A’Pele [Portuguese for ‘skin’] is one of Portugal’s leading community theatre companies. It was founded in 2007 with the intention of questioning the theatre as a privileged space. A’Pele uses this art form to generate dialogue and collective creations that involve the city’s popular and marginalised communities. A’Pele is home to Porto’s Theatre of the Deaf, and works in prisons with techniques inspired by Augusto Boal, applying popular theatre forms to work with a variety of citizens in and around Porto. Portugal has developed a distinct community theatre style of its own: large-scale, outdoor, neighbourhood-based productions with colourful mass scenes involving anywhere between 50 and 100 residents.
Hugo Cruz is the artistic director of A’Pele and of the biennial community theatre festival MEXE. He trained as a psychologist and theatre maker in Portugal and Spain. He is one of Portugal’s most experienced community theatre practitioners, working in prisons, factories, neighbourhoods, and other settings. In addition to his work for A’Pele, he also publishes and teaches at the University of Porto and in the post-graduate community theatre programme of the Porto Theatre Academy.