By Harold Emert
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The “Nelson Rodrigues Festival in the UK” will stage three of the playwright’s seventeen plays including “The Wedding Dress” (“Vestido de Noiva;” 1943), “Family Album” and “Pardon Me for Betraying You” as well as feature four readings of his still shocking tragedies in productions by a company called ” Turbilhão de Letras.”
Publications of seven plays in translation by Oberon Books will also accompany the Festival. On display in London as well will be the author’s typewriter, eyeglasses, suits, love letters and portraits by his good friend the renowned Brazilian artist Portinari.
The project was designed by Sacha Rodrigues, grandson of late Brazilian sportswriter, columnist and local mix of Euripides and Eugene O’Neill.
Nelson Rodrigues (NR), whose statue adorns the neighborhood of Copacabana near the Arcoverde Metro station, shocked Brazil with many of his tragedies including “A Kiss on the Asphalt.”
Portrayed in numerous versions by Brazilian filmmakers, the play’s opening scene features a married man kissing another who has just been run over and killed on the sidewalks of downtown Rio.
Planning began in October 2016
Planning for the Festival began in October 2016 when a group of Brazilian, British and European actors directed by Ramiro Silveira held a reading of “Pardon Me For Betraying You” at the Brazilian Embassy.
The confirmation of the “NR” festival comes coincidentally or not after the playwright’s daughter Sonia Rodrigues told an audience last Wednesday at the Travessa Bookshop in the Leblon Shopping Mall that “considering the current political situation in Brazil and abroad my father’ s works are more up to date than ever.
He was labeled a person of right-wing beliefs yet he wrote for a leftist newspaper, A Última Hora (“The Last Hour”). He was neither right (“reactionary,” some claimed) or leftist and his characters reflect the world around them then and today.”
Sonia, herself a writer of novels, short stories and movie scripts, holding a PhD in Literature from Rio’s Catholic University (PUC) insisted to The Rio Times that despite claims by academic “experts”, her father was not directly influenced by Russian novelist Dostoevsky, American playwright Eugene O’Neill or the flashback techniques of Orson Wells (Citizen Kane, 1941).
“They were all in the air and my father – whom I parallel to the Greek tragedy playwrights – picked up their influence,” insists Sonia.
The idea for the UK Festival originated with NR’ s grandson Sacha during his 2015 holiday in London.
Sacha was carrying out the tightly-knit Rodrigues family’s support of another Brazilian unorthodox genius, who is still being staged, filmed and understood today. (This semester at the Literature Department of the Fluminense Federal University, UFF in Niteroi, Professor Andre Dias is leading the first course on ” NR.”)
In 2001, Sacha’ s father Joffre Rodrigues together with Tony Coe publish the translated work “The Theater of Nelson Rodrigues.”
Director Ramiro, who teaches at the University of Essex, directed in Brazil various NR tragedies and “The Bridal Dress “in a 2012 production with students at the English University.
Born in 1912 in northeastern Recife to a family headed by a journalist Mario Rodrigues, Nelson began as a reporter covering the police beat at 14 years of age and writing a column for his father’s newspaper “A Manhã” in Rio de Janeiro, at 16.
Echoing his future masterpieces, NR’s first play “The Woman Without Sin” (“A Mulher sem Pecado, 1941”) ends tragically as the betrayed husband commits suicide as his once faithful wife runs off with the family’s chauffeur.
Tragedies Deeply Affected him Emotionally
Nelson suffered tragedies in his own family which deeply affected him emotionally and are reflected in his plays.
In the past, an irate reader of his father’s newspaper, a socialite allegedly involved in an adulterous affair, entered the newspaper in downtown Rio de Janeiro and shot to death Nelson’s older brother, Roberto, a graphic artist.
She was seeking to kill NR’s father Mario, who died of a stroke months later.
The imprisonment of the playwright’s son Nelson Jr. In 1972 due to his opposition to Brazil’s military government and the need to free him is believed to have resulted in NR befriending military Presidents and supposedly becoming a reactionary, airing politically conservative views in his newspaper columns.
NR, who survived tuberculosis in his earlier years, died in 1980 at 68 years of age of cardiac and respiratory problems.
The spirit of the playwright-novelist-journalist will undoubtedly live on in his homeland and abroad alike Brazilian writers such as Machado Assis and Clarice Lispector.
“There are innumerous ways to stage and interpret NR. Most important aspect for him iwould be that such interpretations continue to perpetuate his literary works,” says Sonia Rodrigues.
The Brazilian Embassy in London will be hosting this event in collaboration with Turbilhão theatre company.