Première of Álamo Oliveira's new play Já não gosto de chocolates

 

See English translations by Katharine F. Baker, below

 

1. Victor Rui Dores: "Bravo!"

Portuguese Tribune, 15 December 2016; originally published in Diário Insular, 26 October 2016

 

2. Diniz Borges: "(More than)

a Couple Words."

Portuguese Tribune, 15 December 2016

  3. Valter Peres: “40 Years of Theater in the Azores” (tribute to Angra's Alpendre Theater).

Diário Insular, 27 December 2016

 

4. Oriana Barcelos: "Álamo Oliveira recalls the founding of the theater group 40 years ago." Diário Insular, 28 December 2016

View photo album of Alpendre Theater's production of Já não gosto de chocolates

 

~ "Maré Cheia" page reproduced courtesy of California's Portuguese Tribune [Tribuna Portuguesa] ~

 

 
 

VICTOR RUI DORES: "Bravo!"

Translated by Katharine F. Baker

 

DINIZ BORGES: "(More than) a Couple Words"

Translated by Katharine F. Baker

 

 
 

   After writing and staging Enquanto a roupa seca [While the Clothes Dry] in 2010, Álamo Oliveira has resumed his theatrical pursuits, adapting his 1999 novel Já não gosto de chocolates [I No Longer Like Chocolates] for Angra do Heroísmo’s Alpendre Theater Group, of which he is truly the father.

   I went to see – and I unconditionally liked – this play, which reassures us that theater is countervailing, enduring, exorcising, denouncing of illusory truths and renouncing the masks of daily alienation. It’s a play that tells us of the loves and hatreds of those who, after immigrating to America, feel lonely, exiled, and stateless. The minimalist scenery functions effectively. The actors move about the stage exchanging intense dialogue and delivering dramatic monologues. Álamo Oliveira employs, with real mastery, discontinuous and tangled narratives through ellipses that rely on retroactive and current memories. Director Valter Peres has adeptly seized the text’s purposes, focusing on effective scenic movement and an effective play of light, resulting in a highly visual and physically beautiful performance.

   And what an amazing performance by the great actor Belarmino Ramo! He plays Joe Sylvia, né José Silva, a Terceiran widower from Serreta who immigrated to the town of Tulare in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Given his extreme isolation, he lives apart from family members, who only visit according to schedule. Dissatisfied, unassimilated and misunderstood, in a succession of flashbacks he revisits his island memories, on the one hand – and, on the other, critically questions his daily American life. Without the ranch that had been his livelihood, and with his family rent asunder, Joe sits perplexed, bewildered by the world; he does not understand his children (naturalized Americans), nor grasp changes in the Azores resulting from the April 25, 1974, Carnation Revolution.

   Two utterly beautiful love stories span the play: Joe Sylvia and Mary’s, in their redemptive, tough love; and John and Danny’s, in their subversive, homosexual love – two stories that will have tragic outcomes, however: Mary succumbs to breast cancer, while John dies of AIDS. Astonishing interpretations come from Frederico Madeira and Hélder Xavier, amazing supporting performances by Mimi Bretão and Carla Soares, and the most positive of nods to the emotive and expressive Filomena Ferreira.

   In this act of courage that is the making of theater nowadays, the rapport between Alpendre and its audience could not possibly have been better. It is a group that continuously and continually renews itself and provides the public service of lifting the veils from our souls.

 

  The 2016 holiday edition of "Maré Cheia" brings us a text by poet Victor Rui Dores about the recent adaptation for the theater of Álamo Oliveira’s novel Já não gosto de chocolates. It is a holiday gift to all who read and support this arts-and-letters page, the only one of its kind in North American Portuguese-language newspapers. So for starters this introductory note, which today has the dual role of serving as a brief reflection, a hug of friendship to the editors of this newspaper for allotting this space, and having faith in what Fernando Pessoa masterfully called "believing in landscapes that no one wants to see." A literary page does not sell, nor shout loudly within the community. In a society of shocking postmodernism, it’s not even a chic page. But in a somewhat chaotic world where we elect to our highest offices those who despise culture, it is of utmost importance to follow Goethe's sage advice: every day we should read a good poem, listen to a beautiful song, contemplate a beautiful picture and speak some beautiful words. That's why "Maré Cheia" celebrates another year in the service of those who still believe in what the famous American comedian Groucho Marx once said: "I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."

   And in this festive holiday environment we celebrate the theater. It was in April of this year now ending when we were celebrating in central California the 50th anniversary of the joining of Angra do Heroísmo as a Sister City to Tulare, that I encouraged my old friend Alamo Oliveira to bring his excellent novel Já não gosto de chocolates to the theater, in order to convince Alpendre to take part in the celebration of this anniversary with the staging of it. Incidentally, for those who are familiar with Já não gosto de chocolates [I No Longer Like Chocolates], the great novel about our California communities, you know very well that it would not only be adaptable to the stage, as Álamo has done, but would also make a magnificent film or TV mini-series. For this it would be necessary for Portuguese filmmakers to rethink their country and its writers, but these are bitter thoughts for another litany. What is certain is that the play Já não gosto de chocolates was extremely well

 

received in Angra and was one of the most beautiful moments in yet another celebration of the anniversary of the Angra-Tulare connection. The poet, actor and director Victor Rui Dores tells us of this play in his brief but beautiful text.

   I would, however, like to appeal to all those who still believe in exchanges and in the cultural experiences of our communities, to take action to bring this play to California. It’s been a long time since we brought theater from the Azores, especially work of this caliber, to our California communities. We are unfortunately inundated with everything that is of the lowest common denominator, and amid this bustle of so much populism we forget many cultural essentials. Here, more than ever, our so-called "cultural" organizations and responsible entities in the Azores have an obligation. I appeal to the common sense of one or another of them, and hope with a bit of goodwill from both sides we’ll be able to have Alpendre’s presence with Já não gosto de chocolates in our California communities. It is imperative that this story reach our communities, since not everyone has read the book [in Portuguese or English]. In fact, among the group of 17 from Tulare who went to Angra five people had read the book, but the other 12, including those who did not communicate in Portuguese, understood the content of the play very well and adored it. Here’s a challenge to our organizations, and to regional and municipal entities, as well as to the foundations on the Atlantic side of the Atlantic at Christmas time, to start thinking about the gift that the California community needs: the coming of theater from the Azores to this state. The play Já não gosto de chocolates – through the themes it encompasses, the truths it conveys to us, the professionalism of its actors, the revival of an almost erased history of a community and many stories in this story – needs to tour around this state. The play is important for one segment of our community to revisit, and for another to learn how we were and what we still are. It’s just that we’ve been a little forgetful in our California community. It’s imperative for Já não gosto de chocolates to come to California in 2017.

   Hugs, with wishes for a Merry Christmas and a magnificent New Year. diniz

 

 

 

VALTER PERES: “40 Years of Theater in the Azores.” Diário Insular, 27 December 2016. Translated by Katharine F. Baker

 

 

   It’s been 40 years since the Alpendre Theater Group first burst onto the scene. Guerras do Alecrim e da Manjerona [Wars between the Rosemary and the Marjoram] by António José da Silva served as the debut for a project that four decades later is in it for the long haul.

   Forty-year-old theater groups are rare in Portugal. They can be counted on the fingers of one hand. A few days ago we found out that Cornucópia reported it was still around; others of Alpendre’s age are presently struggling to draw their last breaths in order to stay active. It is with great satisfaction that I congratulate Alpendre on its longevity.

   These have been forty years of cultural life, with 98 works brought to the stage by a great number of people, among them actors, producers and directors. This is a feast day for the theater and for Azorean culture.

  I take advantage of this date to honor all those who have built and supported this project. Since

 

Álamo Oliveira planted the seed in 1976 there have been many who, at personal cost, have given of their energy to make 40 years of uninterrupted activity possible.

   I know what it must have cost because theater requires the fullness of the senses, to total surrender, be it physical, emotional, intellectual or social.

   When life is made in the theater, it becomes its own skin and we feel it is, as Federico García Lorca put it, "poetry that comes from the book to make itself human." That is why Alpendre still remains alive today, precisely because it was the priority for all those who passed through it. To all of them, many thanks.

   In addition to making people laugh and cry, theater is fundamental for a people’s cultural education; it is entertainment but also a form of social and political expression. Alpendre has done this over the years, and will continue to, every time someone takes the stage.

 

   Contemporary life cannot afford to dispense with theater; to the contrary, it is enough for us to observe the conformity of society, its accommodation, selfishness and passivity in order to realize that we need more theater, not less.

   After eight years as president of this useful public institution, the time has arrived to pass the baton to others. I do it with the joy of knowing that the team who will be leading this project at the start of 2017 will dedicate their full energies on behalf of Alpendre, as I always did.

   To the Alpendre Theater Group and all the theatrical projects in this country, a toast to their determination to continue the cultural nurture of our society.

 

"Theater cannot disappear because it's the only art where humanity confronts itself."

– Arthur Miller

 

 

 

ORIANA BARCELOS: "Álamo Oliveira recalls the founding of the theater group 40 years ago: 'There was nothing poetic about the creation of Alpendre.'" Diário Insular, 28 December 2016. Translated by Katharine F. Baker

 

 

  Few theater groups in Portugal can boast of marking four decades of life. What is certain, however, is that one of the names that is part of this short list is in the Azores. Alpendre, born and nurtured in Angra do Heroísmo, turned 40 years ago yesterday.

   The amateur theater group’s longevity could prompt you to imagine fabulous founding stories – but no. Writer Álamo Oliveira, who was linked to its creation, is peremptory: "There was nothing poetic about the creation of Alpendre."

   The truth is that Alpendre, one of the most important groups in the Azores, arose out of a need: it was necessary to find work for an elementary school Drama teacher, Leonardo Melo, so his friends joined together to bring to the stage Guerras do Alecrim e da Manjerona [Wars between the Rosemary and the Marjoram] by António José da Silva. The play, which premiered on December 27, 1976, was performed at the Teatro Angrense three times, until the end of that year. The house was always full, Álamo Oliveira recalls.

   "The work wound up running successfully, despite all sorts of setbacks. We rehearsed beneath a porch – that's where the name Alpendre [porch] comes from – and we certainly didn’t have anything we could call our own, so we did a very simple play, a comic operetta. But we did it at the best possible time; today that couldn’t happen," he recounts.

   At that time, when television was still in its infancy and was broadcasting only a few hours a day, theater was a good diversion. And the fact is that the public wanted to see the new things we presented on stage. Since then, Alpendre has not stopped, having mounted 98 plays.

   These plays were never intended for a big-city audience. For a long time the amateur group’s actors appeared in towns and neighborhoods, and it was from this experience that they realized it would be worthwhile to continue – even presenting unfamiliar texts.

  For Álamo Oliveira, who today is President of Alpendre’s board, there was in the early years of its life "a certain ingenuity," which was also responsible for the group’s success and longevity.

 

   "Politically, things were not easy in Angra do Heroísmo. At first we had people of every political stripe, from far left to far right, who at the theater were all friends: they would drop off their posters at the door, and it was only when they left that they would go stick them up – sometimes lending one another the glue," he says.

   Over 40 years the group – which began with some young, inexperienced actors – has changed greatly. Alpendre was no longer just a space where friends who wanted to do more than only talk got together.

   "Things are very different nowadays – people are in Alpendre more for theatrical reasons than for mere socializing. For us the theater was our meeting place, it was a gathering place for a group of people who wanted to get out of the house to do something more than just talk," he says.

   Alpendre’s acceptance, not only by the public but also by official entities, has helped keep the group going for four decades. Participation in important events, such as the 400th anniversary of the Battle of Salga or the centennial of Alexandre Herculano’s death, were fundamental to the affirmation of the Terceiran amateur theater put on by the Angrense group.   The group’s fate could have gone another way, because its route was not always linear. Alpendre also faced crises, even political ones related to work it presented on stage.

   The group's founder recalls, for example, an emergency meeting of members of the Azores Regional Government, motivated by a criticism published in [Angra's diocesan newspaper] A União of a play based on O berço do herói [The Cradle of the Hero], by Dias Gomes.

   At that time, says Álamo Oliveira, the theater was a diversion, but the group knew when to take risks.

   "We thought of the risks we could run into. We wanted our plays to have a message. This was the case with Auto da justiça, which we ended up presenting in several towns. We thought we would not draw a public, because it was soon after the [catastrophic] 1980 earthquake. Houses had fallen down, everything in the towns and in the city had fallen down, but people turned out to see the play," he recalls.

 

QUALITY THEATER

 

   It is amateur theater, to be sure – but for the writer, a native of Raminho, the theater that is done by the Terceiran group that is now turning 40 does not, in any way, lag behind what is done in Lisbon, for example.

   "Theater that I’ve seen in Lisbon is no better than what’s done at Alpendre. It’s true that they have problems, too – like here, there are groups with two or three actors because they have no money to do big things. But the quality and technical evolution that Alpendre has experienced is obvious," Álamo Oliveira says.

   For Alpendre’s current president, Valter Peres, the secret lies in the place that the group occupied in the lives of those involved in it.

   "When life is made in the theater, it becomes its own skin and we feel it is, as Federico García Lorca put it, ‘poetry that comes from the book to make itself human.’ That is why Alpendre still remains alive today, precisely because it was the priority for all those who passed through it," he wrote in a text published in yesterday's [27 December 2016] edition of Diário Insular.

   In his text, Valter Peres also reminds us of the importance of Alpendre in Terceira’s cultural education.

   "In addition to making people laugh and cry, theater is fundamental for a people’s cultural education; it is entertainment but also a form of social and political expression. Alpendre has done this over the years, and will continue to, every time someone takes the stage. Contemporary life cannot afford to dispense with theater; to the contrary, it is enough for us to observe the conformity of society, its accommodation, selfishness and passivity in order to realize that we need more theater, not less," he said.

 

 

 

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