Cervantes, Shakespeare
Prisma latinoamericano, lecturas refractadas

Reflexiones desde Montevideo


Music for the Dance: Cultural Intersections in African and Brazilian Shakespeare

Sheila T. Cavanagh (Emory University, EE. UU.)

In this talk, I will discuss significant intersections between a 2007 Brazilian samba version of Othello (Otelo da Mangueira) and Olwole Oguntokun’s  Renegade Theatre of Lagos Production of Winter’s Tale for the 2012 Globe to Globe Festival in London.  While these productions were created separately from each other (and I have no knowledge that the directors know of each other’s work), they demonstrates how the study of international Shakespeares can illuminate cultural convergences that enhance international communication in addition to furthering literary study. In particular, I will focus on the pedagogical implications of such distinctive performances.

These productions demonstrate the power of what are sometimes termed “glocal” productions; that is, performances that exhibit their local origins at the same time that they endeavor to foster widespread communication. Otelo da Mangueira, set in a Rio samba school in 1940, transforms Othello into a powerful musical, deeply reflective of Brazil’s sociopolitical circumstances during WWII. It uses familiar samba songs and Brazil’s complex racial and socioeconomic history to reframe Shakespeare’s story in remarkable ways.  By moving the narrative to the Brazilian favelas rather than Cyprus, Otelo da Manguera draws attention to economic distinctions between the characters, even though it elides the racial differences that predominate in Shakespeare’s play.  In the classroom, it introduces students to Brazilian history at the same time that it underscores important textual issues in the early modern play.

The Nigerian Winter’s Tale seems far removed from Otelo da Manguera, until the musical correlations between Africa and Brazil come into focus.  This Winter’s Tale capitalizes upon Yoruban music and religion, with the characters transformed to figures that feature prominently in jazz traditions.  In this production, Leontes becomes Shango, God of Thunder; Polixenes is transformed into Ogun, God of Iron, and Hermione becomes Yemeya, the Goddess of Female Spirit and Womanhood.  Like Otelo da Mangueira, there are striking interpretive decisions that make this production important both for the study of Shakespeare and for Nigerian theatrical traditions. Winter’s Tale is far less well known than Othello, but the tales of unwarranted and murderous jealousy intersect, just as the musical resonances of these disparate productions speak to each other in fascinating ways.

This talk will focus on the concept of the “glocal,” with a particular emphasis upon the role of international Shakespeare in pedagogical exploration. 

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