In seeking to increase regular research activity in the sphere of theatre studies, in 1994 the doors opened to what today has become one of the most important and dynamic centres encouraging projects in this field and widely disseminating the knowledge gradually acquired within its confines: Centre for Theatre Studies / Centro de Estudos de Teatro (CET), currently directed by Maria João Brilhante.

The CET was founded by Professor Osório Mateus intending it to act as a privileged stage on which scientific research activity would be undertaken and researchers trained. The centre was also designed to follow an open-door policy so as to debate ideas, confront theory with practice and pursue dynamic, productive team work that would lead to gaining greater knowledge of the theatre in Portugal. The Centre is lodged in the Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon (FLUL) although among its members are researchers (and assistants) belonging to other universities and schools around the country (Oporto, Algarve and Open Universities, the Lisbon Higher School of Education, secondary schools), as well as PhD students post-doc, researchers and theatre professionals.

Historical and sociological research has allowed important data collecting and registering not only on the Portuguese theatre but also about the theatre produced and staged in Portugal. It has thus earmarked this as one of the main activities carried out by the Centre for Theatre Studies. It has therefore developed programmes such as CETbase – a Database on the Theatre in Portugal; OPSIS – Iconographic Theatre Database; HTP online – an online History of the Theatre in Portugal, and TESOURO – critical editions of plays from the 16th to the 19th century.

Over the past few years, publishing has likewise occupied an important place in the Centre’s work not only because it underpins each of the different research programmes, but also because it allows the Centre to publicise the results of its researchers’ labours in a more systematic way.

Besides these ongoing research projects and manifold activities, the Centre works in close association with the Post-Graduate Programme in Theatre Studies (Masters, PhD and post-doctoral degrees) offered by the Faculty. Some of the Centre’s researchers are therefore also involved in teaching and supervising theses and projects.

In order to publicise its activities but at the same time encourage interest in the theatre, the CET regularly organises scientific meetings and hosts specialists from home and abroad. The unit is also an active participant in theatre practice and works with schools and other bodies that provide education and promote theatre.

The CET’s work has distinguished itself by prioritising the exploration of the virtual world offered by IC technology so that the general public may enjoy faster and direct access to documents that allow to draw up a history of the theatre in Portugal.

Another of the CET’s duties has been to preserve the Osório Mateus Collection which was donated to the Faculty of Letters. It is an important source of documentary evidence for Theatre Studies and its fully searchable catalogue may be reached online; most of the records of 18th and 19th centuries plays give access to their digital copies. A sample of historical drama is also gathered in Teatro histórico do séc. XIX na Colecção Osório Mateus.

Research programmes

The research programmes defined, when the Centre of Theatre Studies was first set up, are the main axis around which its activities revolve. It is within this sphere that various projects have been developed – some of them thanks to funding received from the Science and Technology Foundation / Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT). The programmes are aimed at helping to improve knowledge about the Theatre in Portugal both through collecting and processing data, documents or pictures, and through studying them in a multidisciplinary approach.

Disseminating the results of such work mainly by resorting to the internet ensures faster (and more democratic) cultural and artistic repercussions as regards the issues in hand.

Due to the fact that this research work is engrossed in a historical and documentary basis, since it is rooted in the idea that studying and raising deeper issues has to proceed upon solid documental sources, the output has been in line with critical and theoretical approaches, thus keeping abreast of current guidelines in theatre studies.

An important part of such research and many of the CET-promoted public events have been carried out with a view to setting up the conditions for questioning the theatre from a critical standpoint whereby we are not only able to discuss pertinent topics at national and international level, but also launch new proposals calling for reflection. This may involve resorting to a wider theoretical perspective (through other arts and interdisciplinary knowledge and methods) or referring to the theatre as played out by Portuguese artists and theatre companies which also need to be seen within an international framework.

The research carried out at the CET has raised and pursued questions that, both on a national and international level, elaborate on topics such as the relationship between dramaturgical fictions and staging fictions, on-stage violence, the confrontation between bodies on stage and staging practices, the problems and challenges posed by publishing theatre, representing the human form in the various arts (theatre, painting, cinema, etc.), the special skill required for translating plays, the artistic recreation in Portugal of the major worldwide playwrights: Gil Vicente, William Shakespeare, Corneille, Harold Pinter, Pier Paolo Pasolini, among others.

The Centre has hosted foreign researchers who have played a special role in many events undertaken as exclusive projects or brought about as a result of various partnerships, as is the case of the partnership with the Portuguese Association of Theatre Critics or with other FLUL research centres. Our guests have included Beatrice Picon-Vallin, Georges Banu, Patrice Pavis, Erika Fischer-Lichte, Marvin Carlson, Christopher Murray, Frank Gillen, Mark Taylor-Batty, Dennis Kennedy, W. B. Worthen, Aleks Sierz, Don Rubin, Ian Herbert, Nikolai Pesochisnky, Manabu Noda, Jean Pierre Wurtz, Luigi Giuliani, Burghard Dedner, Mercedes de Los Reyes Peña, Maria Helena Werneck e Luís Fernando Ramos, among numerous others.


The CETbase is a digitalised database about the theatre in Portugal tailor-made for the Centre of Theatre Studies right from the beginning. Its main focus lies in the item called «Performance» which is a compilation of information about all the elements related to the subject, such as practitioners (playwrights, directors, actors, musicians, technicians, etc.), companies, festivals, theatre venues, plays, etc.

CETbase entries refer more systematically and in greater detail to the professional theatre produced in Portugal during the 20th and 21st centuries although one can also find entries about other kinds of groups (semi-professional, amateur, college, school, etc.) and periods preceding the 20th century.

The main CETbase menu – in the scroll down «find» window – shows seven (7) items: Performances, People, Institutions (companies, firms or other bodies), Texts, Spaces, Events and a Thesaurus. The latter consists of an inventory listing the terminology used in the theatre when speaking about the activities and events related to theatre.

Among the wealth of information collected and organised, about 18,000 performances have been entered so far (2009) involving around 38,000 theatre people (authors, actors and technicians) and more than 2,600 venues.

[Scientific coordination by Maria Helena Serôdio | Computer design by Tiago Certal | Researchers: Cláudia Oliveira, Marta Brites Rosa, Rui Pina Coelho and Diana Dionísio | Giving their sporadic assistance were: Bruno Schiappa, Carlos Gouveia, Clara Riso, Conceição Santos, Henrique Burzstin, Lurdes Patrício, Marta Carreiras, Pablo Fernando, Teresa André, Teresa Faria and Viktor van der Bent | Website:]

OPSIS – Iconographic Theatre Database

The aim of the OPSIS project, working on an iconographic database of the theatre, is to collect, identify and study pictures connected with the theatre produced in Portugal. The idea is to build up a database composed of duly labelled pictures that would go together with relevant information about the history of the theatre in Portugal. The database will be available for consultation on the internet and on a CD-Rom, with the right of reservation usually accompanying this kind of material. It is targeted at any academic studying the theatre at home and abroad who will then be able to carry on his/her own research on the basis of these data. Nevertheless, the final goal of the database lies in providing information in order to make the Portuguese theatrical and artistic reality more thoroughly known. This will be done on the basis of studying pictures of various types – book illustrations, photographs and pictures of performances, portraits of the actors, pictures of the theatre buildings, stage sets, costumes, memorabilia, etc. – all of which is being compiled by the project team.

It also affords a chance for theatre studies in Portugal to come into closer contact with other disciplines such as the History of Art, Architecture and Photography so that it may lead to advanced training by means of the relationships it seeks to establish between the visual arts, cultural studies and theatre studies.

[Scientific coordination by Maria João Brilhante | Researchers: Daniel Rosa, Filipe Figueiredo, João Nuno Sales Machado, Maria Helena Serôdio, Maria Virgílio Lopes, Paula Magalhães, Vera Leitão]

HTP online – Online History of the Theatre in Portugal

The Online History of the Theatre in Portugal is a pilot scheme for making sources available on the internet and it consists of building a database of documents. The project will provide the free accessing of documents belonging to different eras which have been duly transcribed (in modern and diplomatic scripts) but it will also produce processed data in the form of dictionary entries. This research will grant the access to large amounts of data about artists, repertoires, spaces, institutions, terminology, types of theatre and laws. It will also allow for such data to be cross-referenced not only by means of links to available introductory texts (thereby offering the researcher helpful summaries and suggestions leading to other research work), but also by accessing the documents themselves – wherever possible the original – aimed at the more specialised researcher.

The project may be defined both as a study and a search engine for building History/ies of the Theatre made to suit each user’s requirements, with the advantage of the sources being continually up-dated.

At the same time, an interface is planned in order to link up with databases already in operation (such as CETbase) or about to become operational, thus connecting and making available collections that are difficult to access.

[Scientific coordination by Maria Helena Serôdio and José Camões; Researchers: Filipa Freitas and Rita Martins]


The Tesouro (Treasure) programme offers critical editions of texts by Portuguese authors writing for the theatre from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It comes in two kinds of support: an electronic version lodged on the website belonging to the Centre for Theatre Studies, and a paper version occupying several volumes which have been published in partnership with the IN-CM (the the National Printing House, Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda) which started in 2002. Apart from the most well-known authors, the programme seeks to disseminate the work of authors whose texts have been forgotten in libraries and archives, and a few other authors whose plays have seldom been printed. Their work needs to be published in editions that follow textual criticism according to strict criteria.

The digital programme was conceived to be user-friendly allowing the researcher to move quickly and efficiently between contents, thus facilitating access to the texts and opening displays of facsimiles automatically. In the event of a text having more than one version, it provides the different texts. Besides making immediate references available, the programme offers several topic indices that may be consulted, such as anthroponomy, toponomy, quotations, mythological references, proverbs, lexical items, etc. The automatic search-and-find is easy to handle (by typing in a word or expression). According to what the user wishes to find, the search either goes through the entire collection or merely covers one publication or a set of publications and it may be consulted in terms of author, century, picture, music. It also includes an extensive bibliography.

Where the paper version is concerned, a specific software was developed so that a strictly-edited book composed of any number of the texts originally included in the electronic version can easily be found. The normal process of linking up printed matter with digital matter has thus been inverted in this case.

The TESOURO programme was begun in 1997 when work was started on an edition of a CD-Rom of the complete works of Gil Vicente, Gil Vicente – Todas as Obras. This was followed by plays written by 16th century Portuguese authors, Teatro de Autores Portugueses do Século XVI, that will soon be available on the CET website. Work is currently under way on the plays written by 17th century Portuguese writers, Teatro de Autores Portugueses do Século XVII.

[Scientific coordination by José Camões | Researchers: Helena Reis Silva, Isabel Pinto, Lurdes Patrício]

The Osório Mateus Collection

Although it has been integrated into the Faculty of Letters Library, it fell to the CET to first preserve and up-keep the Osório Mateus Collection. The Collection was donated by the teacher and stage-director after his death in 1996.

The works and materials comprising the Collection are of undeniable value and have made an important contribution by being of assistance to the Centre’s research programmes. For instance, it has provided incentives to the art studies field at the University of Lisbon which ranges from a first degree, the licenciatura, to a post-doctorate. Furthermore, it has helped to build up the history of the theatre in Portugal.

The Collection is composed of more than 15,000 bibliographical items extending from the 17th to the 21st centuries and includes plays and studies about the theatre, theatre programmes, magazines about Portuguese and foreign theatre and an important collection of pictures about the theatre coming in different supports (engravings, lithographs and photographs among others).

The rare nature of many of the items and the wide variety of areas covered (dramaturgy, criticism, theory and theatre aesthetics, the sociology of the performance, iconography, the history of the theatre, anthropology, the visual arts) have transformed this Collection into an indispensable tool for both researchers and theatre people at home and abroad who frequently consult it.

The Collection was digitalised in 2002, and its entries have been incorporated into the Collective Catalogue issued by the University of Lisbon’s Integrated Library System (SIBUL). The Collection is also referred to on CET’s website where it is possible to access a reference list and a digital theatre library (18th and 19th plays and magazines printed at the beginning of the 20th century).


At the moment, the CET has a core of about 30 researchers who are involved in studying areas such as the History of the Theatre in Portugal, Documentation in the Theatre, Theatre Editions, Theatre Iconography, Theatre Performance Study and Criticism, Theatre and Education, Translating Theatre, Culture and Dramaturgy (Portuguese, French, English, German, Italian and Spanish).

The outcomes of this research have appeared in many different editions, translations, papers given in congresses and conferences, articles published in Portuguese and international magazines covering subjects as widely differing as the presence of Pierre Corneille’s theatre in Portugal, published in Revue d’Histoire du Théâtre (2006), theatre production in Portugal appearing in the biannual balance included in the Institut de Théâtre International’s publication Théâtre du Monde (which has been issued in English and French since 1990), the artistic perspectives and trends of contemporary Portuguese theatre printed in the special editions of magazines such as ADE Teatro, Revista de la Asociación de Directores de Escena de España (1997) and Western European Stages (2006), apart from the 12 entries included in the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Theatre and Performance (2003).

On the other hand, ever since its first number, the journal Sinais de Cena has provided a space wherein CET researchers have been able to present their work. In the section “Arquivo Solto” (“Loose Pages”), it is possible to find historical references with regard to the theatre, companies, actors or playwrights. However, one may also find theoretical reflections and critiques based on plays, performances and contemporary creative artists spread throughout the different sections of the magazine.

Based upon the researchers’ own personal work as well as the work undertaken by students doing their Master’s and PhD degrees, there are yet other publications which have made hitherto unpublished or unobtainable texts, available by means of carefully edited publications. Editions such as the works of Gil Vicente, Camões, Sá de Miranda and other 16th century authors will join the ranks of our bibliographical heritage about the theatre. Or they might well give rise to other studies dealing with contemporary topics regarding the theatre. They will thus go towards deepening our knowledge about areas as diverse as the analysis of reception (of French and Italian theatre in Portugal, Shakespeare), translation and iconography (Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, Gil Vicente), drama (Jaime Salazar Sampaio), historiography (theatre venues, companies), studies on the individual work of contemporary stage directors (Ricardo Pais, Luís Miguel Cintra).

CET Publications

In the course of its duties, the CET regularly publishes texts on different kinds of supports and formats. The Centre has already published several books in their paper version, many of them in partnership with publishers or official institutions such as the National Printing House, Imprensa Nacional-Casa de Moeda, as well as the Portuguese Association of Theatre Critics.

Among the book editions are a large number of articles and essays about iconography, the history of the Portuguese theatre and the theatre in Portugal, as well as books collecting together the papers delivered at congresses and meetings organised by the CET.

On the other hand, by working together with the Portuguese Association of Theatre Critics, it was possible to launch the journal Sinais de Cena, which is published twice a year and has the purpose of reserving a space for documentation, debate, study and assessment of what is practised in the field of theatre and in other kinds of performing arts. Questions have been raised in the journal, such as the concept of performativity, stage design in Portugal, challenges facing theatre criticism, editing theatre texts or the body's presence in staging practice. Furthermore, it has been used as a vehicle for guiding research into contemporary theatre creation from a transnational perspective.

The CET has also carried out its publishing policy by relying on digital means, whether in issuing CD-Roms or making researchers’ work available online.

Deserving special mention in terms of the CET’s CD-Rom production, are the editions Gil Vicente - Todas as Obras (Gil Vicente –Complete Works) which displays facsimiles of the editions printed in the 1500s along with the transcripts of each of the plays or autos, and a scholarly, detailed study of the playwright’s work. Also worth stressing is Teatro histórico do séc. XIX na Colecção Osório Mateus, (19th Century Historical Theatre in the Osório Mateus Collection) which is composed of the facsimile edition of a group of 66 plays, also available on the CET website.

The online texts available at the moment provide an alternative means of presentation. There are plans to extend this service in order to make the work carried out by the Centre and its researchers more immediately available. This is what happens when the Proceedings of scientific meetings organised by the CET are immediately displayed online.

Worthy of note in this field, are several articles that have been published in journals or given at conferences and meetings, as well as the theatrical Poetics of Correia Garção and Manuel de Figueiredo, and the plays by Portuguese authors printed in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.


Apart from its regular activity based on education and research, from the moment it was founded, the CET has sought to launch initiatives promoting reflection on and debate about ideas, inviting various renown personalities at home and abroad to take part in our studies.

The Centre for Theatre Studies has also broadened its reach in terms of disseminating the theatre in activities ranging from artistic education and training, to presenting conference papers and organising or co-organising various exhibitions – What is Theatre? (in partnership with the Ministry of Culture / The General Direction for the Arts, 2008), The Life and Work of Carlo Goldoni and Bibliographical Display about Goldoni (Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon, The Italian Cultural Institute in Lisbon, 2008), Bibliographical Sample Display of Osório Mateus’ Theatre Collection (Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon, 2008), Shakespeare among us (2005), Osório Mateus: theatre papers) (Teatro do Bairro Alto, 2000) – and publicising theatre studies for schools on Open Day.

Events organised by the CET

2009 - Congress Silenced Voices / Forbidden Lives: Censorship and the Theatre – Lisbon FIRT-IFTR
- Meeting Poetics of Rock in Portugal
2006 – Lecture given by Luís Soares Carneiro on: Two Centuries of Portuguese Theatre
2005 - International Working Session on History of the Theatre and New Technologies
2003 – Workshop with Patrice Pavis, La mise-en scène: d’oú vient elle, où va-t-elle?, La mise-en-scène aux origines and Study of comtemporar staging
2003 - Workshop with Béatrice Picon-Vallin, L’Oeuvre de Meyerhold and La scène et les nouvelles technologies
2002 – International Congress, Gil Vicente: 500 years after
- Meeting, Man from the back: the body in the theatre, cinema, photography and the creative arts
- Talks: Magna Mondays in the field of Gil Vicente at the Maria Matos Theatre
2001 – Lecture by Robert Erenstein about The Place of Theatrical Iconography Studies

Co-sponsored events held with other institutions (Spanish Cultural Institute, Department of German Studies, Centre of Comparative Studies, Centre for English Studies, Centre for Classical Studies, Linguistics Centre, University of the Algarve)

2009 – International meeting Genetic theatrical routes: from the laboratory of writing to the stage (under way)
2008 – Working session on Greek Tragedy: reception and re-writing
- Fifth International Conference of the European Society for Textual Scholarship: Private. Do (Not) Enter... Personal Writings and Textual Scholarship
2007 - Meeting Harold Pinter: Meetings
2006 - Theatre Editions
- Meeting Theatre and Translation. Stages of Encounters
2000 – Commemorative Working Session on the 4th Centenary of the birth of Calderón de la Barca

Institutional Partnerships

Over the years, the CET has established numerous partnerships, understandings /arrangements and agreements with both Portuguese and international institutions destined to enhance knowledge and undertake specific projects.

◦ Associação Portuguesa de Críticos de Teatro / Portuguese Association of Theatre Critics
◦ Comissão Nacional para a Comemoração dos Descobrimentos Portugueses / National Committee for Commemorating the Portuguese Discoveries
◦ Companhias de Teatro / Theatre companies (Teatro Nacional de D. Maria II, Teatro Nacional de São João, Artistas Unidos, O Bando, Teatro da Cornucópia, Comuna – Teatro de Pesquisa, entre muitas outras / among many others)
◦ Direcção Geral das Artes / General Directorate for the Arts
◦ Direcção Geral de Arquivos / General Directorate for the Archives
◦ Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian – Serviço de Belas Artes / Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – Fine Arts Department
◦ Imprensa Nacional – Casa da Moeda
◦ Instituto Camões / Camões Institute
◦ Ministério da Cultura / Ministry of Culture
◦ Museu Nacional do Teatro / National Theatre Museum
◦ Sociedade de Língua Portuguesa / Portuguese Language Society
◦ Universidades, institutos politécnicos e escolas profissionais com estudos artísticos / Universities, institutes, polytechnics and vocational training schools offering the creative arts

◦ Association Internationale de Critiques de Théâtre / International Association of Theatre Critics
◦ Centro de Documentación de las Artes Escénicas de Andalucia
◦ European Network of Documentation Center for the Performance Art
◦ European Science Foundation
◦ Féderation Internationale pour la Recherche Théâtrale / International Federation for Theatre Research (FIRT / IFTR)
◦ Instituut Theater Netherlands
◦ The Performance Translation Centre (Un. Hull)
◦ Universidad de Extremadura
◦ Universidade de S.Paulo (USP)
◦ Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO)
◦ Université Paris X
◦ Universiteit Antwerpen
◦ University of Leeds
◦ University of Warwick