By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Visiting São Paulo without checking its theatrical scene is almost like going to New York City and not watching any Broadway show. Most tourists might not be aware, but São Paulo offers the highest number of theater spectacles in Brazil.
A reference in all forms of artistic expression, São Paulo especially stands out for its magnificent theatrical production, which ranges from sumptuous Broadway-inspired musicals in perfectly equipped theaters to completely alternative plays, in tiny intimist rooms.
The metropolis is home to companies whose trajectory is found in history books, such as the iconic Teatro Oficina. A window shopper of Brazil’s most relevant plays, São Paulo is where actors from all over the country come to gain prestige and be talked about for months, or even decades.
We have put together some of the best venues, companies, and plays that São Paulo’s incredibly diverse theater world can offer. Whether it’s a stand-up comedy or a politically engaged drama, make sure to find your niche and enjoy this experience in São Paulo.
One of the regions concentrating several theater rooms is Avenida Paulista (in Centro) and its surroundings. There, one can find Teatro Eva Hertz, Teatro do Sesi, Teatro Renaissance, Teatro Shopping Frei Caneca, Teatro Gazeta, Teatro das Artes, Teatro Bibi Ferreira, Teatro Raul Cortez, Teatro Ruth Escobar, and many others.
Among the ones mentioned above, Teatro Renaissance is the right place for viewers looking for a comedy. Located in Alameda Santos, in the neighborhood of Cerqueira César, Renaissance presents some of the best stand-up comedy actors of the moment.
Right now, the room is currently hosting five comedy shows, including Mauricio Meirelles, a famous comedian whose work has been two times considered as the best stand-up piece in Brazil. Mauricio Meirelles is on at Renaissance until June 29th, performing every Saturday at 11:59 PM.
Elected by Folha de S.Paulo as the city’s best theater in 2017, Teatro Frei Caneca offers an unforgettable experience in terms of acoustic and comfort. Located on the seventh floor of the fancy Frei Caneca Mall, in the neighborhood of Consolação, this theater has a pretty eclectic program, always presenting drama, comedy, and musical plays.
At Teatro Frei Caneca, one can currently watch three stand-up comedy shows, a comedy play, and the musical “Merlin e Arthur, Um Sonho de Liberdade”, starred by the magnificent Vera Holtz and Paulinho Moska.
Known as one of the most relevant theater spots in São Paulo, the Teatro Popular do SESI, founded in the 1960s, is currently located in the FIESP Cultural Center, at Avenida Paulista. This theater is particularly recommended for viewers interested in plays portraying the Brazilian culture, such as the musical “As Cangaceiras, Guerreiras do Sertão”, and the monologue “Meu Quintal É Maior do Que o Mundo”.
The musical tells the story of the women who have taken part of “Cangaço”, a controversial popular movement from the 1920s and 1930s, while the monologue pays tribute to the work of Manoel de Barros, a Brazilian poet. Both plays can be currently seen at Teatro do SESI.
For families with children, Bibi Ferreira, one of the theaters nearby Avenida Paulista, is a great option. The venue is currently presenting nothing less than seven plays for children, including “Peter Pan and The Neverland”, “Baby Doo Doo Doo Shark” and “The Three Little Pigs”. All the plays happen at the weekend, always in the afternoon.
Not far from Avenida Paulista is Teatro Folha, also among the best in the city. Working in the Pátio Higienópolis Mall since 2001, Teatro Folha has an eventful agenda throughout the year, always including drama, comedy and musical pieces. A musical tribute to Elvis Presley and a play inspired by Saint-Exupéry’s “Le Petit Prince” are some of the plays being performed in the following weekends.
For further options with a similar profile to Teatro Folha – in terms of structure and program – make sure to check Teatro Renault, currently presenting the iconic Broadway success “The Phantom of the Opera”; Teatro Alfa, hosting the musical “Billy Elliot”; Teatro Sérgio Cardoso, now showing “Van Gogh by Gaughin”; Teatro Porto Seguro; Teatro J. Safra, and Teatro Aliança Francesa.
If exploring the independent and alternative theater scene is what you look for, São Paulo does not disappoint either. Despite the various adversities that independent companies have been through, acting, for many of them, is a matter of resistance and survival. The passion and fury emanating from these stages will certainly blow your mind.
It’s simply impossible to think of São Paulo’s alternative theatrical scene without picturing Teatro Oficina, in Bixiga. Born in 1958, in the Law School of the University of São Paulo, Teatro Oficina has always stood out for its highly politicized work, concerned with social change and social criticism. Due to its posture, Teatro Oficina has been forbidden to perform during 1974 and 1979, when Brazil was living under a rough military dictatorship.
Teatro Oficina is currently on with “Roda Viva”, by Brazilian composer and writer Chico Buarque. The play has been attracting crowds in all sessions, so make sure to buy the ticket in advance. First-time viewers at Oficina should know: most of their plays are marked by physical interactions between the cast and the audience.
The alternative theatrical experience in São Paulo would never be complete without Praça Roosevelt, a square in the neighborhood of Consolação, home to the headquarters of Os Satyros and Parlapatões, two amazing companies of the independent theatrical scene.
Crowded with actors, students, skaters, and artists in general, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, Praça Roosevelt itself is already worth the program. With five theaters and a couple of nice bars situated along Roosevelt’s side street, the square is the perfect place to explore São Paulo’s alternative plays and the bohemian scene, all at once.
Apart from Os Satyros and Parlapatões, the other theaters located at Roosevelt are SP Escola de Teatro, which is also a drama school; Teatro Studio Heleny Guariba, and Teatro do Ator. Both Os Satyros and Parlapatões present their plays from Thursday to Sunday.
Those interested in São Paulo’s independent theatrical production must also like Ágora Teatro, and Teatro do Incêndio, in Bixiga; Teatro Pequeno Ato, in Vila Buarque; and the theater agenda from the Sesc chain.