ARTHE - Archiving Theatre

Founding Entity: Foundation for Science and Technology (PTDC/ART-PER/1651/2021)
Principal Researcher: Maria João Brilhante
Co-responable: Ana Bigotte Vieira
Research Unit: CET – Centre for Theatre Studies
Partners: School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon's Library, the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (TNDM II), the Teatro Nacional São João (TNSJ), the Museu Nacional do Teatro e da Dança (MNTD), the IHC, NOVA FCSH, and the ISCTE-IUL.
Duration: 36 months
Funding: 246 446,28euros
Abstract: The project ARQUIVAR O TEATRO/ARCHIVING THEATRE aims at locating, mapping and studying the situation of theatre archives in Portugal, to set up a plan of good practices involving an institutional network and theatre companies. The archives of Teatro da Cornucopia, a major force in the political and aesthetic renewal of theatre in Portugal after the 25th April Revolution and of Mário Barradas, the main promoter of theatrical decentralization, have been recently donated to the Centre for Theatre Studies / School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon. Based on the analysis of these two important acquisitions, and extending the research methodology to the archives of other theatre companies in the country, ARCHIVING THEATRE intends to broaden the analysis of public and private conservation policies in order to foster ‘good practices’ of preservation, accessibility and study of (and with) the companies’ and artists’ archives. This will be achieved by disseminating the research results through a website, a booklet collection, two conferences, debates both in theatre and archival venues, and an e-book. The project stems from what was called “Independent” theatre - the umbrella term for the heterogeneous group of non-commercial companies that emerged after 1974. Extensively cartographing its national and international affiliations, descendants, and influences, it expects to contribute to the debates on the role of archival practices as recently reinvested by artists and academics alike, in the construction of critical transnational and decentered historiographies of the performing arts. ARCHIVING THEATRE will be the first project to approach this type of documentation to spot existing assets, gaps and archiving modalities practiced both by companies and institutions, in order to build a national map and intervene against the disappearance of information that is fundamental for our knowledge of the profound changes in the ways companies are organized, as well as in forms of theatre since the 70s. This vital project arises from the urgent need to access and understand what the archives say about the impact of socio-political, cultural, dramaturgical and aesthetic changes caused by the end of the dictatorship (1974), the admission to the EEC and subsequent neoliberal policies. It is also essential to pinpoint the devastating effects of the austerity policies from 2008 on, manifested in the closure (and consequent archival dispersal) of many “independent” companies created after the Revolution, which had been active for decades. The national mapping includes a comparative approach to European and non-European initiatives that have been developing archival knowledge geared to reassemble and re-member the transformative potential of performing arts’ communal practices, in times of sociopolitical duress. Brazilian historians have been closely connected to CET’s research on global theatre histories and this partnership will be pursued.
ARCHIVING THEATRE broadens a series of initiatives already carried out by CET through its connection with other research units, official institutions and theatre professionals, as well as through the creation of fundamental open access databases such as CETbase and OPSIS. In 2017, Teatro Meridional commissioned CET to create an electronic device to organize all the documentation associated with the company, aiming at a tool allowing the company to manage the data produced. The knowledge generated by this foray into the archive and the activation of this company's artist incorporated memory reverts to this project. In 2017, Teatro da Cornucópia’s archive was inventoried, in preparation for its subsequent donation, since the company, like Mário Barradas’ family, chose FLUL and CET to receive their archives (vide documents attached). In 2018, CET and IHC organized a cycle of debates entitled Contemporary Theatre in Lisbon and Porto: spaces, collections, archives, with participants from several of the main theatre companies in those cities, together with those responsible for state-run theatre and dance libraries and archives, to jointly discuss the critical situation of these archives in Portugal. On the same occasion, FLUL displayed its theatre collections through exhibiting the archives of Osório Mateus, Mário Barradas, Mário Jacques, Mário Sério and Teatro da Cornucopia (https://teatroemespolios.wixsite.com/teatroemespolios).
Together with Teatro do Bairro Alto, CET is organizing a series of conferences titled “Histories of the Experimental”, addressing experimentation in the performing arts as seen through the archives, from a transnational point of view. Theatre archives gained importance in the actual pandemic situation. Responding to that, CET recently helped designing a funding line for performing arts archives to be cared for by the companies themselves, which will be implemented in 2021 under a partnership between CET and the Ministry of Culture.