Help Me, Teacher!

Help Me, Teacher!

Performance by Cibele Campos
Text by Larissa Latif
Translation by Danielle Cascaes

Cibele Campos’ performance, ‘Help Me, Teacher!’, takes place at the intersection between life as an artist and life as a teacher. Her inspiration is one of her elementary school students. H. has a behavior that challenges the educators and often confuses and displeases her colleagues. Cibele shows interest in the young girl’s story. Her presence in school makes the universal right to education a reality, but at the same time shows how urgent it is to reinvent the school, the formal education model, to include and welcome everyone. H. traces her route through school as a line of escape, a detour. She creates bonds of affection with few classmates and teachers, but is fearless and disconcerting.

Cibele’s performance recounts H.’s journey at school and the relationship between them, in a poetical that approaches the theatrical scene, but remains unfinished, waiting for each event of the poetic act to unveil another layer, another nuance or discovery.

I retrieved from my teaching memories the story of a student, it happened during my first year at my current school. From this story/memory of the 17 or 18 year old girl, I highlight her relationship with me, her colleagues, her family and with society in general, since she was a teenager that was accompanied by the school’s Special Education team and by doctors who were trying to prepare a definitive report on her case. It was suspected that the young girl suffered from schizophrenia, in addition to the family problems she experienced, especially after the death of her father, and relationship problems with her mother. (CAMPOS, 2019)

The space is a classroom in which the fragments of a story are the triggers for the performer’s action, always a reinvention of a moment of H.’s story at each presentation. The fragility of both, student and teacher, facing an educational system crossed by various structural oppressions appears throughout the scene, which is sometimes raw, sometimes sweetly poetical, sometimes brings laughter. A performance that seeks to move the spectator, make them think and become affected rather than emotional, commoved, perhaps – moved with the performance – summon them to other ways of worldly acting and thinking about education, childhood, adolescence, and people with special needs.

The first performative experience happened at a meeting that gathered teachers and artists friends, several whom I know from the school, and others that are friends of my friends. This performance was also exhibited at a second friends meeting, during “Sarau da Resistência Amazônica”, which had already occurred its third edition, and the event was born out of the need of the teachers of the school where I teach, to resist the uneasiness and sickness caused by persecution against teachers. (CAMPOS, 2019)

Cibele uses few elements in the scene, her main device is the ability to tell stories from different points of view, making them, for those who hear/see, almost inseparable. It is in the body and in the voice of the artist that the senses are drawn as the performance develops. H. and her stories, in Cibele’s body and voice, trigger reflections that bring us closer to the maxim that the personal is political. H. is a person, a unique individuality, but the normativities that cross through the invention of her subjectivity echo in the collective.

A third presentation took place at a school which the artist had no previous relationship with, stimulated by the capacity of reflection aroused among fellow teachers during the previous presentation experiences.

I chose a corner of the room to place a small whiteboard and other symbolic objects of the teaching work. The intervention occurred with my speech as a teacher and actress in training. During the performative work, it was possible to notice the serious and thoughtful expressions, bothered by what they were seeing (…). The pedagogical coordinator, who was my only closer contact beyond the school space, revealed to me later that one of the staff members, who is a teacher also, but who does not teach at that school, but holds a management position instead, highlighted in conversation, how much the students need support in the school environment, which allowed the dialogue about the need for professional support for teacher also, who coexists in limit situations, being the center of attention of the group. (CAMPOS, 2019)

H.’s stories are part of the stories of Brazilian schools, of girls in Brazilian schools, of girls with special needs in Brazilian schools. They are also stories of the teacher/ artist Cibele, stories of a teacher in a Brazilian school, living the inescapable interrelation with the stories of the students in that school, retold in an act of artistic performance.

We end with the artist’s words, quoting Renato Cohen:

In this performance, I show myself facing this very challenging relationship for a literacy teacher. The performance requires the subject that proposes the intervention to undress, according to Cohen (2002, p. 103): “The performer as he does not have, as in illusionist theater, only the character to show, he will also have to show himself.” (FIELDS, 2019).


CAMPOS, Helane Cibele do Nascimento. Socorro, Professora! Socorro Pra Professora! (comunicação oralSeminário Poéticas e Oralidades. Soure, 2019.

COHEN, Renato. Performance como linguagem criação de um tempo-espaço de experimentação. São Paulo:  Perspectiva, 2002.


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