Short theater plays are not a tradition in Portugal. They are more common in the anglo-saxon world, where short stories are more prevalent. That didn’t stop the people at Buzico! from organizing a night of short plays, taking advantage of the innovative architectural layout of the Village Underground Lisbon, in Alcântara, in an event they called Mostra de Teatro Breve em Contentores (Short theater plays showcase in containers).
I was fortunate to be invited to watch the press rehearsals and later, the actual shows of the three short plays that the Mostra was showcasing – “A gaveta”, “Absinto” and “Escrever amor”. The plays were all 15 to 30 minutes long and with not more than 3 actors. The audience would meander around the catwalks that connect the piled up shipping containers, according to the plays’ schedule, guided by one of the producers.
Short plays are a very user-friendly format. They are excellent laboratories for actors, directors and playwrights alike, to test techniques against very small and diverse audiences. They are relatively inexpensive for the audience, which allows them to become more immersed and less worried about getting their money’s worth in show. Finnaly, they are very portable, allowing the shows to be held in tight places, as it was in the shipping containers that make up the Village Underground Lisbon complex.
It was a lot of fun to be there. Not going to tell you anything about the plays though. No spoilers here, for now.
A couple of friends traveled all the way from Istanbul with their multi-national art class, for a few days’ field trip to Lisboa. I was honored to be invited as an instructor in a 3-hour sketching workshop/tour around the old squares of the capital’s downtown. It was one of those rainy April days, and neither one of the sketching stops I had planned were sheltered. I had to resort to a sketchy (pun intended) plan B. We took shelter wherever we could and altered the route just enough so that we’d be a little bit more comfortable. The workshop took us to Terreiro do Paço, Largo Camões and Largo de S. Domingos, city squares with different atmospheres and historical backgrounds. I didn’t have much time to sketch myself as I was trying to go through the sketching activity of the talented young ones.
After a brief respite, we all went to a fado show in an auditorium in Bairro Alto. The singers started off slow, but got a hold on the crowd soon after. He whose dedication never waned was the man playing portuguese guitar. His strong but intricate fingering of the strings was what was keeping the show in pace!
The afternoon ended in the only semi-traditional semi-touristic restaurant that was large enough to fit the entire crew of talented young artists and their talented not-so-young teachers. I was most happy and proud to join them in this short journey across my adopted home town.
A room full of sketchers eagerly awaited the two performers of the Desenho Cru session of March. Some of them had heard that they were in for a special surprise. Warm up took some time as one of the performers couldn’t make it. A substitute had to be found.
Viktorija came to the rescue. The make-up artist from Lithuania turned into her own model and demonstrated on herself the transformation of make-up. She showed the long process women go through privately or in pairs, in bathrooms, languidly and meticulously, sipping red wine and enhancing her red lips, in front of 20-something sketchers. All the while, in the backstage, a different make-up strategy was taking place.
Suddenly, and after headlamps were distributed, the lights were out! A chilling, shrieking, spooky song started in the background. A horned silhouette approach from the outside. It came to the center of the stage, dark robes absorbed all the light. Its red eyes gleamed as the demonic figure threatened to impale all of the sketchers to their seats with a blood-stained pike. Pens and pencils were in awe of the imposing and macabre visage of Kina Karvel, demon-performer of the night.
After the music was over, suspension of disbelief was broken, as the demon started speaking in an unexpectedly high-pitched voice, and proceeded to strike a few poses during the following hour or so.
It was some impressing minutes, those of Kina Karvel’s performance. Hard to picture them in a sketchbook.
In 2012, Desenho Cru was created as a one-night monthly gathering of artists and performers, in the unusual stage of a gay bar in the heart of Lisboa. It was actually named after the bar. The drill is simple: the performers perform, and the artists sketch them. Creative spirits in both sides of the (imaginary) fence are free to deliver their own art in whatever form they feel is best.
Now, the Desenho Cru sessions are held in a small studio in Martim Moniz, another heart of Lisboa – the multi-hearted city. I attended my first Desenho cru in the beginning of february, weeks after coming back to Lisboa. It’s a fantastic group experience, where concentration levels are high, but everything feels somewhat different from a regular sketch meeting.
The intimacy of the moment is enhanced firstly by the narrowness of the space, where fifteen to twenty people elbowed each other for some arm movement space. If more were to come, they would have to sit on the floor.
Secondly by the unusual nature of the performances – and those are entirely dependent on the performers themselves – it’s an artistic lottery. You get what they bring for you. First-time performer Veronique, tense at first, on account of the thirty-something eyeballs on her, finally let herself and some garments go, and played around with postures and the mirror she had leaned up against the wall. I’d say she managed quite well.
The andalucian José Gomez brought his guitar and some electronic equipment that, for some reason, started to fail him right in the middle of his act. The gadget recorded a sample that he would play, and then it would playback on a loop, while he added some more samples to the texture of the song. A one man band, fretted unfortunately by faulty equipment.