‘Tom na Fazenda’ to make U.S. premiere in Fairfield
Love, violence, grief, homophobia, and secrets collide on stage in a virtual sea of mud and blood when Brazilian theater company, Galharufa Produções, brings Canadian playwright Michel Marc Bouchard’s award-winning play, “Tom na Fazenda” (Tom at the Farm) to Fairfield’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on March 20 in its U.S. premiere.
The story is centered around Tom, who leaves a comfortable, urban life in Montreal to travel to a rural town and farm in Brazil to attend his lover’s funeral but finds instead a mother who was unaware of her son being gay, let alone who Tom was to her son. Tom also finds his lover’s brother knows everything and is not afraid to use violence to hide the truth from everyone else. Written at a time when Brazil reportedly had the highest LGBTQ+ murder rate in the world, this play is still timely, shocking and captivating. It will be performed in Portuguese with English subtitles. “‘Tom na Fazenda’ has Brasilidade and tropicalidade in his vein, marked in the miscegenated and hot meat of the actors, in the musicality of our Brazilian-Portuguese language, in our syncretic pagan corporeality and in the precariousness of our inventive ways,” said director Rodrigo Portella.
The play is staged in quite a minimalist style, a deliberate choice to keep the focus on the actors and words. More than that, the sparse setting was designed to create discomfort. “Since I read the text for the first time, I told the cast that I saw a piece without a set, without furniture, without physical support,” he said. “There is a certain instability in this that, in itself, seemed to enhance the relations proposed by Bouchard: a farm that is somewhat inhospitable, difficult to position within it, to find comfort. In a place without seats, you cannot relax.”
What most interested Portella in Bouchard’s text was not a theme but formed complexes that he approached, “...three-dimensionalizing the characters in a degree of depth so powerful that it makes us unable to issue statements, judgments and certainties,” he said. “It is always easier to judge and classify someone as good or bad, something or victim, strong or weak. I wonder how many graduations there can be between one standard and another.
“It was in this sense that I thought of clay as the main element of the scenography: it contains the rural, the dirt, the instability and the primitiveness. The bus on the floor gradually contains all the bodies of the actors, unifying them, creating them from the same thing: a kind of return to our ancestry,” he said.
Lead actor Armando Babaioff said his work of preparing for assuming the role of Tom began with translating the text of the original play into Portuguese. “The play is seen in Tom’s eyes. He is a kind of storyteller. In some moments he speaks to the audience, in others he communicates with the dead boyfriend, sometimes he speaks without being heard by the other characters,” he said. The character is less defined by what he says but more by his interactions with his late boyfriend’s family. “I don’t have much information about Tom. I know that he works at an ad agency, that he is a city man, that he lost his partner in a motorcycle accident and that he arrives at the farm for his funeral.”
Babaioff’s biggest challenge was his character’s journey. “He has a dramatic arc that differentiates throughout the play,” he said. “The Tom that starts the play is different from the one that ends and I always need to be aware of this movement.” Having played this role in more than 200 performances, he also challenges himself before each show to make the character seem as if he were living for the first time.
Portella said his goals in mounting this production were to mediate a narrative and amplify its poetic aspects, its dramas and its humanity. What audiences take away at the end of the day is up to them but certainly the play can inspire conversations. “The LGBTQ theme is a trigger to talk about human beings and their complex ways of relating: loneliness, death, lies, passion and perversion,” he said. “I hope that the public gets involved and recognizes itself in all the characters regardless of their identity orientations.”
For more information about the show, visit, quickcenter.fairfield.edu.