Portuguese students practice language through play


Brian Lee/The Daily Northwestern

McCormick senior Clayton Hall performs in the play “Artistas!” Wednesday evening. The play, organized by Prof. Raquel Amorim of the Portuguese language program, features students performing the Brazilian play in its original language of Portuguese.

Amy Whyte, Reporter

After watching an English version of a Portuguese play, Spanish and Portuguese Prof. Raquel Amorim decided to put the play on again — but this time in its original language and by her students.

The play, “Artistas: Um drama pequeno burgues,” is a farce about artists trying to make a living that the International Voices Project put on in March. Amorim, who served as the faculty adviser, proposed the idea to her Portuguese students after attending the festival. Her students performed a staged reading of the script Wednesday.

“I went to see it in English and thought it was really funny, so I thought, ‘Wow, this is a good opportunity for my students to do it in Portuguese,'” Amorim said.

The students, some of whom were only in their first year of Portuguese, participated in the play on a voluntary basis: It was an extracurricular activity for which students did not receive class credit. A top Brazilian diplomat serving the Chicago area attended the performance.

McCormick sophomore Rick Fromm, who took Portuguese last year, said he participated in the play because he had fallen out of practice with the language since he stopped taking classes.

“It definitely got me back on the horse,” Fromm said.

Students used Portuguese not just while reading the play, but also while preparing for the production, director Mariana Leite said.

“Everything was in Portuguese,” Leite said. “Learning the play, practicing, everything.”

Amorim said she thought the process of putting on the production would be a more engaging way to learn Portuguese than traditional studying.

“The idea was to have some fun reading a play in Portuguese,” Amorim said.

The production, which took place in Harris Hall, was preceded by a selection of Portuguese music performed by Northwestern students. The nine student actors then performed a staged reading of Sant’Angelo’s play, with English subtitles projected onto a screen behind them.

The comedic play portrayed the struggles of three artists trying to make a living off of their art. Three students played each role, taking turns reading the lines of their characters. Scenes such as one character’s description of a man masturbating to her performance and another character philosophizing while on the toilet drew laughs from an audience of about 30 people, a majority of whom spoke Portuguese.

A brief question-and-answer session with the students followed the play.

Communication junior Lillian Tung said although she does not personally speak Portuguese, she attended the play to support her friend who was in it.

“I’ve taken a foreign language here, too, and I thought it was really nice that they got to practice through a play,” Tung said. “And it’s really cool that there’s a community to support them.”