|Braskem Theater Awards
|Bahia’s theater community celebrates the 12th
Braskem Theater Awards (Prêmio Braskem de Teatro
in Portuguese), which had 45 shows in competition
Wagner and Cobrinha: in their own words
|written by ◦ Valber Carvalho
photos by ◦ Luciano Andrade
On March 30th, actors, writers, directors, and technicians working in the Bahia theater scene gathered at the Teatro Castro Alves Theater with their families. They occupied all 1,554 seats in the main hall, which was the scene of the presentation ceremony for the 12th Annual Braskem Theater Awards.
Every year, a judging committee of directors, actors and journalists follows and evaluates the best work done on the Bahian theatrical scene. The shows that get the most points are recommended for the Best of the Year award, which is presented during major festivities sponsored by Braskem in the presence of Bahia’s theatrical community.
The lively theatre scene in Bahia is impossible to ignore. Despite facing the same difficulties experienced by other cities outside the Rio-São Paulo axis when seeking investors interested in the theater, Salvador probably has more theater professionals per inhabitant than any major Brazilian city. According to the Regional Labor Superintendency, one in 1,500 Salvador residents is a registered theater professional.
The festivities were inspired by the theme “What has Bahian theater got?” Hebe Alves, a director, actress and drama teacher at the Federal University at Bahia (UFBa), decided to put on a show based on extensive research among the people who work in and attend the theater in Bahia. “The only way to answer that question was to put more questions out there,” she says.
The show was planned, produced and staged in the whirlwind space of 45 days, and required the structure of a theater company: 60 actors, 7 musicians and 33 stage technicians. The skits and musical numbers pulled the curtain on the reality and fantasy of life at the 35 theaters and open-air stages in Bahia’s capital city.
Twenty percent of the 45 shows competing for this year’s Braskem Awards were targeted at children and adolescents. The 36 shows for older audiences were divided into nine categories: best writer; best director; best actor; best actress; best supporting actor; best supporting actress; best breakthrough artist, best show, and a special category for costume designers, musicians and technicians who have done outstanding work for the theater. Because the jury was based in Salvador, the shows competing for the Braskem Awards had to have had at least a six-performance run in the state capital.
This year, the Braskem Awards paid special tributes to playwright Cleise Mendes, a college professor for 25 years and a great teacher of the Bahian theater; as well as to the UFBa Theater School. On the verge of its 50th anniversary, it was the first drama school in Brazil to be part of a university. It was founded in 1956 by former UFBa president Edgard Santos, along with the schools of Music and Fine Arts, which have given Bahia an enviable artistic and cultural dynamism.
Now considered a benchmark for university-level drama teaching in Brazil, the UFBa Theater School has been the main stage and educational center for Bahian actors. Since 1997, the university has also had a Dance School, and offers the only Master’s in Dramatic Arts in the country.
A show called Arte won the biggest prizes of the year: best staging, best director (Ewald Hackler) and best actor (Gideon Rosa). Extremely moved, Gideon said that the theater provides the raw materials for all the arts and stressed the importance of Braskem’s sponsorship: “We know how hard it is to get businesses to sponsor something as artisanal and collective as what we do.”
Veteran actor Harildo Déda, who both competed for the Braskem Award and was the master of ceremonies – together with actress Iami Rebouças – summed up his feelings at receiving the award for best supporting actor, in the play A prostituta respeitosa (The Respectful Prostitute): ”You never forget your first ‘Braskem’,” and went on to explain: “Actually, this is my second, but it feels just as good as the first.”
The best writer award went to playwright Aninha Franco, for the script of the Esse Glauber (That Glauber) show. In the special category, Jarbas Bittencourt won for the background music he composed for some of the most important shows of the season. The play Quem conto canta, cordel encanta was the big winner in the children’s theater category. Directed by João Lima, it was the first show by the recently created Bahian Theater Cooperative to win the award.
The public also had a chance to vote through Braskem’s website. The winners were Xuá, for best show, and Burucutu, by the Trilharte Group, for best children’s show.
Jussilene Santana won the best actress award for her performance in Budro. Actor Vinícius Oliveira was voted the best breakthrough artist of the year, and Cristiane Mendonça, was the best supporting actress for her performance in the biggest box-office success of the year: Vixe Maria! Deus e o Diabo na Bahia! (Holy Mother of God! God and the Devil in Bahia!). She recalled that a number of winning Bahian productions, including nationwide hits like A Bofetada, Os Catedrásticos, Os Cafajestes and Oficina Condensada, were based on the formation of a captive audience fascinated with Bahian theater. “Today, people go to see a play because of an actor, an actress or a director, and that is priceless,” she says.
The best shows and children’s productions each received BRL 30,000. If a winning play continues its run, it will get another BRL 20,000. Each winner in the individual categories gets USD 5,000. All told, in addition to the statuettes, the awards distribute BRL 140,000 in cash prizes.
Bernardo Gradin, the officer responsible for Braskem’s Basic Feedstocks Unit, and Alexandrino Alencar, the officer responsible for Institutional Relations, took part in the awards ceremony. Alexandrino said that he was moved by the spontaneity, joy and authenticity of the festivities. “Braskem is a Brazilian company based on several pillars, one of which is the arts and culture.” This company has a strong culture, Brazil has a strong culture, and Bahia also has a strong culture. This event is the natural result of the conjunction of all three.”