A few weeks ago, Dr. Marcia Pompeo, sadly passed away. She was one of the pioneering scholars and practitioners of community theatre in Brazil. In May 2016, when Anamaria Cruz and Eugene van Erven were scouting for the 2017 ICAF festival in Brazil, Eugene spent a lovely few days in Marcia’s house, outside Florianópolis. During that visit, Eugene also gave an illustrated talk about ICAF to her students at the Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina. Eugene had met Marcia first in 2009 at a symposium in Plymouth, thanks to his colleague, Professor Tim Prentki from the University of Winchester (UK). Tim, who will be facilitating a seminar at our next ICAF, wrote the following In Memoriam. Back in 2016, we also created a brief video interview with Marcia that you can view here…
Marcia Pompeo Nogueira died at the end of August 2019, after being diagnosed with cancer in October 2017. With her passing I have lost a very dear friend and community theatre has lost one of its brightest and most energetic practitioners and academics. The shock waves have reverberated in all the places touched by her generous, witty presence; most of all in her homeland, Brazil, and especially in the community and university groups of Florianópolis where she worked tirelessly for over forty years.
I first met Marcia in 1999 while she was in England doing her doctorate with John Somers at Exeter. She came to Winchester to take a look at the MA in Theatre for Development which I was running. I was immediately struck by the speed with which she got onto the students’ wavelength and the ways in which she was able to bring her experience to bear upon discourses arising in very different contexts. Our next encounter was across the table where she was defending her thesis. Rarely can a deep and lasting friendship have been grounded in a Ph.D. viva: it was on this occasion. I still remember the passion and eloquence with which she explored the pedagogic and artistic connections between Brecht’s notion of Verfremdungand Freire’s ‘codification’. As in all my subsequent meetings, I left Marcia’s presence richer, wiser and more glad to be alive; such was her infectious, engaging enthusiasm.
So began a series of invitations from Marcia to participate in the international seminars on community theatre which she hosted at the State University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis and to assist with the teaching of postgraduate courses to students and members of the community facilitators’ network which she established. From the moment the door of classroom or performance studio opened, Marcia took in every person, cared about every detail of the lives they carried into the space. Inclusion wasn’t her policy, it was as natural as the air she breathed. Whatever the theory or abstraction arising from the dialogue, Marcia had a practical, artistic expression for it; the embodiment of Brecht’s adage: ‘the truth is concrete’. She gave me the privilege of planning and sharing the teaching of the first training module of her project to train teachers from the Movimento Sem Terra (MST) to use drama in their primary schools. On the opening day apprehension was etched on the faces of the men and women from the settlements as they were invited onto the alien territory of the ‘bourgeois’ University. Within minutes Marcia had transformed the atrium of the Performing Arts Department into the site of a traditional MST ceremony. Song burst forth and fear gave way to joy. Her very presence made every space she entered ‘safe’; safe for art to express what the lives of those with whom she worked so often denied.
Last March came the final and most precious invitation: to support Marcia in going back to the University to recommence teaching in the midst of her severe regime of medicines and doctors’ appointments. Together with Marina Henriques, the three of us organised a two week postgraduate course: ‘art in a crazy world’. First to last the process was unalloyed joy. All Marcia’s brilliant pedagogic instincts were intact: warmth, humour, easy switches from theory to practice, the wisdom to understand what needed to be done next. Joy too to witness the devotion in which Marcia’s local community group, Canto da Lagoa, held her.
After she dropped me off at the airport, she turned her head as she drove away and smiled as if bestowing a blessing upon me. I have, indeed, been blessed. A great fire has been extinguished but the sparks she generated will light up community theatre throughout the world for many years to come.
Tim Prentki, September 2019