted just to write and to avoid thinking about the future. It was an important moment. I was very fascinated with what you were doing. So for me what you’re saying is very important. [laughter] I don’t want to become pathetic. It was an idea from Teatro do Bairro Alto. They just asked me, “Who would you like to make this talk with?” I wasn’t even thinking about you, because I would never dare to ask you [laughter]. No, really, I’m honest.
JF In the podcast you cannot see, but here’s a…
AS You gave me this fifteen years ago. [laughter]
JF [laughter] It’s already done. It’s the catalogue of I Am Here.
AS I know, I know. It’s beautiful.
JF I realised that, when I was watching your earlier work, you have this piece called Cowboys, which has Helena Almeida somehow, no?
AS Which was kind of inspired by Helena Almeida, because of the work she did with the mirrors. This was 2009, I think.
JF And also the colours on the floor, right?
AS The colours, yeah. It’s like a kind of Mondrian… Yeah, you’re right, I was not thinking about the colours of Helena Almeida. In that case, Chroma comes back, because I was reading this book by Derek Jarman that is called Chroma. It’s a kind of theory about colours that he wrote. If you have the chance to read it, please do it, it’s beautiful. He wrote this book when he was almost blind, because, you know, he died of AIDS in 1999, and before leaving, he wrote this theory about colours and it’s very moving.
JF Okay. I will do that.
AS I regret that I never saw I Am Here live. I saw it in video.
JF I came back to it now, and actually it’s something else I wanted to ask you. One thing I have a tendency to do a lot is to take a work and do another version of it, and then another version, and then a lecture-performance, and then it becomes site-specific, and then I make a durational work, and then… So I really enjoy not to end the work in the premiere as if that’s it. I can see that you have some…
JF You do have different versions for the same work.
AS I remember that when we were talking fifteen years ago you were already talking about something very bright compared to this piece now that was connected to this performance. It was more a lecture, I think.
JF Right. It was called I Was Here. A lecture-performance. But now I have another project called I Am (Not) Here.
AS Really? [laughter]
JF [laughter] And now that I came back to this work after almost fifteen or more years, I’m not calling it I Am Here, I’m calling it I Am Here (Recovered). This notion that the final version of the work is always one of the possibilities. It’s hard for me just to accept that I will not explore other formats. I was wondering if for you it is the same, but for me one of the motivations to work with this expanded form of relating with the material that I have is because I need to provide different environments for the audience to access the proposition. Like different scales, if you wish. I think it’s quite fascinating, but also important, to watch something from very far, for instance, but what would be the experience if you could almost touch me or smell me? I don’t think I need to do another work to try this. I can do it in the same work. I just have to reorganise the dispositive. Also because I’m always in a big conflict with the tyranny of the way the public normally is obliged to be in that fixed position in a seat. I’m not sure if for you this is a question or not. Anyway, if we think about visual arts, and if we think about the position of the spectator as a visitor… My perfect spectator is when the spectator becomes a visitor—in the theatre, but becomes a visitor. I feel that these different versions have this kind of…
AS Even if you’re working in a traditional space? Like, I remember this was performed in CCB, no?
JF Yeah. This was a traditional space.
AS I mean, do you consider the spectator as a visitor also in that situation?
JF Well, this makes the challenge even more complex. Of course, if I take the spectator out of the theatre, it becomes easier. If I go to a gallery, for instance. But if I preserve the theatre and provide a different type of experience, I think that’s a big challenge. One of my last works was actually very much connected with the notion of exhaustion. The performers were running around the theatre until they got exhausted, and they would come into the theatre, where the audience was kind of waiting for them to perform, with this condition: only when you are honest and you are exhausted, you come in. Then you would kind of perform for one minute and a half, and then of course your body would become again ready, you’d have to go. The idea was to provide the audience with a constant presence of exhaustion, like on the edge of collapse.
AS This is what you were doing in Paris when we met two years ago.
JF Yes, exactly, when we met two years ago. So I feel very, very connected with your propositions and the way you approach time, duration, the spectator, this frontier that you were mentioning, this very delicate frontier between visitor and spectator, or [between] visual arts and performing arts.
AS I don’t make a conscious reflection about that normally, except for Folk-s, where the format is a little bit different from other works. I remember we did an open sharing of the materials of the folk dance. It was that kind of weird situation where you are asked to perform in the opening of an exhibition—your work is some kind of collateral event, and everyone is waiting for the drink. [laughter] Do you know that feeling?
JF Yeah, I know.
AS I remember that, after thirty minutes, I was kind of shocked, not because I was watching people that were getting bored and bored watching my piece, but because they were very polite, and they didn’t want to leave. They just stayed there thirty minutes watching something that was not interesting at all for them, looking at their watch. [laughter] I think that’s also the moment I got the idea that it was frustrating the fact that people were obliged to stay there, because of some kind of ceremony.
AS Some kind of protocol, exactly. In this piece (I didn’t tell you that), once we reveal the rule, the task, the fact that the piece is going to go on as long as we have at least one person, we also announce that whoever wants to leave the space—being us or being them—will not be allowed to come back again. That’s the thing, and I think it’s very important. It’s funny: just because you have this information, you sit in a different way on the chair. [laughter] Then, when you have to leave, when you decide to leave, it’s really a decision. I was very happy about the result, because once you get bored, it’s your choice to get bored. It’s not because my… You know.
JF There’s no extra force. No convention.
AS Exactly. It’s interesting, because there are some people who, after five minutes of listening to this announcement, leave. [laughter]
JF [laughter] Oh yeah?
AS Yeah. Sometimes, if you go to this country where people are very direct, you can have twenty-five people leaving after only ten minutes. It’s crazy. But sometimes, no one has the courage. It’s still fascinating.
JF Yeah, it is. This negotiation with the audience, the negotiation with the architecture of the plays, and the negotiation with the expectations of the programmers and our own expectations, of course, is fascinating. I mean, sometimes it’s very painful, but that’s the work. Partially, that’s the work. It’s this mediation between what we have to offer, or what we have to say and all these forces that are coming from different places.
AS I saw that you closed the space.
JF Yeah. It was a very sad, but at the same time very strong moment. When we did the interview, was it in the space?
AS Yeah. REAL.
JF We are going to be thirty years next year, and we stayed fifteen years in that place. Since 2004. So maybe it was right at the beginning, when you came. It was very hard, but at the same time we ended with dignity, if we can say. It’s also time. In my case, I think it’s a cycle. If we can talk about circular movements and cycles, it’s clearly a cycle that closes. I’m not exactly sure what will be next, but I’m also happy with not being sure, because it gives me… I mean, what you just said when you experienced those two months in Lisbon, when you needed not to know, not to think. That’s where I feel I am at the moment. It’s a big heritage, it’s a big past that we have build, and now we have to digest this information and move forward. I will be also presenting at Teatro do Bairro Alto in January, so somehow that doesn’t mean that I’m away of the circuits, but it’ll be a totally different relationship. I’m not sure if you’ll be performing first or after Josefa Pereira.
AS I don’t know.
JF You don’t know yet? If you have a chance one of the days (of course, if you are the second, it might be difficult), watch her performance. Of course it’s not by chance that you are together, but it’s almost as if someone gave you the same, let’s say, enunciation, and asked you to solve the same equation. She solved it in one way, you solved it in another way. It’s a quite interesting programme to see two versions of the same question. It’s very nice.
AS Yeah, I’m curious. Sometimes, when I’m curious, I watch the other pieces also. If I’m after. Sometimes, I did it. If I can ask, what’s your idea—if you have one—about company?
JF For many years, the notion of company has disappeared from my vocabulary. You mean, like a group or whatever?
JF In the 1990s, the notion of company was still present. I had some groups or some performers and collaborators who I kind of kept. They were present for a long time. This constituted somehow a company. Then slowly we moved towards the notion of projects. I stopped choreographing for six years. From 2008 to 2014, I was completely absent. Then I came back, and I restarted the activity as a choreographer, and I worked with the same group more or less for five or six years, until last year. We can say it works like a company, but it’s clearly completely different, because a company suggests—at least in my imaginary—an idea of hierarchy, and clearly we were trying something else. It is always a big question, of course, because my name is the one that is in the programme. I will sign the piece somehow. I think we solved that contradiction by saying that the affect, the thing that makes us be together comes somehow from the things that affect me, but that’s all. It’s a lot, of course, but that’s all. After that, once we kind of agree on that, then we work together. If we perceive the name “company” in the sense of “being together, then yes. João dos Santos Martins, who is a younger choreographer from Portugal, he did a piece very recently called Companhia and he was referring to that. It’s quite amazing, because it’s a very contemporary question. In one way, it’s not about pure horizontality, in the sense of collaboration without any kind of direction. On the other hand, for sure it’s not verticality. It’s something else, and this something else of course is less stable, in the sense that you cannot close it in a certain brand or logo. That’s why it’s also very fascinating, because we have to constantly negotiate the inevitable tensions that emerge in any collaborative process, but we don’t give up on the idea of preserving the search for a fairer relationship, consensus or at least consent relationship. “If you don’t know, why do you ask?” This is a beautiful phrase by David Tudor, from the book Silence, by John Cage. So why do you ask? You must be thinking about this.
AS Because I remember that you created a method of composition. It’s called composição em tempo real [real time composition], and different artists were approaching this method. So I thought that, not under your name, but connected to your name there was also an idea of company that is the collaboration with other artists that doesn’t have to do exactly or directly with one of your productions, but also… You know?
JF Yeah. Real time composition emerged exactly to somehow answer this question: What is a company? We didn’t put it like that, but what is to work together? What is to live together, work together? How can we share time/space without necessarily falling into the traps of autoridade [authority], but at the same time not be afraid of authorship? Throughout the whole process of research around this method or system, the question was always the same: How can we find a common platform? Almost like an invisible field that allows us to be together. A little bit like a conversation, like this one. There is an invisible field somehow between us that allows us to sustain the relationship or the conversation. Of course, sometimes this works without any need of methods or any need of investigation, but if you want to transform it into a tool, and if you want somehow to share this tool and discuss this tool, then of course you have to systematise and find the vocabulary, and what then becomes a kind of method. Do you have a method yourself? Can you recognise in your work the repetition of a modus operandi?
AS Yes. Absolutely. Sometimes, I’m frustrated, because I feel like I’m already repeating something that I was already passing through. I’m never happy [laughter]. My situation in Italy is quite strange, because actually we decided to stay independent. It’s not easy for me also to define my situation as a company, because in fact I prefer to think more as a collaboration with other artists. But we never apply to the ministry of culture, so we don’t receive money from the ministry of culture. First of all, because you receive very little, and you have to give back so much. You have to produce something every year. For me, it’s horrible. It can happen. One year, I did three new shows. But Aurora, for example, took us three years to finish the production, because it was very difficult to find the right people, you know? So I don’t really get that. What’s happening in Italy is that companies that are applying to this have to do seventy shows in one year to receive this money. So basically companies are working to create also fake dates. It’s crazy. I don’t want that. Besides that, money is arriving one, two years after the premiere. [laughter] What are companies doing?
JF It’s even worse than in Portugal. We thought that we were…
AS You have to go to the bank and ask for money, and then pay the debt that you have in the bank. It’s very…
JF It’s very stressful.
AS What many companies or artists are doing is creating some kind of collective association so they can share these seventy dates, they can share the bureaucratic aspect of making the application. It’s good in a way, but I decided not to do that. So, when I have an idea, or an intuition, I just talk with my strong collaborator, and we start knocking on the doors of producers and festivals. In this way it’s harder, because you will never know until the end if you find everything, but it makes us free.
JF Now the prize of the Bienal de Veneza [Venice Biennale] must help a little bit, no? Have you felt already the consequences? Not yet?
AS No. The Biennale of Venice is a huge institution, but it is also true that the dance and theatre section and the music section are less fancy than the cinema and the visual arts section. I think outside Italy this prize for dance is not very known as well. So I don’t think it’s going to change anything, thinking about the outside of Italy. It’s true that in Italy I was not very visible, and now I start receiving invitations from Italian theatres. Maybe it’s going to change something there, but still we’re very happy the way we are working. And I’m also associated with other artists, just because I have this association. I like to help them from an administration point of view, from a dramaturgical point of view, if they want to. But that’s it.
JF Sharing resources.
AS Yeah. We don’t have a space, we don’t have an office, we don’t live in the same city, we don’t meet. Maybe because when I grew up as an actor I was working in one of these huge companies where you just do everything together and you work only for them.
JF So now you’re doing like the opposite.
AS Yeah. I didn’t really want to go there.
JF Yesterday, you mentioned to me very fast that the only performance you saw in Lisbon, or one of the few, was at Teatro da Cornucópia. This is very nice that you’re coming back to the same… Because also you were mentioning that you’re having many flashbacks.
AS Actually, I was talking with someone three days ago and he told me, “You know that Teatro do Bairro Alto once used to be called Teatro da Cornucópia. It was the theatre of Luís Miguel Cintra.” And all of a sudden I remembered that I know who is Luís Miguel Cintra and I have been there.
JF Which work did you see?
AS Afabulação [Fabrication], by Pasolini. I remember I discovered that there was this show. I was working in this company as a young actor. Then I quit for one year, because I came here to Portugal. But I had a dossier about this company. I discovered this theatre, and I went there just to see if maybe they were doing some workshops, and I had this dossier. I remember I opened the door, and Luís Miguel Cintra was there. I didn’t even know who he was, and I just…
JF Gave the dossier.
AS Yeah. Then I saw the poster, the billboard of Afabulação. With a friend of mine, who is Italian as well, we decided to go there to watch the show. It was exactly twenty years ago, because I was twenty-three and now I’m forty-three. I realised this just three days ago.
JF We were talking before about your performance yesterday and how we could notice the phantoms of the bulls, experiencing the bull arena. Here in Teatro da Cornucópia or Teatro do Bairro Alto is quite…
AS Full of ghosts.
JF Full of ghosts, and you’ll be the first one with Josefa to start to enter in dialogue with those ghosts. I know from Teatro do Bairro Alto’s team that it’s not about creating a rupture with the past, but also not about hanging to this information, but the ghosts are there for sure. It’s very important that we keep a healthy conversation with our ghosts, and it’s really beautiful that somehow you’re able also to close this cycle. Not to close, but to pass through this place again in a completely different moment of your life. If we would believe in external forces, this would be a very strong sign. [laughter]
AS The same thing is going to happen in twenty years. [laughter]
JF Yeah, let’s see that. [laughter] I hope we don’t meet in twenty years again. We have to make it a little bit shorter.
AS We’ll see [each other] next week maybe.
JF Oh, yes, for sure. I’ll be there.
AS This week, no?
JF This week. I will be there to watch your show, for sure. I’m really glad that we had this opportunity.
AS Thank you for this chat. Can I keep this?
JF Of course, it’s for you.
AS Thank you. I’m talking about the catalogue of I Am Here that of course people who are listening to this don’t see, but I see and I have it in my hands. Thank you.
JF Thank you, Alessandro.
Dito e Feito is a Teatro do Bairro Alto podcast. Fisga Studio did the recording and Sara Morais the editing. The music is by Raw Forest. Follow TBA on social media and at teatrodobairroalto.pt.