BWW Interview: Actor/Artistic Director Filipe Valle Costa Discusses Saudade Theatre
Filipe Valle Costa is the founder and co-artistic director of the Saudade Theatre, the first and only Portuguese theatre in Los Angeles to translate Portuguese playwrights into English. The company will soon open My Favorite Suicide on October 18. Based on my knowledge of theatre in Los Angeles, this is a milestone for our community. We desperately need to include theatre artists from all over the globe whose ideas will expand our intellectual horizons and build the best theatre possible.
Filipe, tell our readers about Saudade Theatre. Most importantly, as the first and only Portuguese theatre in the US, how has it made a difference for the Portuguese and our American culture?
FVC: Well, that is the key right there. Saudade Theatre is the first and only Portuguese theatre company in the US, and as such, it's our mission to develop original and thought-provoking work grounded in the Portuguese experience. I never wanted Saudade to be a "museum" theatre company. In other words, it is not our goal to grow a company that merely presents an American audience with a Portuguese story, or our history straight from the history books. As Portuguese immigrants having grown roots in the US, we are specifically interested in having a dialogue: we want to understand where the contemporary Portuguese consciousness meets the American equivalent. We are now based in Los Angeles, but started the work of Saudade Theatre in New York City five years ago - after having the simple realization that theatre bookstores did not carry any Portuguese playwrights translated to English. I felt a longing for my artistic and cultural roots, and craved the ability to share them. Saudade Theatre has been ground-breaking in presenting certain Portuguese plays in the US for the first time. Exploring Portuguese theatre has allowed us to open our minds to other possibilities and other forms of creating theatre. It's been an amazing ride to rediscover what theatre can be, and do.
Are all productions translated into English or in some is there a mix of Portuguese and English? Have you ever presented any show in Portuguese and translated into English on a screen above for audience view?
FVC: We are not limiting ourselves to any one way of producing works. For now, the majority of our work is grounded on the translation of Portuguese plays and playwrights, in direct response to the lack of such published works. This is the foundation. This is how we create the bridge between Portuguese and American theatre cultures.
However, we see many other possibilities in the future. We've considered bringing essential American works to Portugal; we've considered performing plays fully in Portuguese with subtitles; we have and will continue to reconsider our storytelling methods according to the specificity of each project and each step the company takes.
Tell us about the world premiere of My Favorite Suicide. What does it tell the story of and what is its message?
FVC: It's deeply exciting. Through our work creating relationships with Portuguese playwrights, we now have a new work written specifically for our company, penned by one of the most notable Portuguese playwrights today. We are ecstatic to produce this world premiere here in LA.
My Favorite Suicide is an apocalyptical story about four friends, in a cabin, in the middle of a mountainous forest, grappling with the strangest of all human acts. What deaths do we give ourselves and what countless tales do we tell about them?
This work is also incredibly personal. Suicide has touched my family. One of our goals with Saudade Theatre is to always take the pulse of the current moment - so My Favorite Suicide came about as a response to the general mental health conversation in the US right now. It was important to us to be able to have four actors get on stage and debate the meaning of life and death and choices and survival, nonstop, for over an hour. There is not one defined message per se. This play is not a cautionary tale, nor looking to impose a certain point of view. Our goal is to speak openly about suicide and exchange ideas, which audiences may or may not agree with, but it's an open dialogue about a subject that so often is swallowed by silence.
Talk about the collaborators and the writer/director's first directorial production in the US.
FVC: I feel personally fulfilled to be working with everyone on this project. Starting with Mickaël De Oliveira - his writing repertoire includes more than 20 plays, which have been produced internationally and translated into English, French, Spanish and Slovak. He's been working at The National Theatre and on Portugal's largest stages for years. Having him and his translator/dramaturg Maria Inês Marques in the US working with our theatre company is a unique opportunity for ourselves (as artistic directors), for actors, and also our production designers, to work with artists of great experience and perspective. And, with our goal to further Portuguese playwrights, Saudade Theatre set up a conference with UCLA's Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, where Mickaël will have the opportunity to present on his Ph.D. thesis regarding contemporary European theatre for students and department staff.
We're also incredibly grateful to be working with Drum & Lace once again this year. Drum & Lace is a composer & performer that writes & creates music for film, fashion & media. She composed original music for our West Coast Premiere of The Constitution, also written by Mickaël, last year. There's no limit to the wonderful things I can say about her. Her scoring of HBO's documentary "At The Heart of Gold" was absolutely gorgeous.
We have found a true diamond in the rough with our stage manager, Garrett Crouch. He's that for us and so much more. I cannot imagine producing anything without him. It's been a huge gift to share the stage with our actresses Liliana de Castro (Psi, HBO), Joy Brunson (This Is Us, NBC; Snowfall, FX), and of course, my co-artistic director, Diogo Martins (Saramago's Skylight.)
Last but not least, sharing an artistic life with my wife, our Executive Director, Vanessa Varela, has been one of the most rewarding experiences I could have asked for. Vanessa has been our rock.
Tell us about incorporating American actors into casts and how that generates a fine sense of community.
FVC: Saudade Theatre is first and foremost a conversation between American and Portuguese artists, between our cultures & societies. A dialogue about what we might or might not have in common. Our work is always in relationship to where it exists, because the theatre depends on that. I guess we can say that we are not a Portuguese theatre company. We are a Portuguese American theatre company. We never wanted to be solely made up of Portuguese artists because for us, that would mean isolating ourselves rather than opening ourselves up to valuable collaborations. The bridge we are slowly building strongly depends on that.
My Favorite Suicide will play at Anthony Meindl's Actor Workshop 905 Cole Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90038 It plays at the following times: Friday, October 18 - 8:00 pm, Saturday, October 19 - 8:00 pm, Sunday, October 20 - 7:30 pm. NO SHOW on Fri. 10/25. Saturday, October 26 - 3:00 pm, Saturday, October 26 - 8:00 pm, Sunday, October 27 - 7:30 pm, Friday, November 1 - 8:00 pm, Saturday, November 2 - 8:00 pm, and Sunday, November 3 - 7:30 pm $20, Ages 16+https://www.saudadetheatre.org/my-favorite-suicide