BRAZIL’S VICTOR LUCENA GAINS CRITICAL ACCLAIM AND FANS IN “ARRUFOS”

Stage actor Victor Lucena knows a great deal about love. Yes, he has leading man looks and charisma but that’s not the reason. As a lead actor in the play Arrufos (translated as “Tiffs” in English) by XIX Theater Group in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Lucena explored various representation of love. Every actor uses a part of themselves and takes something with them from a role. As a celebrated theater actor in Brazil, Victor is recognized for his willingness to take on complicated roles as he did in Arrufos. The play received awards from the Shell Theatre Awards, the Sao Paulo Art Critics Association Awards, the Sao Paulo Theatre Co-Op Association, and countless others. As the lead actor in this production, Lucena’s ability to emote and relate to the three different characters he performs as in Arrufos was the driving force which led to these achievements. We all know about love but to communicate its various representations in a way that we can all relate to takes an actor of great skill and sensitivity. This Brazilian thespian’s decision to focus on theater rather than film is because of the changing nature of each performance that he thrives upon. Rather than embracing the security of a perfect take, Victor basks in the uncertainty that performing in front of a live audience grants. This is an appropriate metaphor for the changing aspects of love in each of our lives, which again points directly to Lucena’s astute attitude and ability at performing his roles in Arrufos.

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Victor’s work with the XIX Theater Group has driven them to become one of the most beloved and respected of their kind in Brazil; it’s an attribute that Luiz Fernando Marquez (director of XIX Theater Group) does not take lightly. Marques declares, “Victor has an endless collection of credits. There can be no question that our incredible critical acclaim and commercial success is entirely thanks to Mr. Lucena’s leading role. Arrufos consistently achieved massive commercial success through sold out shows with large audiences, resulting in numerous awards. Victor’s unprecedented skillset allowed him to convey three extraordinarily different and crucial characters in such a way that the audience was able to understand the overarching theme of the production. Victor’s versatility as an actor was an invaluable asset to the creation of this production.” Lucena is the type of actor who delights both his peers and his audience, a testament to his talent and his professionalism. He is also quick to throw accolades to his director and co-stars as reasons behind the acclaim that Arrufos received. The actor notes, “Luiz Fernando Marques is truly talented, particularly in the way that he is able to take on the audience’s perspective. He is able to approach it with a fresh set of eyes each time and understand how the audience will see things, rather than getting lost in a director’s mind. My co-stars: Rodolfo Amorim, Ronaldo Serruya, Juliana Sanches and Janaina Leite…they all have such passion and presence! I’m fortunate that their performances challenged me to work at such a high level. Working with the best forces you to become even better…which is why I do it.”

One of the reasons that Victor was so lauded for his work in Arrufos is in regards to his multiple performances in the play and their believability. The production is a research into the history of love in Brazil, and was written into numerous skits and sketches which show the differing ways love can be perceived, given, and received. Despite wildly different depictions of this highly complex emotion, the overall theme of the play is the strength and prevalence of love across time and space. As a leading actor for Arrufos, Mr. Lucena performed three leading characters: The Priest, The Doctor, and The Lonely. Each character is a different look into various aspects of love. The Priest acts as a conduit of the influence of the Catholic Church in the 1700’s on love and faith, the Doctor establishes opposition to the church and the science of love, and the Lonely represents the lack of hope in life when loneliness is prominent and how love conquers it. Victor explains the acts of the play, “It is a really fascinating emotional curve for the actors involved in this play. The first act is so deep, dark, and heavy. Regardless of all the speeches we all have in it; it seems too silent. In order to create that atmosphere, we all would breathe together for a few minutes and then, about 15 minutes before play starts, each actor and actress would get quiet and start concentrating for it. The second act is much lighter. We took the heaviness off of the atmosphere to break away from the First Act, which is kind of relief for the actors and the audience. The Third Act was a joy! It was especially fun because we break the fourth wall; that was something that I felt really confident and comfortable with. A play is a live organism and as so it is always varying. While a song can be performed in the same way night after night in an orchestra, that’s impossible for a play; it depends on so many different variables. I think consistency is the most important achievement for a good performance but you have to explore new places at the same time.”

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When a performance is as recognized by both consumers and critics, it’s natural to be curious about the preparation of the actor. For his roles in Arrufos, Lucena immersed himself with inspiration for the mood by reading books and watching films about the different presentations of love. He even created a specific playlist which he would listen to for 30 minutes prior to each performance. This gives credence to the idea that art inspires art. While Victor admits to ignoring critics during the run of the play, he admits to one self-congratulatory moment. He reveals, “During the First Act, as the Priest, I’d have to hide under a tiny bed, change clothes and “sing” a prayer in the complete darkness. To do all this, I had only about two and a half minutes, which is the time the character of the father had to give his speech. I’m 5’11’’ and the bed is about 5’5”. I truly believed that there was no way I could do all of this in such a cramped space, but I did and every time. When  I finished I’d secretly celebrate.” Perhaps it is this attitude, that of a man who focuses on the little things rather than worrying about grand acceptance from critics, that communicates Lucena’s joy of the stage and all its possibilities to a welcoming group of admirers.

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