The University of Michigan is beginning a new campus wide exchange program with the Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janiero (also known as UniRio), and I arrived in Rio yesterday to begin a fifteen day trip to explore ways in which Michigan’s Theatre & Drama Department can partner with UniRio’s five various theatre departments, which specialize in directing, acting, theatre education, dramaturgy, and design. Though I am here to help establish as many connections as possible between our departments, I am particularly interested in a program called Teatro na Prisao in which UniRio professors Natalia Fiche and Viviane Narvaes take their students into Brazilian prisons (one men’s facility and one women’s) to conduct theatre workshops. We are making plans to establish an exchange specifically between the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) at Michigan and Teatro na Prisao here in Rio. PCAP student Renee Gross will be arriving in Rio tomorrow to participate in this exchange and to help me find ways in which our programs can best share our theatre practices with one another. We will go into the both the men’s and women’s prisons here in Rio with the Teatro na Prisao folks in the days to come during our stay in Brazil.
In the meantime, I’ll be blogging about the highlights of our theatre department’s exchange with UniRio, so regular readers of this blog may not see quite as much about prisons as you are accustomed to finding here over the course of the next fifteen days. I will, of course, include observations and reflections on the work of Teatro na Prisao once we have seen the work that they are doing.
Jodie Lawston, co-editor of the book Razor Wire Women and co-author of this blog, is here in Rio with me, as is Andy Martinez who is currently pursuing his doctorate in World Arts and Culture/Dance at UCLA. University of Michigan Theatre & Drama major and actor Liz Raynes is here in Rio participating in the exchange, and Hector Flores Komatsu, a directing student in our department, will arrive tomorrow. Lighting design student Liz Williams will travel separately to Rio later in the summer to participate in a lighting and set design project at UniRio.
UniRio professor Renato Icharahy, chair of the directing program, is serving as our host, and Andy, Liz, and I were able to observe one of his directing classes this afternoon, after which he introduced us to a number of UniRio faculty and students. We attended a performance of Afro Brazilian dance this evening on campus, hosted by Professor Zeca Ligiero who runs a program connected to African and indigenous performance. The dance troupe performed two pieces that evolved out of Yoruba narratives about Orishas and nature. The athleticism and strength of the male dancers in particular was very impressive, and the audience was invited to participate in the performance when we were handed cups of white paint and small brushes and encouraged to paint on the bodies of the dancers. (We took pictures of the performance but are having trouble uploading them tonight. Hopefully we’ll be able to post them later.)
Tomorrow we’ll be going with Professor Marina Henriques and her students to the Mare favela where UniRio faculty and students conduct a weekly theatre workshop.