At our Faculty, when study and art mix the result is: Cultural Soirée
What do an adulterous butcher, a greedy Muslim, an unbalanced Yoga instructor, two jealous sisters, three miserly ladies, a narcissistic woman, two lazy couples, and Uncle Cornelius have in common? - They are all characters from the play presented at the XXVII Ad Æternum Cultural Soirée, a show created by our medical students, in which they characterised the seven deadly sins.
Inspired by "O Auto da Barca do Inferno", by Gil Vicente, all these characters live in a typical Lisbon district and receive a mysterious invitation to go for dinner at the home of the unknown millionaire TC. – They were all unaware that it was a poisoned gift with the sole purpose of making them atone for their sins.
The Soirée, which took place on March 28 at the Aula Magna of the Rectory of the University of Lisbon, was attended by 1600 people, had a total of 250 artists performing on stage and managed to raise about 2500€ with the sale of tickets for Associação ACREDITAR - Association of Parents and Friends of Children with Cancer.
Those who were there say that the comedy, written and interpreted by students of the Faculty of Medicine was a success, getting the audience to burst out laughing. We spoke with two students, Ana David and João Martins, both of the organising committee of the soirée, to understand how our students manage to find time, amidst their academic responsibilities, to organise an event of this magnitude.
First of all, let me ask you how do two medical students end up organizing a cultural event of this magnitude?
Ana – I got involved in the soirée when I was in the 1st year and I confess that I joined in without really knowing what I was getting into (Laughs). In fact, in the 1st year I joined the ballroom dancing group which existed in the Faculty at the time, and we were invited to participate in the soirée. In the 3rd year, when I joined the organising committee, I had the opportunity of collaborating with the scenery and props department. This year, I was invited to assist in the general coordination of the project. It is very exciting to see my colleagues so united around a project and so motivated to show that medical students are not just medical students, they are also versatile people who can deal with responsibilities other than the requirements of the course.
João – I, unlike Ana and other colleagues, am not "artistic" at all (Laughs). I never danced, I was never an actor in a play, and I never studied at the conservatory. In my first two years of college, I always went to see the shows and, as a spectator, I remember being amazed by the magical environment experienced by those who took part in them. I think that this is what aroused my willingness to make my contribution and, in the 3rd year, I decided to apply for the logistics department of the organising committee. It is very rewarding to see the Aula Magna full of students, relatives and friends. For many of my colleagues, the soirée is an opportunity to express their artistic flair, which is often put on the backburner because of the course.
Ana, after trying both the stage and the backstage, where do you feel more comfortable?
Ana - The two are completely different experiences. I miss the stage a little, but on the other hand, it's just as amazing to be backstage and decorate everything and bring the story and the characters to life. The boring part is the bureaucracy and some logistical issues, but these are necessary, because without them the project doesn't move forward.
Are the students also responsible for writing the script?
João – In the organising committee we have a working group responsible for writing the script and another one that reviews it in order to improve some aspects of the text. In addition to these two working groups, this year we also had the support of a set design and costumes team that helped us build the scenery, which, by the way, was very demanding in this edition, given its size.
How many artists were on stage? And how many members does the organising committee have?
João - 250 artists. The Committee is composed of 16 students.
Putting on a show like this requires a strong organisational capacity, above all because it involves the participation of 250 artists. How did you manage all those agendas?
Ana - Coordinating the artists' agendas was rather complicated. They are required a great deal of commitment. For example, they had to be divided into groups for the rehearsals and we only managed to schedule general rehearsals with all the artists in the week before the show. It's complicated, but it was worth it.
As for the story of the play, I find some similarities with "Auto da Barca do Inferno" by Gil Vicente. Was this the work that inspired you?
Ana - Yes, it was. We always try to create an original story, but we have to have some support. (Laughs) Although some of the students are good writers, it's always difficult to create a completely original play when we have so little time. Based on Gil Vicente, our scriptwriters wrote a satire about the seven deadly sins.
João – In fact, this year we tried to break with the tradition of the soirée. In the last editions we presented romances and very intense dramas and this year we wanted to do something different, lighter and more fun. I think we were innovative in that respect.
And when did the organising committee decided to associate the show with a charity project?
João – I think that the first time was actually in 2017, with Red Nose; people could buy noses during intermission to help the institution. As far as I know, we didn't use to sell tickets; people were asked for a small contribution, which unfortunately was not enough to support any cause.
Why did you choose ACREDITAR Association?
Ana - When choosing an association to support, we usually give preference to those that are closely related to the area of health, because that's what touches us most as medical students. On the other hand, we always look for an artistic connection or interest. ACREDITAR meets these two requirements and we believe that its work is very important: supporting children with cancer and their families, by providing accommodation for families during treatments, financial and social support. For all this, we came to the conclusion that it would be the right Institution to receive the money earned in ticket sales.
Can we count on you for next year's edition?
João – Next year we'll have retired... (Laughs)
Ana – We have to hand over the baton!
Isabel C. Varela