To the participants of the 1st Annual Seminar of Performance and Politics in the Americas:
This is the result of a long effort to bring to the surface discussions about performance and its relation to other fields and activities within society. It is without doubt the realization of a longtime dream, that began when I first came into contact with this new discipline, during the course of my Master's degree in the Performance Studies Department at New York University (1985-88) and, later, during my doctoral studies (1993-97), that I completed in the same department. Over the course of this entire time, (now going on 15 years) I often thought of bringing to the Escola de Teatro at UNIRIO, where I graduated as a director in 1972, and where I teach since 1989, various questions about the practice and the study of performance, raised by Richard Schechner, Brooks McNamara, Marcia Siegel and others, in other words, my professors at NYU. Finally in the year 2000, this has become possible thanks to the creation of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, envisioned and brought into being by Diana Taylor, supported by the current faculty of the Performance Studies Department as well as professors from other departments within New York University. With the help of the Ford Foundation and an international consortium including the Reitoria of UNIRIO, Fundação PRO UNIRIO and New York University, this project has been made possible. Its realization could not have been completed, however, without the unlimited support of the Department of Directing, the Graduate Program in Theatre and all of the other departments within UNIRIO.
At a moment when professors and students are fighting for a public, democratic and engaged university, this first Annual Encontro of Performance and Politics in the Americas becomes vitally important. Our goal is to bring UNIRIO into the new millenium not only as the institutional host of a conference and an international performance exhibition but, at the same time, to open its doors to those who practice Brazilian political theater, to those who take care of important public celebrations of our Nation, and to the presence of artists who guarantee the diversity Brazilian performance, above all those who do not receive attention from the media. We want to create an arena of discussion about questions of the art of the performer within the physical space of the stage, in the anonymous urgency of the streets and in the political tribunals where dramas of power are enacted. The presence of international performers will contribute, without a doubt, to enrich this moment in which we demand changes and we seek to affirm our democratic achievements. Within this context, the terms Performance and Politics become almost synonymous.