When the Naked Body Speaks: Brazilian Theater in the Search of National Identity
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Teat(r)o Oficina
São Paulo
Naked Body
National Identity

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Yakushenkov, S. (2022). When the Naked Body Speaks: Brazilian Theater in the Search of National Identity. Corpus Mundi, 3(1), 31-51. https://doi.org/10.46539/cmj.v3i1.59


The naked body is a complex phenomenon, combining a variety of functions. Nudity can be symbols of threat/insecurity, aggression/victim, freedom/slavery. Teatro Oficina, located in the São Paulo suburbs, offers us a unique example of nudity for the construction of national identity. Based on the Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade's "Anthropophagic Manifesto," the theatre founders made nudity and anthropophagy their theatrical credo. Formed in 1958 the theater has taken a leading place in the cultural life of São Paulo and Brazil. Despite censorship during the military dictatorship, Teatro Oficina consistently defended their right for freedom of expression.

Drawing attention to the first descriptions of the Brazilian natives by the Portuguese, de Andrade declared the importance of two main symbols from these characteristics: anthropophagy and nudity. The anthropophagy is understood by Teatro through the idea of the Brazilians capacity to devour the European achievements. Without rejecting the Western theater, the head of Teatro Jose Celso offers the audience the new corporeality concept. In this regard, not only the possible nudity of the actors, but also the willingness for actors and spectators to break the fragile edge of the customary. In theater there is no conventional theatrical stage, no generally accepted dialogues with the audience, which can also become part of the theatrical action, undressed or conversely dressed in theatrical costumes.

The Teatro Oficina’s phenomenon lies in their ability to construct a new corporeality in Brazil, based on the artificial construct by de Andrade and traditions of Brazilian culture: carnivalesque atmosphere, openness, hybridity.

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