Located in the city of São Paulo, capital of the state, SP Escola de Teatro – Centro de Fomação das Artes do Palco [SP Drama School – Development Center for Stage Arts] proposes new challenges for theater education in Brazil and acknowledges educator and educand (or “teacher and student” in a traditional pedagogical structure) from the point of view of their sensitivity and artistic, human, critical and social potential.
The project is based on three foundations – Regular Courses, Cultural Awareness Courses and the Kairos Program –, which underpin the systemic functioning of the Institution’s departments allowing different artistic and educational activities to take place.
Three foundations but one heart: the art of theater that irrigates rigorous qualification and expands horizons in the means of creation, production and reception in the contemporary world.
Among the proposals articulated by the School, the following stand out:
– in the management aspect, the new initiative of the Government of the State of São Paulo, which subsides and gives autonomy to the ideas and actions of artists from outstanding theater companies and from prestigious venues of São Paulo; a promising environment in which artists nurture artists.
– in the social aspect, an interface with public school students who receive financial aid to become professionals in theater arts, which is an action that democratizes access to the theatrical realm for different social classes; a drama school for all.
– in the educational system, the educator perceives the educand as a companion in the journey throughout the kingdom of knowledge; they travel together along a two-way road constantly searching for human and artistic excellence; a cultural terrain bound for the so-called “know-how-to-do” and “know-how-to-be”.
SP Escola de Teatro is a bold initiative that has been thought of since 2005 and most practically conceived since the second half of 2009. The ideas on how to organize the School started taking shape during regular meetings of various artists from theater companies and venues from a particular area of downtown São Paulo: Franklin Roosevelt Square. The square has become a reference point and center of theatrical events in São Paulo since it was revitalized in the mid-2000.
That square from now on will trigger a movement towards the education for stage arts and it has to do with the effort from the theater industry of occupying public spaces along the first decade of this XXI century.
Theater companies and groups have drawn a new geography for that area of the city. Since 2000 they have occupied venues and have made alliances with some residents and businesses. Those actions have contributed decisively to transform the interpersonal relations in an area strained by urban violence until then. There are currently at least six theaters, a bookshop and a few bars attuned to the local cultural scene.
Some of the artists who share that spirit decided to commit themselves to run the SP Escola de Teatro. During 2010, through the whole school year it will temporarily operate in an old school building located in another neighborhood of central São Paulo but the permanent location will be a building at Roosevelt Square.
The State and artists have been driven mainly by the following realizations:
– the increase of theater productions and the increase of theater venues in the country – with emphasis in the state of São Paulo – which created unfulfilled demands for skilled professionals;
– the need for initiatives to democratize the population’s access to artistic education.
Under approval of the Government of the State of São Paulo a group of artists have taken the challenge of creating and administrating a Drama School. They currently have at their disposal a favorable and unique infrastructure that allows a long-term pedagogical practice.
The motto is simple and straightforward: artists who nurture artists. The most relevant issue is to recognize the role of an artist in society.
Integrated education is the foundation of SP Escola de Teatro. The motivations that lead to that concept are the restless attitude of artists in their craft. It is grounded on an exciting mixture of concepts from some of the major contemporary visionaries who research the constitution of thought and culture, including:
– the pedagogy of autonomy suggested by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire according to which “the one who teaches learns through teaching and the one who learns teaches through learning”. Such concept is tuned with the dialectical view of its educational propositions;
– the concept of territory and space developed by the Brazilian geographer Milton Santos – one of the most active voices in pointing out the constrictions of the so-called globalization – which understands a space, whether public or private, as the “space of cooperative events”, unlike the financial logic of the present days;
– a systemic view of the cognitive process, an interpretation embraced from the Austrian physicist and environmentalist Fritjof Capra. His approach is to absorb the whole organism taking into account the input that keeps that organism alive.
Related to culture and stage arts those vectors create ambiguity. They help to sense a place as a lively occupied space and endowed with many other layers.
The understanding of the artist and human being in a broad context is the base of the pedagogical system and sets a dynamic that acknowledges educator and educand as responsible for the process of teaching and learning. Their skills, autobiographies and visions of the world interact allowing a fluent and diverse education. The main focus is the exchange of theoretical, deontological, formal and emotional knowledge of personal and collective events of the individuals’ lives.
SP Escola de Teatro sees the social role of stage arts in Modules that value creative autonomy, critical thinking and total convergence of talent and poetry. The School neither emphasizes a hierarchical relationship nor sees temporal cumulative disadvantage, which are concepts that usually weaken the basis of educational dynamics.
The main assumptions of the pedagogical project:
SP Escola de Teatro avoids the disciplinary model of organization based on an order of importance among the elements of a certain structure. It is far from the system of subordination inherited from traditional pedagogies. The symbiosis of educator and educand, however, never neutralizes their specific roles in this vital relationship.
The idea of non-hierarchical learning refers specifically to the program contents and not to the relationship between educator and educand. Knowledge advances in the range of practical and reflective work, together with the pace both educands and educators encourage a critical approach and mutual respect.
The School believes that knowledge should not be encouraged throughout mechanisms of accumulation but of expansion therefore allowing natural spread of layers in the creation of Art. It rejects the concentrated determinism of the capitalist way of understanding learning.
Like most things in society nowadays, the possibility of knowledge is usually related to the presumed valuation by social class, age, titles, and market trends. Compartmentalized artistic knowledge is an unproductive contradiction. The nature of art is expansive.
If a course is thought according to levels, for instance, a educand in the fourth level is more advanced than one in the first level. SP Escola de Teatro breaks those boundaries. It prefers to stimulate the exchange of differences and non-linear actions.
A Module corresponds to the unit content and activities of that semester.
The educand from SP Escola de Teatro attends four independent Modules. Each of them last 20 to 21 weeks in one of the Regular Courses offered. Each Module, one per semester, is identified by a color: Green, Yellow, Blue and Red.
As a consequence of the pedagogical assumptions of SP Escola de Teatro, we emphasize the following:
educand’s possibility of initiating his/her studies in any of modules offered at the time
if learning is not thought of in terms of hierarchy it can be experienced in non-chronological structured ways. For example, the educand can start his/her studies at the School in any Module without the need to have some prior knowledge to attend it;
the non-existence of fixed classes during a time period
the educand comes into the Modules at different times and therefore doesn’t belong to only one group of educands who are taking the four Modules with him/her. In each Module the educand will relate to different groups;
the blend of educand’s individual experiences
by denying the idea of accumulation, the School assumes that a Module can have educands from different backgrounds. For example, as the terms progress, educands who just came into the School can coexist with colleagues who are finishing the course;
full occupancy of vacancies
one of the consequences of thinking art education in a grade system is that new educands cannot come in when others leave in the middle of the process, as they don’t have the prior and necessary information. In SP Escola de Teatro, any vacancy that comes up from an educand leaving is immediately filled in the subsequent Module.
The belief is that everyone is on equal terms for the exchange of experiences. This procedure avoids one of the most serious educational problems in Brazil, noticeable on higher education courses of performing arts: unfilled vacancies.
The School offers eight Regular Courses. The approach of contents indicates the idea of eight schools in one, such is the degree of artistic and pedagogical relationship between the courses. Each course takes up to 25 people except Direction which takes 20, summing up 195 educands per school year.
The start of SP Escola de Teatro establishes the struggle for regulation of certain professions historically banished in Brazil, such as the playwright, a key figure in both modern and contemporary Brazilian theater.
In the program of studies offered, it is worth noting that courses such as Lighting, Sound Design and Stage Techniques, finally include a formal and regular education correspondent to the secondary vocational level – new concept among Brazilian Drama Schools.
The Acting course aims training of actors-creators, covering areas of improvisation, basic and advanced techniques of voice, physical training and acting and dramatic literature analysis, creation of roles both in a classical sense as also in relation to contemporary forms of performance. The actor-creator is seen as an artist who takes full responsibility for his/her own process of development experiencing it as a way against alienation.
– Set and Costume Design
It aims training young people who are interested in the crafts of set and costume design in a professional level. The educand receives basic notions of producing a set, theater costumes and props. The Course is primarily of practical nature and to do so in addition to workshops, it articulates training programs in theaters, cultural centers, television producers and agencies. Theoretical and practical classes are supplemented by contact with other professionals already working in the industry.
The theater-directing course focuses on preparing new directors with a wide and critical view on society and theater making. The practical activities equate the theoretical training which is an unusual equivalence in Drama Schools, academic or not, throughout the country. Another important factor is the educand’s connection with the practice of other courses at the School as well as to approach of diverse possibilities of styles and means of creation such as urban interventions, animated shapes, the Italian stage and street theater.
Without an equivalent course in technical or higher education in the country, it aims to awaken and enhance unique voices. It proposes the development of the educand in other modes of textual production, such as collective creation and collaborative processes. It balances theory, technique and practice, including contents that are part of the basis of creation for other media such as radio, television and the internet. It also aims at the theoretical and practical training in most recent assumptions, such as dramaturgy.
It provides the training for comedy performers as well as comedians for the performance arts. It transits through archetypes and characters and invests in the search of each artist for his/her unique dramaturgy. It sees the actor-creator who thinks his/her work in a social context and understands the historical dimension of the social role of laughter. In general, the comedian becomes a comedian away from the academic realm in an apparent creative autonomy. Now humorists are generalized as pure entertainment. It is from this conflict that the course emerges, opening up spaces for expressions of new trends, experiencing a strong base of knowledge that is already traditional, but not yet systematized.
– Lighting Design
Its objective is to train technicians with a broader knowledge, beyond the specific contents of the field. It intends to train autonomous, investigative and critical creators who understand the meaning of teamwork. One of the foundations is to bring together technology and craftsmanship, highlighting the educand’s creativity. It promotes good communication with key areas such as visual arts, cinema and music. Emphasis in the Experiment in order to educate the sight of the “artist of light.”
– Sound Design
The course addresses knowledge that stimulates communication through sound. It offers possibilities for the educand to create his/her soundtrack, which can be produced live or recorded, using the means of sound production, like music, noise or voice. This concept, applied initially to the theater, will also be experienced through cinema, radio, television and other media, offering thus a broader view on sound design. It explores expressive variants of sound, whether real or imaginary, recreating sets, objects or characters.
– Stage Techniques
An innovative, brand new course that fills one of the major gaps in Brazilian theater industry. Provides training to stage technicians to work in theater as set builder, prop maker, flyman and stage managers. The idea is not to restrict their knowledge to the instrumental content of their area but also to gain a wide perspective of all the elements involved in a show. Looking at the educand first as a human being and then as a professional.
The organic structure of the SP Escola de Teatro caters to a holistic thought of mediation with stage arts.
Not by chance, the logotype of the Institution suggests the floor plan of an arena apparently containing labyrinthine lines, at the same time centripetal and centrifugal in relation to the center but soon entrances and exits of this woven net made and cherished by everyone can be clearly noticed.
The teaching functioning is placed on the following elements:
It transcends the conventional framework of systematic content per semester. It includes a period of teaching in which a Thematic Axis and one Operator unify all Components, allowing interaction and joint work. The Regular Course is made of four Modules, namely Green, Yellow, Blue and Red. Modules do not have an internal hierarchy among the Components and it is expected that from the admission of the second class on the educands will be able to start their courses from any of them on. Each Module takes 20 to 21 weeks per semester.
It replaces the notion of curriculum. The Matrix presupposes inter and trans-disciplinary learning. This arrangement favors parallels, crossing of perceptions released by educators and educands coming from the most different trajectories. It is a way of organizing and distributing contents that, in the case of the theater studies area, are connected to the practice.
This element composes the Matrix. The Component reflects a coherent unit of content to be shared. Its content is the snip of a group of themes or subjects. It is connected to a Matrix and interdependent with other aspects of learning, relating to the context of the Thematic Axis and the Operator.
– Thematic Axis
Looking at the sum of form and content, and vice versa, the ways of thinking in SP Escola de Teatro cross ideas, languages and aesthetics. They are the guidelines for the Thematic Axis. It either touches the historical sources or pursues the potential of rupture there is in the act of creation in the contemporary world.
The Thematic Axis contextualizes style and time, as follows:
Green – elements of realism;
Yellow – elements of epic/narrative;
Blue – elements of improvisation and performance;
Red – elements of contemporary theater.
Operator is the way through which such techniques and contents are addressed. In the specific case of SP Escola de Teatro, the Operators are related to the spatial issue:
Green – black box/Italian stage;
Yellow – a place not built for theatrical purposes;
Blue – street or square; public open space;
Red – scenic box/the whole of the theater space.
– Operator and Thematic Axis Development
Each Module foresees the development of eight projects of short scenes, that is, 16 per semester. Each color represents a Thematic Axis (division that directs, organizes and interferes in cross-actions) and an Operator (space, theater space or not, in which the Experiment will take place).
Therefore both the Thematic Axis and Operators are predefined, although subject to variation from year to year. They are determinant on the Components provided and about the way of thinking, investigating, performing the scenes and providing reasoning and subjectivity.
In the following paragraphs, examples are given of the program that is to be completed in four Modules between 2010 and 2011.
– The Green Studio brings as the Axis elements of realism and, as the Operator, the black box of the Italian stage. In other words, the educands will look at the characteristics of this aesthetic, on how to avoid melodrama, to obtain the illusion of reality close to everyday life, as well as experiencing the descriptive objectivity. The scene projects can be around bits from The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov; A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams; and Barrela, by Plinio Marcos, to name three titles on the list of the first half of 2010.
– In the Yellow Studio, the epic elements form the Axis, such as the breaking of illusion, the rupture of narrative and dramatic elements. And it works within places not built for theatrical activity, as museums, churches and garages. Among the options for plays, The Beadbug, by Vladimir Mayakovsky; The Life of Galileo, by Bertolt Brecht; and Arena Conta Tiradentes, by Augusto Boal and Gianfrancesco Guarnieri.
– The Blue Studio addresses elements of performance and of the improvisational theater that clash with everyday life, establish multi-language channels and develop the urban intervention. Its Operator is the ancient theatrical place: the street or the square. The possibilities for experimental projects include the languages of installation, collaborative dramaturgy and of the actor-creator.
– In the Red Studio, the educand exercises flight autonomy over the Axis, prospecting it in collaborative research. Reflection on the plurality of forms existing in the contemporary world is undertaken. The built theatrical space is finally reproduced, in a search for a new meaning.
– Studio and Training
During the Module, consisting of 20 or 21 weeks, depending on the semester, the learning process is developed following both the stages of the Studio and the Training.
Lasting from 13 to 17 weeks, the Studio is understood as a territory of artistic production and is present in all Modules. It refers directly to the practice. As the Thematic Axis and the Operators of the Modules are identical in all courses, it allows porosity and permeability.
The Studio is divided into two phases:
– Process – a phase in which the content and techniques inherent to the Thematic Axis are worked in detail; it encourages the educand’s consciousness and awareness of economy on each stage of creation.
In this phase of the learning process the notion of working on short, medium or long-term projects becomes more concrete. The complexity of certain topics may require days, weeks or months of diving into references and genealogies of what one intends to cover. This is consistent with the nature of the theater making.
– Experiment – phase in which educands go to differentiated projects, taking up several pairs of distinct courses to achieve a common procedure.
For example, an acting educand will study the techniques of realism in the classroom with his/her classmates, during the Process. In the next stage, called the Experiment, they will have a few classes together and will mingle with other colleagues from other groups to develop a specific project.
In that case, a project “x” will have two or three educands from Acting who will join two or three from Directing, from Set and Costume Design etc. This new group, with a similar structure to a theatrical troupe, will form a work cell that will develop an articulated project to be presented at the end of the Experiment.
At the end of the Module comes the Training stage in which the educands return to their group of origin. The Training aims an evaluation of the Studio and especially of the Experiment. Systematize knowledge that was experienced in practice and broaden the theoretical and technical repertoire.
The purpose is to subvert the conventional path of “to know” for “to do” merging them. It takes the three final weeks in Yellow and Red Modules and the last eight weeks in Green and Blue Modules.
Precisely, the stage of Training, because it does not precede the practice does not limit it; on the contrary, it deepens it when taking it as a basis.
Educands are encouraged to reflect and investigate certain Thematic Axis and differentiated Operators for each Module. There isn’t an end of course production. In each semester short scenes and related Experiments are welcomed.
When SP Escola de Teatro conquers autonomous cells of the same courses, from 2011 onwards, educands will be able to choose a color according to their interest at the moment of admission. The pact is that in two years, he/she has to go through the four Modules and be evaluated in each of them with the possibility of passing or failing – implying, in the last case, to redo the entire Module.
– Admission Process
The first admission process of SP Escola de Teatro took place between November 2009 and January 2010. It had 1,945 candidates for 200 educand places (a ratio of 9.72 per seat), reflecting the demand for professional training in the performing arts, constituting, possibly one of the most competitive admission process in Brazil on a technical school or university level.
As for the eight initial vacancies for educators of SP Escola de Teatro – responsibles for delivering the Components for educands, as well as assisting the coordinators in the flow of daily activities – there were 440 subscribers (55 candidates per seat).
In the second half of 2010 there will be applications for the new admission process for classes starting in February of the following year. The admission process includes curriculum vitae analysis, interview and a sample lesson (for educators), and essay exam in the first phase, and vocational exam in the second phase (for educands).
In Regular Courses, the classes take place from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9h to 13h. Saturday afternoons from 14:30h to 18:30h are intended for the Cultural Territory, the space of the party, the fair and the exchange.
In the first half of 2010, SP Escola de Teatro will operate temporarily at Avenida Rangel Pestana, 2,401, in the suburb of Brás. A building at 210 Roosevelt Square has been destined specifically for this purpose and it is being renovated to house the School for good.
The architectural project adapts a building of 11 floors and 1,700 square meters, which includes a theater and three big rehearsal rooms with ceiling height of two pavements.
The rehearsal rooms serve as cells in the building with independent access to mezzanines. The remaining floors of the building will keep the simple ceiling height to be used as classrooms or administration offices. On the ground floor, there will be a public cafe opened directly onto the street.
The Cultural Territory integrates the actions of the courses as an extension of the stages of Process and Training.
On Saturday afternoons there are literary get-togethers, film screenings, concerts, readings, guided visits to museums and galleries; discussions with artists, companies and researchers; lectures to mention a few. An open space for coordinators, educators and educands to meet and also an event open to the general public.
The idea is that the Cultural Territory is a space for educands to learn but also to promote dialogue and integration with the city.
The veins of SP Escola de Teatro are fluid. The participation of the educator, educand and the general public is seen as an act of enjoyment of joint ownership. The theater community expanded to the other end. The one of the critical spectator and conscious citizen.
– Cultural Awareness
A second strong action of SP Escola de Teatro includes Cultural Awareness Courses, which are free and implemented under the same pedagogical and artistic ideas of the Regular Courses. Besides the optimization of those, the Cultural Awareness Courses establish a direct connection with creators and intellectuals from other spheres. They mobilize people in general, amateur and professionals artists interested in enhancing or expanding their theatrical knowledge.
The Cultural Awareness makes intercommunication with the Thematic Axis of the Regular Courses implicit, without ever losing sight of the connection with the community and its segments (the theatrical circle, educators, high school and university students). The intention is to bring the community to the School and take the School to the community in physical, virtual and symbolic encounters, artistic and cultural exchanges.
There are three areas of concentration that serve as base to the activities of Cultural Awareness: initiation, reflection and production. Through this tripod, the citizen can access the basic steps, the deepening and feasibility of making art with emphasis on theater arts and its multiple arteries.
The plan is to offer 26 courses a year with 64 hours of duration each. The goal is to maintain excellence in both content and profile of guests, fulfilling demands in vocational training and professional qualification beyond the 8 Regular Courses.
In addition to all courses available at present, distance education courses will be offered as well as roundtable discussions with professionals of notorious knowledge, online chats, videoconferences and publishing of a monthly electronic journal. There will also be partnerships signed with other cultural facilities to bring courses to different cities of the State of São Paulo and other states.
Finally, over the years cultural exchanges will be established from the exchanges between different countries and professionals.
The premise of openness and population flow that embraces make the Cultural Awareness an essential complement to global education and citizenship that SP Escola de Teatro asserts.
– Kairos Program
One of the main features of SP Escola de Teatro is its humanistic view on individuals belonging to it today and on those who will be there in the future. Based on this view, sociability is articulated on education and sustainable vectors within the Kairos Program, a major embryonic initiative of the public Institution, which comes to light.
In Greek mythology, Kairos is the god of opportunity. It means “the right time” or “appropriate”. The Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological time, the latter is an indeterminate moment in time where something special happens. The image that synthesizes is of a boy with hair made of fire quickly passing before the eyes of people. Suddenly, the challenge of those who saw him was to grab him.
Half of the 200 educands approved by SP Escola de Teatro in 2010, come from an average level of public education. To attend the courses, they can apply for a monthly financial aid of R$ 545.00 (which is close to Brazilian minimum wage per month). This gives the opportunity to engage in a theatrical activity based on the creative potential of every human being, not based upon social status.
Among the purposes of the Kairos Program is also the promotion of educational exchanges with educands and educators or institutions in other states or countries, as well as enabling the participation of directors and coordinators of the School at conferences, seminars, lectures and national and international roundtables.
Heterogeneity is another important aspect. The School is interested in the mixture of social backgrounds, ages, races and cultural knowledge. Society tends to see the conduct of a student or any person through the ethical principles that, at the end, relate to all levels of existence. Let affection be added to ethics. SP Escola de Teatro does not intend to produce a manual of behavior. It prefers a manual of affection. Ethics, affection, respect. The logic of emotions, this is the spirit that will rule everyone.
It is a point of view frankly libertarian in the processes of cognition and learning. It is also hoped that will guide the imagination of those who do, see and feel theater.