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Brazilian actress Paula Rebelo speaks out about art film 'Play'

Actress Paula Rebelo
Actress Paula Rebelo

Brazilian actress Paula Rebelo is bringing language to a whole new level in the new art film “Play.” Speaking only Portuguese in the film, Paula offers a deeper meaning of intimacy and expression for the audience due to the lack of subtitles.

“Play” has been screening in various cities around the country, most recently at the Kayne Griffin Corcan contemporary art gallery in Los Angeles. It was originally created as part of director Dara Friedman’s residency at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and earlier this year Time Out Magazine ranked it as one of the ‘Top Art Shows’ in New York.

Paula grew up in Rio de Janeiro, but made her way to California where she studied and graduated from the esteemed CalArts (California Institute of the Arts). Since then, she has showcased her skills working with several Los Angeles-based theater companies, including Theatre Movement Bazaar, Speakeasy Society, CalArts Center for New Performance. Paula has also performed at several prestigious venues around the globe, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and FITA (International Theater Festival of Angra, Brazil) and in such highly-respected venues such as Getty Villa, Hammer Museum and Strastnoy Theater.

We recently had a chance to catch up with Paula Rebelo to discuss her role in “Play” and more.

Tell us about your role in Dara Friedman's film "PLAY.”

PAULA: The film is composed of 17 self-sustained scenes that explore the theme of intimacy. In my scene, my partner and I explored aspects of sensuality, seduction and playfulness. Those three aspects developed into a monologue I did in Portuguese, a pillow fight and dancing. Our section in the film was a collage of those three moments exposing the relationship between us. I had worked with my scene partner on other projects before, so that was plus for us. We could allow ourselves to be comfortable with each other and have fun from the get go. Not to mention, that speaking Portuguese added an array of personal emotions and most importantly, universality.

As an actor, what was the most challenging aspect to working in this artistic genre?

I believe this is the very first time Friedman has worked with actors. She’s worked with dancers and musicians before, but this was the first time with actors, and as much as we were there to act, she also wanted us to bring as much of ourselves and personalities into the project as possible. It was really interesting being that vulnerable for her and her piece. And of course, as an actor, you must be vulnerable for every role, but this one hit a little closer to home, since everything we did in the scene was based on interviews we had with Dara about our lives and views on intimacy and relationship.

The most challenging aspect was realizing that the character I was playing was myself. Of course, a directed and artistically enhanced version of myself, but myself nonetheless.

What did you learn from working on this project?

PAULA: I learned to trust the people I am working with full heartedly. It was such an intimate project that included nudity and my personal life. All of these were fairly new to me and, quite frankly, scary. But everything and everyone involved in the project were extremely professional, thoughtful and tasteful. Allowing yourself to be fully present and just play is the recipe for good work. As actors, we hear that all the time, but an engaging reminder like "PLAY", is always welcome.

Any fun stories from the set?

PAULA: Fun fact: When you see the film, there’s a moment in which my scene partner and I are dancing to the sound of Brazilian drums. That music was added during the edit, and we had no music on set while shooting. So in order to make us have a little more fun with it and create a playful atmosphere, Dara played Aaron Carter’s “I Want Candy” while we were filming that section. It made everything a little more hilarious and stress free. The crew was laughing for a long time.

Anything else you'd like to share with your new English speaking fans?

PAULA: It is so interesting how little is actually dependent on language. Most of the times, we don’t even say exactly what we are thinking or feeling. Most of the times, we contradict ourselves. Body language, in my opinion, doesn’t lie. Seeing a theater piece in a different language, a film or any visual medium through which you can understand how people are relating to each other just by the way they behave, is so crucial to capture human behavior; And when you see that, when you are able understand in spite of the words, it becomes truly a beautiful thing.

And, how can we keep up with your busy career?

PAULA: I’m curently rehearsing for “Big Shot” at the Bootleg Theater. This new Theater Movement Bazaar’s project is inspired by the Godfather films and as TMB says, there will be singing, dancing, criminal behavior and pasta. The show goes up on April 24th at the Bootleg.

In the works is also an upcoming performance for “Made in LA” Biennial at the Hammer Museum over the summer. More details to come.

And finally, my short film “Clara” is currently in post-production and will be available on YouTube at the end of April.

There’s a lot happening and you can keep up to date with all of it on my website:

Obrigada, Paula...we're speaking your language!

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