Augusto Boal: Staging Resistance against the Brazilian Military Dictatorship


During my six-week stay in Rio de Janeiro, I aimed to conduct qualitative pre-dissertation research at the Augusto Boal Institute and collaborate with scholars who specialize in the relationship between Performance and Politics. As a second-year doctoral student in Hispanic Languages and Literature, I had already conducted preliminary research in my seminars at Berkeley. I had focused my interest on the relationship between the Brazilian military dictatorship and the performance practices that attempted to resist the regime. At the Augusto Boal Institute, I have collaborated in the cataloging efforts, particularly newspapers and journals from the 1950s to the 2000s. I have also had access to archive materials such as documents about the production and reception of Boal’s work, videos, and plays that are not available to the public or libraries. The access to primary sources at the institute has contributed to expanding my understanding of both Boal himself and the social and political context in which he developed his work as a playwright. In Rio, I have visited the National Archive where I conducted an interview with Vicente Rodrigues who works at the ‘Centro de Referência Memórias Reveladas’. The meeting has allowed me to conclude that research on the Brazilian military dictatorship is timely due to the current political turmoil in the country. Furthermore, among other literary events, I have attended the international conference of Comparative Literature organized by ABRALIC (Associação Brasileira de Literatura Comparada). At the conference, I have realized that several Brazilian scholars have been approaching different aspects of the relationship between performance practices and the Brazilian military dictatorship, which was very inspiring and relevant for my research. I have visited three universities in Rio and have met with scholars with whom I learned about the current literary debates and working groups within my field of study. For others conducting similar research, I recommend contacting the Augusto Boal Institute directly, dedicating a few weeks to do research at the National Archive, and send a proposal to any conference that might be happening at the time of their fieldwork. I have since realized that I could have presented my research at ABRALIC had I known before about it. During my six weeks in Rio, I was a resident researcher at Casa Rio, “a residency and workspace for artists, creatives and cultural professionals in central Rio de Janeiro, owned by Secretaria de Estado de Cultura do Rio de Janeiro/FUNARJ and managed on a nonprofit basis by Brazilian NGO People’s Palace Projects do Brasil.” I highly recommend Casa Rio since it is a space where researchers and artists necessarily engage with several ongoing projects and events that contribute to the development of the cultural and social scene of Rio. Broadly, I hope to use what I have learned to pursue further research in three different areas: a) the Brazilian military dictatorship and its relationship with memory and forgetting processes; b) to include data gathered from the archive and incorporate into my future writings about Boal’s plays written in exile; c) to include and expand on the performance practices from the “periferias” of major Brazilian cities that have traditionally been marginalized, such as Funk Carioca or Teatro de Rua.

Catarina de Morais Gama
Publication date: 
August 18, 2017
Publication type: 
Student Research