The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
What is SESC, the Brazilian organizations that runs 30 comprehensive culture and arts facilities in Sao Paulo State
Antunes Filho’s newest work Antigone
Photo: Nilton Silva
CPT Theater Study Center
Drama director Antunes Filho and actresses of CPT Theater Study Center
Photo: Evelyn Ruman
We would like to know about Mr. Ricardo Fernandes, who was the coordinator for the performing arts at SESC for 14 years and who today works as an independent producer. How is the coordination of this section done today?
Since he went independent, Ricardo has done some works and brought some proposals for presentations to SESC that always have a very contemporary characteristic. He is like a contemporary curator for SESC. I wouldn’t say that he is a curator only of drama, like before, but also of dance and visual arts, because nowadays all of that is mixed. And Ricardo understands the moment so well. He knows very well what SESC’s aims are, too, because he worked with us for a long time. He has now brought a group from Japan, the Gekidan Kaitaisha. He is also organizing part of Brazil’s presentation for the World Cup in Germany in June. Actually, the two countries with whom he has had a stronger relationship are Japan and Germany. I would say that he is not a good curator for a traditional show. He has difficulties in understanding and involving himself with the business establishment and such. He is a man of the contemporary, and of the newest kind, too.

Do you have your own staff in charge of everything?
SESC has always concerned itself with the training of its human resources. Everyone has the opportunity for taking courses and going abroad to study. I was one of the first ones. In the 1970s I went to Switzerland, to study management at the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration (Idheap) in Lausanne. After that, many others also went abroad, to obtain a deeper knowledge in the areas of management, leisure and culture in general. We are aware of the need to value our staff members and cultivating their abilities, to make them more capable of developing their work. There is a concept in Brazil that in the social and cultural areas it is enough to have good will. That is a mistake. It is necessary to have professionals who understand about management and planning. SESC has long adopted this kind of professional perspective. These people end up growing within the institution and taking up new positions. I think we need to have this kind of program, but we also have to respect those who come from outside and help us with a new way of looking at things. Valuing the human resources in SESC is an ideal that is not only talked about, but practiced as much as possible.

What is the relationship between SESC and the drama director Mr. Antunes Filho?
In the beginning of the 80s, Antunes already had directed many things in television and theater, but his dream was to have a project to train actors, directors, lighting technicians; that is professionals of the theater. He convinced SESC to create a project of drama research within the institution, in 1982. Antunes was always a rigorous man. I call him the ascetic of the theater. He is not the only one. Antunes is a disciplined and severe person, but one of a fantastic efficacy and great creativity. He is truly one of the great, if not the greatest, drama director in this country. Within SESC, as part of the staff, he began to carry out the job of training actors and directors. Many famous people in Brazilian theater and TV have been trained by him. He has also trained lighting technicians, set and costume designers. More recently he is working with a group of playwrights, too. SESC provided him with the means to do his work and also with the infrastructure, such as workshops for creating graphic materials, set designing, costumes. Antunes can also be credited with being the first in Brazil to discover Kazuo Ohno. He helped in this, together with the Japan Foundation and the family of the late Mr. Takao Kusuno [a butoh dancer who emigrated to Brazil in the latter half of the 1970s and brought new inspiration to the Brazilian dance scene]. Kazuo is a revolutionary figure who had an impact on many audiences around the world. He is an important person for us in SESC.

Do the performing arts programs of SESC always have something of a multicultural character?
Always. One of our strategies is multiculturalism, the variety of tendencies, the respect for divergence. This means that we always give space to the traditional, but also to the revolutionary. There is a very delicate concept, which is transgression. There is no growth and development of culture without transgression. When Picasso draws the face of a woman, fragmenting it into three different dimensions and showing them all at once on the same painting, he is innovating. That is the kind of transgression I am talking about. And there is a vast field for this, in all of the visual and performing arts. So this multiculturalism, this variety of proposals, is respectful. What I mean is that the very base of welfare projects has to do with giving value to the human being, who deserves respect within a standard of absolute equality. This is not a matter of religion or politics. It is about culture. From a cultural point of view, we are all fundamentally equal.

In this sense, are the Brazilians more prepared for multiculturalism?
In a way, yes. It is one of our values. The great national identity is this multiplicity of values that we have. This was said to me by the director of the museum in Osaka. He said an interesting thing. He said, “Look, Brazil is a great multicultural nation that is growing and developing to have an important role in history.” He said that the other great multicultural society was the American one, which, in his opinion, is now facing a time of decadence. I cannot go deeper into this now, but he talked about the difficulty of different cultures relating to each other there, about the slums. In Brazil, we have lots of social and economic problems, but this one is smaller.
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