Note from BW of Brazil: I would really LOVE to see this play! As we’ve seen in numerous previous posts, theater is an area where it seems that black actors and actresses are making their presence felt in ways that are simply not possible on television or in film. And like American television series that have been directly imported into Brazilian homes with Portuguese overdubs, it is very common to see American and other non-Brazilian films/plays being re-cast in Brazil as plays or musicals. The BW of Brazil blog has featured just a few of these re-creations, such as Sister Act, The Lion King, and The Mountaintop.
Now comes a classic of American cinema, but with an extra twist. The original film, 1970’s Love Story, has been completely remade with an all-black cast! It’ll great to see a theater production featuring black actors and actresses in which the theme doesn’t speak of racial issues. What is pretty much normal on Brazilian television in general is that when black guests or speakers are featured, particularly on talk shows, the issue frequently has to be about race. Of course, race is the primary topic of this very blog, but this is perhaps the only blog that discusses issues from the racial perspective in Brazil that is published in English. In a truly egalitarian society, there wouldn’t even be a necessity of speaking of topics such race, class and gender. But even within the context of racial inequality, one of the main problems that impedes the idea of equality is the fact that citizens simply can’t look at the society without through these categorical lenses and believe that things are normal.
To put it in more simple terms, although racism clearly influences the experiences of black populations globally, it does NOT summarize the existence of an entire people. Like any other group, black people fall in love, brush their teeth, put butter on their bread, crack jokes and go shopping like everyone else. But by excluding these everyday occurrences of a regular life, it becomes a scandal when these everyday events are portrayed by only black people in the media. It becomes a scandal when black people are seen in areas or positions in which they are deemed “out of their place”. Which is the very reason that musicals such as the one featured in today’s post are so necessary. But also, as it doesn’t deal specifically with black issues, should this piece be considered “black theater”? Hmmm…Something to think about. The only thing that would have put icing on this cake would have been seeing the entire production, technical crew, director, etc. being black as well. After all, we know the talent is there! Oh well, one day! For now, if you’re in Rio and have the chance, check this play out!
Play about a famous love story features an entire cast of black actors
By Solange Reis
Imagine this: a theater director begins the selection of actors for a musical and notes that 70% of those registered for the auditions are black, which corresponded to the great majority of participants. During this period, this same director receives a call from a friend, asking if, in the production he leads, there is a role for a “black actor”. With that, he realizes a reality we already know: there are no defined roles for white actors but for black professionals, always.
In this scenario, the director then decides, in his play, the cast will be of only atores….negros! (black actors)! And he responds to those who say that this is segregation, that they remember all the casts seen to date that only present whites in their productions, and that this also is a practice of segregation.
The director is Tadeu Aguiar and the musical is Love Story, a classic of American cinema, an adaptation of the same name. The film Love Story was absolute success in 1970, when released, and also in the following years. It is the love story of two students: he, rich, a Law student at Harvard, a prestigious American university and she, a poor music student at Radcliffe, a less prestigious institution. The two fall passionately in love and his family condemns the union and even disinherits him, they get married, but a discovery radically changes their destinations.
The protagonist couple is played by the actors Kacau Gomes and Fábio Ventura. The cast consists of nine actors: Sergio Menezes, Ronnie Marruda and Flavia Santana, Esther Freitas, Rafaela Fernandes, Suzana Santana, Raí Valadão, Emílio Farias and Caio Giovani.
“LOVE STORY – The Musical,” also marks the beginning of the #porumpalcodetodasascores (for a stage of all colors) campaign that mobilizes, on social networks, artists, producers and society to raise consciousness of the importance of racial diversity in the field of arts and culture in Brazil.
When the show comes to your city, you are invited to go. Let’s fill up the room!
Love Story, musical
Rating: 10 years or older
Teatro Fashion Mall – Sala I (Room I)
Estrada da Gávea 899, São Conrado, Shopping Fashion Mall
21 2422 9800
Hours: Friday and Saturday 9pm and Sunday 8pm
Friday R$70.00 || Saturday and Sunday R$90.00
Box office: Tuesday to Sunday, 3pm to 8pm
Capacity 470 seats
‘Love Story’ gets its first Brazilian assembly with an all black cast
Courtesy of Jornal O Paraná
“Writing about Love Story, I said it was a movie for any taste, age or sex. Anyone from the fine to the favelada (shantytown resident), from the minister to the veterinarian, from the sage to the chauffeur robber, from the architect to the car washer, everyone, everyone had to learn from the bela história de amor (beautiful love story),” wrote Nelson Rodrigues in his column published in Globo on July 17, 1971, with the criticism of the feature film Love Story, directed by Arthur Hiller and with a script by Erich Segal, author of the book on which it is based. In the text entitled Adeus à sordidez (Farewell to sordidness), the writer hearkened to the universal power of the plot, “a Romeo and Juliet in which Romeo doesn’t die at the end.” Now, a new cast, made up of 11 actors, all black, will bring life to the first Brazilian assembly of this love story. Under the direction of Tadeu Aguiar, the musical will be showing at the Imperator, in Méier (neighborhood in Rio).
The homonymous play to the feature film winner of the Oscar for best soundtrack in 1971 is faithful to the original story, including the songs that underlie the piece, enchantment and passion between Oliver Barrett IV, played by Fábio Ventura and Jennifer Cavilleri, embodied by Kacau Gomes. The translation into Portuguese was given to Artur Xexéo who met the challenge of maintaining the original track’s ability to make the viewer quiver, as the Zona Norte column team attested to in the sample given by the actors for this article. On stage, the skin color became a secondary issue, since the show gives voice to a universal feeling that eludes labeling: love. It is this that is the big star and merit Love Story, as the title says.
“I remember the emotion that the film caused the public at the time, people leaving the cinema crying, the songs that drove them crazy. When I went to acquire the rights to the assembly, I heard the tracks again and had the same feeling, which only proves the longevity and strength of this story,” said Tadeu Aguiar.
In the Brazilian assembly, Oliver Barrett IV, the son of a rich, important and Protestant family, student at Harvard that plays sports is played by Fábio Ventura; Jennifer Cavilleri, the daughter of Italians, poor Catholic immigrants, and a piano-playing student of the less prestigious college, Radcliffe, is played by Kacau Gomes. Both have a long history in music – Ventura, until last week, was in the cast of Rita Lee mora ao lado (Rita Lee lives next door), in theaters in São Paulo; Kacau has done, among many others, Beatles num céu de diamantes (Beatles in a sky of diamonds) and Jekyll & Hyde — O médico e o monstro (Jekyll & Hyde – The doctor and the monster).
In the play, the two fall in love, but the social gap between them makes the boy’s family go against the marriage. He ends up being disinherited, which doesn’t prevent the couple from staying together. The happy ending, however, is shaken by an illness that requires them to re-write plans for the future.
The choice of actors happened fluidly. Conducting the auditions (over 700 signed up to audition), Aguiar says that he noted that 70% of the available roles had been filled by black actors. It was when he bought the idea of making the choice of other talents within the same aesthetic proposal.
“Reliving this plot without giving my mark would be something that doesn’t interest me as an artist. I attested that this proposal marry the necessities, nuances and tones of the story that I needed, and I opted for an elenco negro (black cast). They have the mission to tell about experiences that are common to every man and woman, regardless of the religion they practice, the class that they are and the path that they traveled. There are none who won’t be touched by a beautiful love story,” says the director.
At the same time, a friend, aware of the production that began to take shape, sought information, “Tadeu, I’m dating a guy who is black. Is there a role for a black man in your piece?” Thaddeus realized then that something was wrong.
“When we get a script, it’s not written like this: “Howard, white.” It comes only specified when he is black. Why is that? Why can’t anyone do any role? Why not all blacks?,” he asked.
The information shouldn’t be relevant at this point, but from the comments and reactions it provoked, we see that it still is.
In social networks, there were some who said that it was “segregation” (1). “And when the cast is all white, what is that?” replied the director, who was accumulating new information about prejudice. The actress Flavia Santana, for example, told him that it was the first time her 7 year old son would not see her in a role of drug dealer’s girlfriend or maid. The actor Emilio Farias spoke of the daughter of friends, brincando casinha (playing house) with white girls, assumed for herself the role of maid.
But even affirming that he didn’t want to promote any affirmative action nor raise the banner of negritude, the director acknowledges:
“It will end up being a political act because we are telling a story in which the fact that the actors are black or white is not important to the plot. The coolest thing is that when watching the show, at no time does it pass through your head: ‘I’m watching a piece with black actors.’ In fact, we are watching a play with human beings that speaks of love.
The songs will be played by seven musicians, under the direction of Liliane Secco, that will translate in the universal language of chords this common feeling experienced in all hinterlands of the world, but that found difficult standing out in the discussions at a time of political incitement and hate speeches. Such as it occurred in the early 1970s, when the AI-5 (2) of the military dictatorship in Brazil was already in place.
“Maybe it’s my illusion, I don’t know. In my view, however, Love Story marks the death of one era and the birth of another. A simple story of love, by being love, and not by being a good or bad movie, awakens in man a brutal nostalgia of himself. The process of our humanization stopped and, more than that, it starts to regress,” wrote Nelson Rodrigues to explain the huge success of the film that in two days of exhibition, had already managed to pay for its production costs, thanks to strong box office sales in the US and other countries where it was shown. Four decades later, in the context of fierce tempers like that described by Rodrigues, the mission of the piece is to exalt what brings us closer together.
“As what happened back then, today people are distancing themselves. There is a lot of anger. We want to remember and celebrate what makes us equal. Exercise love for love,” Tadeu Aguiar says.
Love Story is a musical version of the film that made millions of people shed tears around the world in 1970 – the Arthur Hiller film, with Ryan O’Neil and Ali MacGraw as a couple of students in love, was the most watched that year, earning US$106 million then (at the time, the sixth highest grossing in the history of American cinema).
The plot emerged as a script, by Erich Segal, but Paramount studio, to which it was presented, asked the author to write a novel, because they believed that the production would have more chance of success if it were “adapted” from a book. Released earlier that year, the Segal book became an instant bestseller and was translated into 33 languages.
Interestingly, only 40 years after the sentimental drama that immortalized the phrase “amar é jamais ter que pedir perdão” (love means never having to say you’re sorry) would be transposed to a stage. The Englishman Stephen Clark (text and lyrics) and Howard Goodall (music and lyrics) wrote the play that premiered in 2010 at the Chichester Festival Theatre in Sussex, and in the same year in the West End of London. Tadeu had contact with the work when researching the MTA website (Musical Theatre International). He bought the CD with the songs over the Internet, fell in love and negotiated the rights.
Xexéo remembers seeing the long one morning session.
“At the time the movies had five daily sessions, but the expectation around Love Story was so great that it premiered in Venice with 12 daily sessions. It was a shock. I even watched it at 4am,” he says. “The public, as much the book and the film and the musical, knows it will watch a story without a happy ending; the text announces that at the beginning: ‘What about a girl who liked the Beatles and Bach and died at age 25?’. But the show deals with it in a lighter way.”
Xexéo allowed himself a single poetic license. The musical text didn’t include the phrase that became famous. In the context of the film, it’s said after the couple’s first fight, already living together in New York after having faced his family’s opposition. She leaves the city, and he goes desperately after her. When he finds her, he asks for forgiveness, to which she replies: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
“In the musical, all this running around New York is replaced by a song,” reveals Xexéo. “I included the phrase in the song, because I thought some people would leave frustrated if they saw the play and didn’t hear that phrase.”
If, in 1970, film and book were successful because there was a lack of love stories – “They were a little out of fashion, it was the time of the new American cinema,” recalls Xexéo – today the scenario is different. But…
“We’re living in a time of so much intolerance, many angry debates. To come talking about love today is an act of courage,” opines the actor Fábio Ventura.
Source: Todos Negros do Mundo, Jornal O Paraná (1), Jornal O Paraná (2)
- It should also be noted that director Joel Zito Araújo hear similar comments when he directed a primarily black cast in his film Filhas do Vento. As such, from this ad countless other examples, one could easily conclude that when the media portrays all-white environments, it is deemed normal while when something is all black, it is frowned upon.
- The Ato Institucional Número Cinco – AI-5 (in English, Institutional Act Number Five) was the fifth of seventeen major decrees issued by the military dictatorship in the years following the 1964 coup d’état in Brazil. Institutional Acts were the highest form of legislation during the military regime, given that, issued on behalf of the “Supreme Command of the Revolution” (the regime’s leadership) they overruled even the Nation’s Constitution, and were enforced without the possibility of judicial review. Source
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