Learning on the stage art
- Sao Paulo, Brazil -

Have you ever considered the walls that cross cities? Not only physical walls that split public and private spaces but imaginary divisions that we build based on social and cultural differences? These questions came up when I had contact with Teatro Cidadão in 2015.

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Teatro Cidadão, a unique social project, is dedicated to the youth of Heliopolis, a disadvantaged community in São Paulo City, Brazil. Over a period of 4 months, these young individuals step out of their local environment to explore the realms of lighting, body expression, acting, and all aspects of theatre production.
If art wasn’t involved, this action could be just one more professional qualification for needy community youngsters. However, when the transformative power of the artistic process is incorporated into the project actions, a new world is offered to the participants.
This project empowers its participants, enlarging the concept of work beyond the essential life support. It shows them other ways of being part of a society, of being inserted as a transforming agent with autonomy for personal choices.
The activities of “Teatro Cidadão have occurred since 2006, and the last three years with Petrobras support. In this period, according to Augusto Marin, head of the project, youngsters and teenagers could practice their talents either on stage or behind the scenes. Also, they could realise other ways of thinking and seeing the world, going beyond the reality surrounding them.
To the people’s happiness, the classes are taught in the theatre (Teatro Commune), making the stage magic available in the heart of Sao Paulo city. Even the theatre location is a citizenship lesson. Michelle Gabriel, actress and head of the Project, says that many participants only know São Paulo city centre because of the project. This could be impressive, but most of them never had the opportunity, or even the motivation, to see other Sao Paulo neighbourhoods apart from the place where their live.
Considering this, the idea that we live in a community surrounded by imaginary walls is not so absurd.
After weekly meetings with actors/educators, all knowledge is put to the test. At the end of training, all participants have been involved in creating, preparing and acting in a final show. In 2015, I could photograph a happy group on two occasions: on the first and the last day of the project.
The change promoted in this period was tremendous. On the first day, with the insecure smiles of those full of expectations and uncertainties… Seeing them getting into the new world was a motivator, totally different from what they lived day by day. Curious but brave enough to allow themselves to a new way.
In the second moment, in the theatrical show, it was great to see the same smiles, which now expressed “that” inherent nervousness that happens before the show.
I could feel how being in a theatre was a well-known territory, and the actors, directors and producers who came to life started to see several possibilities for telling a story.
Indeed, photographing Teatro Cidadão, I could testify how social action using art can transform youngsters of a needy community into Dell’art citizens.