“SIR FERNANDA MONTENEGRO” (teaser autobiography- ENTRE DUAS FILEIRAS Editora Record no Brasil and “Sturm but not so Drunk” in the US and UK.

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“Sir FERNANDA MONTENEGRO”

 

  • Excuse me ladies and gentlemen if my voice fails me but her name alone….her name alone…

One of the most moving moments of my entire life was to encounter her on the stage, for the first time. I started feeling nauseous, sick, queasy the night before, thinking to myself: “How the hell does one direct Fernanda Montenegro?”

“What does one say to her? How does one say and how does one find a way to say that which one wants to say to her?”

She wasn’t only the biggest, hugest and most amazing actress in the world – in my view. She was also – to the contrary of the majority of actors with whom I’ve worked – the most lucid actress in the universe. I’m not sure what that means. Yes, I know what that means. It’s that panoramic, X-ray vision of the world, the universe and the human mind and soul only a very very few humans possess. And she does.

And so, lucid, lovingly, rationally and instinctively – almost like a half famished animal, she’d transform the painful daily ritual of rehearsing into a magnificent exercise of extreme emotions (I mean: extreme!) with unimaginable ease.

I’ve forgotten how best to call her. Lost track. Would it be “my best stage companion”? or my “most inspiring muse”? Most likely it will forever be (due to a dirty trick played by destiny….) “My ex-eternal Mother-In-law”.

You know? It’s all of it. And MUCH MORE, dammit !

I’m lost. I mean, at that weird moment when she was nominated for an Academy award (for the movie “Central Station), the Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo asked me for an “instant and soluble” article (one of those one writes in 10 minutes) and I kind of found the title as I sat down to write it: “Sir FERNANDA MONTENEGRO”. No, it wasn’t quite like that at all.

Needless to say, these titles are sonorous and bombastic and yet, rarely reflect any truth behind them and / or, such immense public figures. Yet, when it comes to my ex-eternal mother in law, there must be – at least – a good three thousand entities between what is known as ‘public’ or ‘public figure” and what’s personal. There are thirty tones of grey there, somewhere and may I say….. they are  incredibly difficult to be distinguished, whomever, whatever they are, these ‘entities’, I mean.

During the rehearsals of my “Flash and Crash Days”, Fernanda and I ‘clicked’ straight away and the rest of the cast just kept looking on in some sort of uncomfortable awe. She and I would laugh just by looking at one another or simply when our eyes crossed flight paths in midair – sometimes for as long as forty  five minutes. Why? No reason. I mean, for all the good reasons in the reasons in the world.

We both knew how divine and how ridiculous this thing is with which we face the monumentality we call THE THEATER and, thus, laughter is what’s left for us to use as an appetizer or else…. Or else our stomachs just would not leave us alone.

Our stomachs usually is where our demons hit us hard anyway. That’s where they enter and exit. One would tend to think they’d use the existing orifices but, no. The theatrical demons use a non existing orifice: the GUT. “I have a gut feeling that….”

Damn right. Damn….see? There it is again! Darm in German means gut. Gut in German means GOOD.

Anyway, if Fernanda and I had not resorted to loud laughter – to the annoyance of all the others – we’d died of a bleeding ulcer during the third act. Thus, laughter.

Half saint, half clown, Fernanda Montenegro has this acutely precise knowledge measure of how ridiculous it is to ‘represent’ LIFE on a stage. It’s beyond amazing!

All in make up and fully dressed up in costume, almost ready for her entrance, standing in the wings, I’d watch her having a laughing crisis from across the stage, opposite wings. We’d make smoke signs, all odds against us, lights, smoke, screaming actors, etc.

However, accidents do happen and they’re not funny at all. And it was through and with Fernanda that I learned to suffer and cry, learn, mature, chin up,  bite into my ego, hold my horses and….oh GOD! You name it! I’ve cried out my guts out because of her and for her and – here my voice disappears.

 (pause: I need to go for a walk. Excuse me please. 5 minutes, sorry!)

The thought of her… You see… the thought of her…No. None of that now. In these four decades there have been so many accidents which have lead me to believe…. No, none of….that….

From a real broken leg – I mean a broken leg all plastered up and in spite of a clumsy plaster, a stiff and unmovable leg, she enters the stage, does the show because….TO NOT DO THE SHOW is UNTHINKABLE !!!

DO YOU PEOPLE KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS ?????

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS?

No, you don’t. Nobody does. I struggle with it myself.

Or  the accident with her eye…. I called it the Story of the Eye, as in Bataille! She ran into a scaffolding and BOOM. Next thing she was wearing an eyepiece and partially blinded, leg in a cast – a kind of a monster she was. AND still we were TOURING. And in Germany, Denmark and so on!!!

And in Hamburg, in a rehearsal – that wasn’t even her own but her daughter’s (Fernanda Torres, then my wife), and mine (play was called or named after her: “Saints and Clowns”) (mind you – turned out to be a disastrous play and at the Kampnagel Fabrik, Montenegro did not want to cause a disturbance in the immense darkness of an empty theater where we were rehearsing so….So, she quietly, very quietly sat in a seat that wasn’t a seat and remained there, motionless for the duration of the rehearsal.

WHY? BECAUSE FOR THEATER PEOPLE IT IS UNTHINKABLE TO DISTURB something called the act of rehearsal, performance, reenactment and so on. So, she sat there motionless and in tremendous pain. She slipped, she fell and there she stayed. And she didn’t as much as flinch.

Son, I didn’t want to disturb your rehearsal. Playing is more important

It is so important that it borders on saintly. Or would it be clowning ? But now, see? Seconds before the curtain is about to rise, Fernanda Montenegro fools around, kidding around with the crew, actors and so on and makes last minute arrangements  for a detailed change of a specific scene.

Oh yes. The chicken. The rotisserie chicken! She orders TWO whole entire FULL complete chicken from a rotisserie close by the theater. And ?

And she DEVOURS them both, bare hands, no manners, bones flying all over, Roman style, Caligula Reign, the theater wings become CHICKEN WINGS right before the curtain is about to open and the entire crew and cast look on – night after night after after night – same amazement as always – after all, isn’t this a Coliseum performance as well ? – and the play within the play becomes a YorikNegro of BareChickeBones, what I call – after Alexander the Great (or other dictators, without the “great at the end”), a “Montenegrada” or, as fate would have it, “a heap of negroes”, a “heap of rotting bones” left over from all the horrible centuries of the slave trade, mass graves, a whole mountain of them: “Fernanda BlackMountain head peaking through this heap of rotten bones, just as in Beckett’s (Un)Happy Days – oh, Christ ! Doesn’t it always come together in the end in a sort of EndGame, with a Hamm and a Clov Nagging and Nelling each other till the end of time?

In a strange kind of way, Fernanda and I do resemble Hamm and Clov or Didi and Estragon insofar as we can remain there, somewhere, in the dark, speechless and silently for hours on end. Not a word, not a sound from either of us. A tear, sometimes, two. Sometimes an entire waterfall of tears just remembering those SHE has lost over these last 87 years…..There are no words of terms which could possibly define us two. But there are (and there many) feelings. And yet, those are unnamable.

Back in the early 1990’s we were touring “The Flash and Crash Days” all over Europe but it was along the coast of Denmark where a miracle took place.

She asked me to stop the car by a steep cliff. Down below one could see a beach and – what I later learned to be a museum of modern art called Lousianna. We had a day off from our performances in Copenhagen and were heading to Elsinor Castle. She wanted to check on Hamlet’s soul.

I saw her crawl carefully and skillfully down the steep pebbles and rocks all the way down to the beach. Her daughter, Fernanda Torres and a few others in the car, looked on in awe.

She touched the water. Just touched it. Touched it lightly. Yes, with the palms of her hands. Then the feet. Ankle high. Then there was a pause. We all felt it from up there. It was a rather long pause. I dare not imagine what she might have been thinking or praying or, even, mirroring in her deep deep thoughts but I know they must have been as sublime as the image of her that I saw, of this tiny her, in this splendid Nordic sea, Fernanda alone and all of Scandinavia at her feet and hands, murmuring to herself and the Gods of the theater….some deeply moving secrets, some deeply moving CRIES AND WHISPERS as only Fernanda can.

Then she touched the water again, lightly again.

Slowly, very slowly, she made her way back up to where we were parked. Not a word. No words were necessary.

As I write this in July of 2016, I’m thinking she must have been the age I am now:

Yes, she was 61 years old. Damn. This is incredible !!!!

 “I do this so I can return”, she said, upon drying her feet and hands and reentering the car. Not a word from anyone but I was shedding a tear and so was Nanda.

“They say that when you love a place very much, you should find a well, a pond, a river or a beach and simply touch the water lightly. It’s an old Native Indian legend. In that way, your soul is kept by that water and you shall return”.

This, I remember vividly in my mind, is when I baptized her silently in my head, by looking into the pupils of her eyes through the rear view mirror – “SIR Fernanda Montenegro.” And this is when I probably first realized – in a sacred sort of way that there was a spirit, a huge entity, bigger than any other I had ever met, bigger, larger than Beckett, larger than anyone other than Muhammad Ali, who had a straight connection with God, a God, some God, God in heaven. And this is when I also learned to say THANK YOU GOD, for landing Fernanda Montenegro into my life!

This moment changed my life for ever. It was now, July of 1990. JULY twenty six years ago !!!!!

We drove north to Elsinor Castle, in Helsingor,  for another hour.

“One of the gravediggers !!!!” she pointed out laughingly like a kid, almost like those in a queue at Disney. We were inside Hamlet’s Castle and some of those people are simply dressed up as if in a theme park. Of course…. She wanted to fall for it. We all did. Hamlet is everyone’s favorite’s play.

“Let’s leave, before we’re buried alive”, she said in the same childish manner.

Eight countries and more than 30 cities and FOUR years of touring The Flash and Crash Days. And in each single performance (I mean, each and single one of them), it felt as if it was the first one like the opening night. I laughed,  cried, I was moved beyond human emotions as if…for the first time, always crouched in my little corner in the downstage right wing, controls in hand, one ear covered by an earphone. And, inches away from my actors, as it has been from the very first day of my life in the theater, I never, ever, not for one single day stopped thinking and wondering…. “OH MY GOD !!! This is Fernanda Montenegro on my stage. Look at you Gerald!”

And even after all these years, we are in close close touch. We’re on the phone or email. She comes to my lectures and we meet in cafés and cry. And cry and…

Thank you so much my….

My….eternal friend and eternal mother in law.

Thank you so much for EVERYTHING, “SIR FERNANDA MONTENEGRO”

Gerald Thomas

________________________________________________

in Portuguese 

 “Sir FERNANDA MONTENEGRO”

Um dos momentos mais emocionantes da minha vida foi encontrá-la no palco pela primeira vez. Cheguei a passar mal na noite anterior, pensando cá com os meus botões: “Como é que se dirige Fernanda Montenegro? Dizer o que para ela? Como dizer o que para ela?”.

Para mim, ela não era somente a maior atriz do mundo. Era também, ao contrário da maioria dos atores com quem já trabalhei, a atriz mais lúcida do mundo.

E assim, lúcida, amorosa, intelectual e instintiva como um animal faminto, ela transformou o ritual diário do ensaio e da representação teatral num exercício de extremas emoções e alegrias, com uma facilidade praticamente inimaginável.

Não sei mais como chama-la. Já perdi as contas. Minha “melhor companheira de palco?” “Minha maior musa?” “Minha eterna ex-sogra?” “Minha grande e enorme amiga?” Tudo isso junto? É. Tudo isso junto e muito mais.

Não sei! Quando ela foi indicada para o Oscar, a Folha me pediu um artigo e eu achei um titulo que ainda cabe: “Sir Fernanda Montenegro”. Claro, essas coisas de títulos jamais revelam a pessoa em si e quase nem chegam perto da figura pública. Em se tratando desse monstro, existem umas 3 mil entidades entre o que é publico e o que é pessoal e os trinta tons de cinza são de difícil definição.

Durante os ensaios de “Flash and Crash Days”, ‘clicamos’ de cara e…o resto do elenco nos olhava meio pasmo. Fernanda e eu riamos, mas riamos – só em olharmos um pro outro – as vezes por 45 minutos. Motivo? Nenhum. Quer dizer, sim. Sabemos o divino e o ridículo que é a seriedade com a qual se encara essa monumentalidade que é o teatro e usamos o riso como aperitivo porque…senão os nossos estômagos não nos deixariam em paz. Morreríamos de úlcera no terceiro ato! Então, rimos.

Metade santa e metade palhaça, Fernanda Montenegro tem a medida exata do sublime e do ridículo que é representar a vida num palco.

É impressionante. Toda maquiada e de figurino passado, ela aparecia em pé na entrada do palco, morrendo de rir do seu personagem e da situação insólita que essa arte ao vivo oferece.

Pois quem acha que Fernanda Montenegro é um show a cada vez que a cortina sobe não imagina a delícia que é vê-la na coxia se preparando, ou mesmo disputando com os outros atores aquele buraquinho da cortina pelo qual se vê o público.

Mas existem os acidentes. Eles não são tão engraçados. E foi com a Fernanda que eu aprendi e experimentei e chorei os piores acidentes no teatro, nessas quase quatro décadas, desde a perna que ela quebrou (e mesmo assim, entrou engessada, desde o olho que ela furou e, mesmo assim entrou com um tapa olho… e desde um ensaio que nem era o dela (mas sim o da filha, Fernanda Torres, na época, minha mulher, em “Saints and Clowns”, uma peça desastrosa, em plena Kampnagel Fabrik, Hamburgo, quando a minha sogra sentou-se na escuridão de uma imensa plateia vazia, escorregou e caiu no chão. E lá ficou. E não deu um piu.

“Eu não quis atrapalhar o ensaio, meu filho. O teatro é mais importante”

É tão importante que beira ao sacro. Mas olhem vocês! Minutos antes do sinal que dá a partida ao espetáculo, ela brinca com todos, conversa livremente sobre qualquer assunto (de preferência algo sobre a vida prática), ri de si própria e ainda tenta combinar alguma mudança de cena de última hora. Ah, e pede um frango de padaria, dois de preferencia, que devora como um imperador romano, ossos pra todos os lados! Coxia do teatro, uma “ossada Montenegrada” !

Eu tremia enquanto uma van do teatro nos levava pro Hospital da Universidade de Hamburgo. Permaneci a noite inteira lá com ela. Sentávamos juntos, entre um exame e outro e eu sabia a extensão da dor que passava. Mas ela não dava um piu.

Vou começar pelo fim ou, pelo menos no meio já que a minha história com essa fascinante mulher, que começou em 1990 e dura até hoje.  Somos cada vez mais íntimos, cada vez mais calados, cada vez mais…Não, não há termos que nos defina.

 

Mas existem algumas cenas em nossas vidas e turnes que nos definem:

Estavamos em cartaz com o “Flash and Crash Days” em Copenhagen – talvez a cidade que mais frequentemente nos chamava de volta – e, nos dias de folga, eu alugava um carro e íamos pela costa leste até Helsingor (onde fica o tal castelo de Elsinor que Shakespeare usou como “locação” para o seu Hamlet). De repente, a minha ex-eterna sogra fala “pare aqui meu filho”. Parei. Encostei o carro, ela desceu, tirou os sapatos, pediu pra que nós (Nanda, Fernando) ficássemos no carro esperando) e desdeu um caminho tortuoso, uma descida até preocupante para o mar em frente ao museu de arte moderna, o Loiusiana Museum of Modern Art.

 

Lá de cima e de fora do carro eu fiquei olhando aquele ser pequeno e frágil entrando na agua, molhando os pulsos, as canelas, jogando um pouco da agua desse mar nórdico em cima de sua cabeça e fazer o que me parecia ser uma espécie de oração. Abaixada, com a palma da mão encostada na água, ela era uma miragem de algo sublime, impossível de descrever. Essa cena jamais deixará a minha memória. Não me atrevo a imaginar o que ela pensava. Mas foi lá que eu a chamei, silenciosamente, pela primeira vez de “sir” Fernanda Montenegro. Foi lá que a vi pequena, sozinha, vulnerável, mística. Acho que foi lá que entendi sua relação com Deus, sua humildade e extrema gratidão por sua existência. Esse momento mudou a minha vida.

 

Lentamente ela voltou, silenciosa como sempre e disse “a gente faz isso, meu filho, quando quer voltar sempre para um lugar maravilhoso como esse”.

Segurei as lagrimas por um tempo mas não deu. Percebi que no carro a Nanda chorava também.

 

“Ih, olhe aquele ali. Parece um dos coveiros!!!”, sussurrava ela com a mão encobrindo a boca, como se quisesse esconder o riso sapeca. Eufórica e até um pouco encabulada, como uma criança, Fernanda apontava para um escandinavo velho, desdentado e corcunda, envolto numa manta marrom, que parecia ser um sentinela do castelo de Hamlet.

Estávamos no castelo de Helsingor, aquele que serviu de inspiração a William Shakespeare, para a maior peça de todos os tempos. “Vamos embora, meu filho, antes que ele resolva nos enterrar!”, ela dizia rindo.

 

Foram oito países, mais de 30 cidades em quase quatro anos de vida comum. E, em cada um dos mais de cem espetáculos, eu vibrava, morria de rir e chorava, sempre como se fosse a primeira vez. Agachado no canto escuro da coxia esquerda, eu nunca deixei de pensar: “Meu Deus, essa aí é a Fernanda Montenegro…..veja você!”.

 

Até hoje custo a acreditar quando entra um email vindo dela, um telefonema…

Até hoje seguro as lágrimas, sabendo que ela não segura as dela porque….ah, não importa. Porque… o tempo corre, o tempo é uma merda, o tempo corroi tudo quando estamos em plena forma e sabendo de tudo. E aí? E ai vem essa merda dessa tempestade, essa merda desse Flash essa merda desse CRASH e nos derruba numa cova, assim como derrubou o Yorik e mesmo assim, sabendo disso tudo – vinte e cinco anos mais que eu – em meio a uma emoção incontrolável, ela estará sempre completamente lúcida e consciente de todo o processo, sem jamais se lamentar. Sem jamais reclamar.

 

Obrigado minha sogra. Muito obrigado por tudo.

Gerald Thomas

 

 

 

 

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