BY Tiago Rodrigues


  • Spanish
  • between 90 and 120 minutes, without an intermission
  • +12

A touching exercise in theater that pays tribute to the power of memory, brought to the stage by one of the most important figures in Portuguese theater.

When we learn something and can repeat it again and again, we say that we know it ‘by memory’ in Spanish. In English, the expression used is ‘by heart’, like Portuguese (‘saber de cor’) and French (‘savoir par cœur’). In By Heart, renowned Portuguese playwright and actor Tiago Rodrigues tries to connect the audience with learning something by heart, teaching a poem to 10 people who haven’t seen the play before and have no idea what text will be used. As he guides them through this, he tells stories about his grandmother, who’s losing her sight and so her ability to read, mixed in with tales about writers and characters from books connected to them both. For example, unlikely associations emerge between Noble Prize winner Boris Pasternak, a chef from northern Portugal and a Dutch TV program. By Heart is a collective and poetically pressing piece on the importance of transmission - a contraband of words and ideas that can only be stored and treasured in memories. It’s a call to arms against forgetting things and to protect anything that can’t be measured in pixels, euros or bytes, as well as a guarantee of community, even in the most barbaric and desolate times.

Written, directed and performed by: Tiago Rodrigues | Set design, accessories and wardrobe: Magda Bizarro | Executive producer: Rita Forjaz | Executive producers of the original version: Magda Bizarro and Rita Mendes | A D. Maria II National Theater in Portugal production, based on the original version by the Mundo Perfeito company, with financial backing from the Government of Portugal-DGArtes | Coproduced by: O Espaço do Tempo and the Maria Matos Municipal Theater.

—It’s a play that values the importance of oral transmission at a time when learning something by heart seems useless, given that cell phones and computers are capable of storing infinite amounts of data and of reminding us of anything we can’t (or don’t want to) retain. “As George Steiner said in an interview on the Beauty and Consolation program, ‘Once 10 people learn a poem by memory, there’s nothing the KGB, CIA or Gestapo can do about it. It survives’”, says director Tiago Rodrigues. “By Heart is an entertaining piece about resistance, which only comes to an end when 10 new soldiers know a poem by heart”.

—It’s an interesting revision of literature from all ages and of the importance of books in history: from Shakespeare to Ray Bradbury and his famous book Fahrenheit 451 (which tells the story of firemen whose mission it is to burn books at a time when these are prohibited), all intertwined with By Heart’s plot.

Tiago Rodrigues is one of the most active and outstanding theatrical creators in Europe. His latest pieces have been performed to great acclaim, as well as having won awards. In them, Rodrigues mixes true stories and fiction, rewriting the classics or adapting novels. By Heart was performed in 2014 at the Théâtre de la Bastille where, in 2016, he directed a two-month ‘occupation’ of the theater that led to the creation of the play, Bovary.

—Boris Pasternak: A Russian poet and writer (1890-1960), his most well-known novel is

Doctor Zhivago. In 1958, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature but his country - the then Soviet Union - forced him to turn it down. In 1987, the USSR officially recognized his award and, the following year, allowed Doctor Zhivago to be published in the country.

Fahrenheit 451: Written in 1953, this is one of the most well-known pieces by North American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. A dystopia - ahead of its time - shows a society that’s numb because of a lack of knowledge and anesthetized by a ‘big screen’ that provides entertainment and gives their lives meaning. In it, fireman set fires as opposed to putting them out, burning all the books in a country where reading is forbidden. In 1966, François Truffaut directed a film based on this novel.

—George Steiner: A philosopher, writer, essayist and expert in comparative French-North American literature born in 1929, as a professor he has defended learning things by heart as a way of preserving literature. “I’m disgusted by today’s schools, which are factories for ignoramuses, don’t respect memory and do nothing to make children learn things by heart. The poem that lives in us lives with us - it changes like we do and is connected to a much deeper function than that of the brain. It represents sensitivity, personality”, he said in a 2016 interview with Spain’s El País newspaper.

—Memory: The Royal Spanish Academy defines this as ‘the mental capacity through which the past is retained and recalled’. It’s what allows us to remember facts, feelings and ideas and to associate concepts. The hippocampus is the main brain structure associated with memory, although it’s recognized that there are also several other areas related to the creation of memory.

—The Mundo Perfeito company’s YouTube channel

—‘Portugal tells us why you need to discover Tiago Rodrigues’. Article in the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo

By Heart on social networks

On Facebook, Mundo-Perfeito

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