Maria do Céu Ribeiro & Paulo Mota

14 June 2019

Maria do Céu Ribeiro & Paulo Mota

Interview

about "O amigo secreto"
Teatro Municipal do Porto has challenged its Friends to participate in a long-term project that will premiere in July. To that end, we decided to invite you to guide these sessions, and to think of a project that would bring this audience, which is key for us to pursue our work, to the stage. When we extended you this invitation, what did you think of it?

MARIA DO CÉU RIBEIRO (MCR) When you invited me, I was immediately struck by ideas around the origin of the word “friendship”. Friendship, love, hospitality relations. I very quickly associated with the idea of sharing as such, with the idea of the exchange involved in these relations. There’s always an exchange relation, but also always a feeling of searching and finding the unknown, what’s secret and what’s not, what we want and don’t want to show, and the people participating in the project are of great importance in this process.

How about you, Paulo, how did you deal with this challenge and with the proposal for a long-term work such as this one?

PAULO MOTA (PM) I was curious to know the group with which I was going to work and its diversity, because it is difficult to develop a project without knowing with whom. I took up the challenge because of the secrecy, and out of curiosity of working with someone one doesn’t know.

In this regard, based on the words “secrecy” and “curiosity”, what were the expectations at the start of the project, and what had to be obtained from the initial relation with the participants?

MCR At first, the main thing was getting to know who those people were, what they were doing there, why they applied for this project, and what were their expectations. At some point in the beginning, we discussed among ourselves the need for a text, a basic idea that would act as a support or resource if necessary. However, after talking a lot about it, we ended up letting go of those ideas. Only by being aware of what drove them, their age groups, origins and interests were we able to build something more in tune with everyone’s expectations. Realising whether they had (professional stage) experience or not, whether they had an interest in any given artistic field or not. We were only able to come up with a narrative for this work by having an identifiable core group of people—it was not uniform, yet there were connecting points. The idea of secrecy ended up being the start of this work, but it gained layers that helped build a more consistent artistic object. I admit that our initial curiosity was understanding what makes someone befriend a theatre. Why would anyone become friends with an institution, to what purpose and what is the point? The idea came thereafter.

In fact, the notion of friend is so wide and encompassing that it adjusted to different formats, situations, dimensions and even contexts over time. Following on that idea, there are several types of friends, almost as if we’d file them in drawers: there’s the social friend, the intimate friend, the childhood friend, and even the so-called “friend with benefits”. At the root of it all, what is “a friend” to you?

PM I think a friend is someone who always welcomes you without fear, no matter what. Someone who accepts you in every situation.
MCR It is a relation that involves tremendous trust. For me, this is a key concept in a friendship relation. “Trust” is key; it summarises all we have with each other.

We didn’t pick your names for this project at random. Teatro Municipal do Porto had an interest in having two friends working with the Theatre’s Friends on friendship relations. Being friends, you know one another well. Therefore—in a kind of “table tennis” answer—what added value does each of you think the other brings to this project?

PM I’d say we best keep it a secret [laughter].
MCR Good answer, I like that [laughter]. I don’t think I should reveal what added value the other brings to the project; that’s what trust is all about.
PM We’ll get to know each other even better as we go along [laughter].

But you had and you still have expectations towards one another. Friends are always looking for more and better things in those closest to them…

PM Yes, we can talk about…
MCR As a matter of fact I didn’t have high expectations! Do you have expectations when it comes to me?
PM I believe we can discuss it without cameras or microphones [laughter]. There’s a side to our relation that shouldn’t be made public, that’s all [laughter].


Interview with Maria do Céu Ribeiro and Paulo Mota, conducted by Dina Lopes (coordinator of Paralelo Approach Programme to Performing Arts)
Image © Pedro Sardinha
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