Assunção, Leilah 1943-
ASSUNÇÃO, Leilah 1943-
Born 1943, in Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil. Education: University of São Paulo, B.S.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Host Publications, 2717 Wooldridge Dr., Austin, TX 78703.
Playwright, actress, and author. Associated with Theatro Oficina, Brazil. Actress on stage, appearing in A vereda da slavação, 1963, and The Three-Penny Opera, 1964. Formerly employed as a fashion model. Participant at International Women Playwrights conferences in Buffalo, NY, 1988, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1991.
Molière Prize, 1969, for Fala baixo senão eu grito; Sociedade Brasileira de Autores Teatraise Award, 1973; Ondas Award (Spain), for television work.
Da fala ao grito (includes Fala baixo senão eu grito [title means "Speak Softly, or I Shall Scream,"] 1969, Jorginho, o machão, 1970, and Amélia ou Roda cor de roda [title means "Amelia, or, Color Wheel,"] 1973), Símbolo (São Paulo, Brazil), 1977.
A kuka de Kamaiorá (title means "The Kuka of Kamaiorá"; produced 1978), Ministério de Educação e Cultura (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1978, portions translated by Dawn Jordan published as The Secret of the Golden Soul and produced in Buffalo, NY, c. 1987.
(With others) Feira brasileira de opinião (includes Sobrevividos), Global Editora (São Paulo, Brazil), 1978.
Vejo um vulto na janela, me acudam que eu sou donzela, produced in Brazil, 1979.
Boca molhada de paixão calada, produced 1980, published in Brasil: nunca mas, Editora Vozes, 1985, translation published as Moist Lips, Quiet Passion in Three Contemporary Brazilian Plays (bilingual edition), edited by Elzbieta Szoka and Joe W. Bratcher III, Host Publications (Austin, TX), 1988.
Lua nua, Scipione (São Paulo, Brazil), 1990, 3rd edition, 1993.
Diz que ue fui pra Maiamum (title means "Say That I Went to Mayamoom"), produced in a reading off-Broadway, 1990.
O grande momento de Guta de Mello Santos, produced 1991.
Also author of Use Pó de arroz Bijou, 1968, Feira (title means "Fair"), 1967, Da fala ao grito, 1977, Seda pura e alfinetadas, 1981, and Quem matou a baronesa?, 1992. Author of television scripts for Windmills and Avenida Paulista. Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Status Literatura.
Brazilian-born playwright Leilah Assunção made a name for herself as part of a group of dramatists that in the late 1960s were referred to as the Teatro Novo. Often censored by Brazil's military dictatorship through the late 1970s, her plays, which include Fala baixo senão eu grito, Lua Nua, and Diz que eu fui pra Maiamum, focus on psychological rather than political themes, and often explore oppression and censorship as expressed through interpersonal and sexual relationships. Often this oppression and censorship is directed toward women. As she commented during conference proceedings published as International Women Playwrights: Voices of Identity and Transformation, "'What are you doing young lady! Pull your skirt down!' That's the first bit of censorship I got in life. Censorship is eternal, and it's been exercised by the man, the government, the Whites or the nation in power at any given time in history."
Assunção's first three plays immediately signaled to Brazilian audiences that she had broken with the mold of earlier, proletarian playwrights; Fala baixo senão eu grito, Jorginho, o machão, and Roda cor de roda focus on the world of the Brazilian middle class, painting a portrait of what Margo Milleret in Luso-Brazilian Review described as "a suffocating, decadent social structure where traditional sex roles cannot be altered and conformity to the status quo is required." Noting that Assunção's early works are "pessimistic" in portraying the lives of "characters … trapped in a stagnant social environment with no chance for escape or improvement," Milleret argued that the playwright intimates that such conditions are not unwanted; "members of the middle class cooperate in the perpetuation of these conditions and through cooperation legitimize them as 'tradition' or 'custom'," the critic noted.
Assunção's most overtly political play, Boca molhada de paixão calada focuses on her country's 1964-1979 dictatorship; it was produced on stage only after Amnesty Laws had lifted censorship restrictions imposed on the country's artistic communities. Written in 1980, the play focuses on a married couple, Mila and Antonio, who "come into conflict over the values of the social classes to which they belong," according to Milleret in an essay published in Discurso Literario. On the surface working out problems faced in their marriage, Assunção's characters on a deeper level "relive and rethink their sexual histories and their ties to the dictatorship as a means of freeing themselves," Milleret explained. In exile during the decades when Brazil was under military control, Mila and Antonio now "realize that as victims of the regime they have been dominated by fear, and that such constant fear has immobilized them.… [from making] commitments to people or ideals.… Through their new-found passion they find the strength to forgive the errors and concessions of the past and to reinforce their commitment to each other."
Although many of Assunção's plays focus on female characters trapped in subordinate roles in home or career, she does not willingly submit to the label of "feminist playwright." As Judith Bissett noted in an essay published in Latin-American Women Dramatists: Theater, Texts, and Theories "Assunção has rejected the idea that her approach is feminist. Instead, she emphasizes the very human, social and political nature of her plays. Although she began by focusing on the role of women in society, in an attempt to define their social identity, Assunção believes that she is much more involved in an investigation of what constitutes the essence of a Brazilian national identity." One of her nation's most successful playwrights, Assunção has managed to dedicate herself to her writing through her successful career as a television scriptwriter.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
International Women Playwrights: Voices of Identity and Transformation, edited by Anna Kay France and P. J. Corso, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 1993, pp. 144, 147-148.
Latin-American Women Dramatists: Theater, Texts, and Theories, edited by Catherine Larson and Margarita Vargas, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1998.
Dactylus, 1988-1989, pp. 15.
Discurso Literario, Volume VII, number 1, 1990, Margo Milleret, "(Re)Playing the Brazilian Dictatorship," pp. 213-224.
Latin-American Theatre Review, spring, 1976, Alcides João de Barros, "A situação social de Mulher no teatro de Consuelo de Castro e Leilah Assunção," pp. 13-20.
Luso-Brazilian Review, summer, 1984, Margo Milleret, "Entrapment and Flights of Fantasy in Three Plays by Leilah Assunção," pp. 49-56.*