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Teatro Municipal  1846 map  

Google Docs for Fostering a Forum

posted Apr 6, 2018, 9:28 AM by Aiala Levy   [ updated Apr 6, 2018, 9:32 AM ]

I'm happy to share the news that my piece for the American Historical Association's Perspectives on History is now in print!  Using my Latin American history survey course as a case study, the article explains how Google Docs can be used to improve note-taking and reading skills in introductory classes.  You can check out the piece here, as well as in the April issue of the magazine: 

A syllabus of my current introductory course, HIST 126 Modern Latin America, can be accessed here: 

Modeling Bermuda and Making History Work

posted Sep 23, 2015, 7:26 AM by Aiala Levy   [ updated Sep 23, 2015, 7:27 AM ]

The post below was originally published on September 23, 2015, on AHA Today, the blog of the American Historical Association.

This summer, I opted to swap Chicago’s mild heat for the scorching Bermudan sun.  The eighteenth-century Bermudan sun, to be more precise.  Without leaving my desk in the Digital History Lab at the University of Rochester, I’ve explored the streets and structures of 1770s St. George’s, the oldest continuously-inhabited English town in the New World.  Neither Bermuda nor the British Empire lies within my area of expertise.  In fact, the dissertation I’m wrapping up right now is about the city of São Paulo, Brazil, around the turn of the twentieth century.  So what is a historian of modern Latin America doing with Bermuda?

The Department of History at the University of Chicago would call it making history work.  With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and as part of the American Historical Association’s Career Diversity initiative, the Department is funding for the first time this year two Making History Work Summer Internships.  The internships, designed and competitively proposed by graduate students, offer recipients the opportunity to prepare for careers outside the professoriate without putting on hold their degree.

With that aim in mind, I proposed to join the Virtual St. George’s team at the University of Rochester.  Virtual St. George’s is the brainchild of Michael Jarvis, a historian of the Atlantic World and the director of the Digital Media Studies Program at Rochester.  UNESCO finds the real St. George’s remarkable for its surviving specimens of military engineering, but Professor Jarvis saw another opportunity in the well-preserved city: to bring history to (digital) life.  As its name implies, the aim of the project is to recreate historical St. George’s in the form of an interactive simulation.  Or, in digital humanities lingo, to game history.  With a broad audience in mind, the final form of Virtual St. George’s will enable players to better understand the sights, sounds, and interactions once possible within Bermuda’s first permanent English settlement.

Virtual exploration requires a setting, and so for now we’re modeling the built environment of St. George’s.  My task, specifically, consists of constructing in three-dimensional, digital form the exteriors of residential and commercial buildings from the 1770s.  I do so using a program called SketchUp, although the final product will be exported into Unity, a game-building platform.  To determine the dimensions and design of mymodels, I rely on a combination of maps and watercolors, the latter of which were painted around 1820 by Thomas Driver for military purposes.  Thanks to Bermudan preservation efforts, I’m also able to snag the footprints of existing buildings so that I can better estimate a structure’s size and location.  Satellite images from Google Earth are also helpful, and SketchUp works with Google Earth so that I can precisely geolocate each model.  Admittedly, this method doesn’t result in perfectly accurate reproductions, but it’s sufficient forbuilding the backdrop to a historical game.

Screenshot of Driver's illustration and model in progress

I should take that back: if there’s anything that modeling teaches you, it’s that space is much more than a backdrop.  In fact, that’s part of the point of Virtual St. George’s.  Once the project is completed, players will be confined to the range of opportunities and limitations possible within the built and natural environments of the tropical port town.  Of course, other factors—an avatar’s skin color or sex, the political climate—will also enter the equation, but all scenarios will need to take into account the setting we are constructing.  These scenarios will undoubtedly fail to capture the complexities of history.  Indeed, the juxtaposition of game and history should serve as a warning against falling into the pit of determinism (for more on the study of history through games, a good place to start is Play the Past or the edited volume Playing With the Past).  Still, as Henri Lefebvre and contributors to the “spatial turn” since have argued, the role of space in shaping social practices and perceptions can’t be ignored.  We—historians, game designers, players—also shouldn’t ignore the ways in which the built environment is, in turn, the product of a society’s needs and beliefs. 

And that’s where I, the historian of Latin America, step in.  My dissertation examines theaters to understand how an urban public was forged in rapidly growing São Paulo.  Central to my analysis is space itself: I analyze architectural plans, maps, construction permits, and other sources in order to understand how the establishment of over two hundred auditoriums altered who participated in São Paulo’s public life and in what ways.  Despite the distance in space and time between São Paulo and St. George’s, the process of virtually recreating the latter is enhancing my capacity for imagining and grasping how Paulistanos experienced the transition to urbanity.  After spending hours modeling a particularly tricky element, for example, I can’t help but wonder about the materials, labor, and economic exchanges involved in a building’s construction.

And, yep, sometimes I do get stuck for hours.  I’ve always had a knack for spatial visualization (LEGOs were my favorite toy as a kid), but modeling relies on software, and every software has its logic.  My internship has pushed my computer literacy in new directions, as well as helped me dust the cobwebs off of all that math I once knew (the length of the hypotenuse in a 30º-60º-90º triangle, anyone?).  I’ve also found myself outside my comfort zone in terms of project management: Virtual St. George’s requires that I regularly rely on colleagues who range from undergraduate students to staff members at Rochester’s Digital Humanities Center.  In the process, I’m learning a lot about collaboration and the social architecture of a university, not to mention the physical architecture of the British Empire.  I’m also discovering how to communicate history to a wide audience in what, for me, is an entirely new medium.  In all of these ways, I’m building what the AHA calls my “intellectual self-confidence,” my ability to quickly process information and apply my expertise to new situations.  To sum it up, I’m making history work: utilizing and expanding my knowledge, skills, and curiosity as a historian and as a professional.  Who knew so much could be learned under the Bermudan sun?

Tweeting for Active Reading

posted Sep 4, 2014, 11:22 AM by Aiala Levy   [ updated Jun 9, 2015, 11:55 AM ]

Is blogging still considered blogging if an entire year lapses between one post and the next?  I suppose it's been a busy year of writing and teaching so perhaps some excuse can be made.

I submit to you as evidence the following video, based on a presentation I did for the Chicago Center for Teaching about having students use Twitter to actively engage with course readings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf5K5Z2GM-4.  It's safe to say that it was a successful experience for all in my Business of Entertainment class, and I'm excited to try it out in other courses in the future.  I'm also curious to find out how Twitter works for other educators and class formats.  Drop me a line if you have ideas or comments!

For your convenience, here are JPEGs of my presentation slides:

Those poor musicians

posted Aug 12, 2013, 1:55 PM by Aiala Levy   [ updated Aug 12, 2013, 2:00 PM ]

About a year ago, when I was still in São Paulo, I overheard an archivist at the Legislative Assembly (ALESP) patiently explain to a lost law student the importance of studying history. "We must understand where we come from," she preached. "We must learn from our mistakes. History repeats itself." While many historians might shift uneasily in their seats at the latter claim, the archivist wasn't entirely incorrect. An account I read that same day particularly hit home the repetitive nature of the human experience, specifically, the plight of professional musicians. 

The victim of my last entry, the professional musician is today my object of sympathy (and not just today; try having a couple in your family and the sympathy will last year-round). Ever since Orpheus's descendants began to sell their art, the world has never seemed entirely capable of accommodating their business. Often, the blame is placed on technology.

At the end of the 1920s, motion picture studios began to install a new-fangled piece of equipment: the microphone. Suddenly, movie audiences across the globe were not only watching the same high-speed images but also hearing the same sounds. Recorded sound drastically altered the moviegoing experience, but lots of people thought it was a short-term craze. Sort of like the current 3D obsession (which, let's be frank, really doesn't deserve to be more than a craze). Then, as viewers of The Artist or Singin' in the Rain well know, actors had to adapt or fall behind. 

But actors weren't the only ones. Recorded sound also meant recorded music. Just a single orchestra in a single sound-proof studio. No more live pianists and bands in every respectable movie theater, which also meant no more musical acts in between short films or during intermission. Suddenly, musicians in cities far from movie lots had significantly fewer stages on which to perform.

Little wonder, then, that in São Paulo, whose arts spaces had blossomed in the early twentieth century, musicians were up in arms. In 1929, a group of approximately 700 affiliated with the Carlos Gomes Musical Center appealed to the Municipal Chamber for help. Their most vocal supporter, Ulysses Coutinho, delivered an impassioned speech that pitched the film industry as a profit-hungry, exploitative Goliath trampling upon not only local musicians, but also local consumers (Annaes da Camara Municipal de São Paulo, Gianotti & Losasso, 1929, 422-423). Coutinho, however, was no David and nothing was done to save those poor musicians.

Sixty years later, the threat to live music was in some respect even greater. Digital sound had arrived, and not only could it more easily record and distribute music, it could even create it. Think of what makes '80s rock or pop so recognizable: the synthesizer. Love them or hate them (I lean toward the latter), digital instruments were here to stay, which meant that an entire string section in many cases could be and has been replaced by a single keyboardist. Even in big-budget films. Just compare the soundtrack of Disney's Mulan (1998) to Lion King (1994). Talk about downsizing.

Studio musicians haven't been the only victims. Not only do more and more musicals have bare-boned pit ensembles (way too small to call them "pit orchestras" anymore), but now some shows relegate their accompanists to cramped studios not even inside the theater. Yep, thanks to faster telecommunication technology, the musicians are sitting elsewhere, sometimes several miles away, with headphones and a TV monitor that streams the actors onstage. And there's no noticeable sound delay. There's also no noticeable chemistry with the audience. 

Of course, live music has survived. Despite the talkie, the synthesizer, and the internet, there's still something about the energy of an artist at work and an audience at play that recorded and digitally listened to sound will never (never?) be able to convey. So go out there and make some music!

Thank goodness for cartoons!

posted Jun 19, 2013, 3:03 PM by Aiala Levy   [ updated Jun 8, 2014, 4:02 PM ]

Transforming research into narrative is an often frustrating process--but it also can be highly entertaining when you're working with pompous rhetoric, witty invectives, and comic strips. These have inspired me to share once again, even if it's but a brief post. 

From one of my favorite sources, Diabo Coxo, an 8-page, weekly, satirical magazine published in São Paulo in 1864 and 1865:

Angelo Agostini, “Lyrical Clatter: Battle between the Theater’s music and the spectators’ ears,” Diabo Coxo 2, no. 3 (6 Aug 1865): 4. 
Fortunately for me (and everyone, really, because who honestly isn't interested in the theaters of São Paulo?), Diabo Coxo began publishing just after the São José Theater opened its doors. Perhaps the timing wasn't entirely coincidental; as you can see, the short-lived publication loved deriding the theater, its audiences, and performers.

The moral of this post? Next time you cringe at the horn player's intonation, just remember that it was a whole lot worse in 1865 São Paulo.


posted May 27, 2013, 7:59 PM by Aiala Levy   [ updated May 27, 2013, 8:08 PM ]

[originally posted on February 15, 2012, at aialalevy.posterous.com]

Of utmost importance to the lawmakers who drafted what would become Decree 1714 of March 18, 1909, was fire safety, public behavior, contract enforcement, and… hats.  Decree 1714 was an executive order of the state of São Paulo intended to clarify a previously passed bill, Article 23 of Law 1103 (26 Nov 1907), that dictated that the inspection of theaters was exclusively within the jurisdiction of the state police.  

Clarification, indeed.  Decreto 1714 featured 8 chapters and a whopping 102 articles.  It offered guidelines for conducting inspections; stipulated that all entertainment events obtain government approval (reasons for rejection: offending any national or foreign state, their leaders, or "good customs and public decency," including allusions to "aggressive" figures or other means of "disturbing the public order"); that theaters be built with a range of safety features, among them unobstructed aisles, marked exits, and electric or screened gas lighting; that production companies be honest to their customers and employees; and that audience hygiene and comfort be ensured through daily cleaning, assigned seating, and the regulation of behavior.  Police were granted the right to toss out anyone disturbing the peace and suspend a show if necessary.  

They were also required to strictly enforce designated hat-free areas. In sum:
Art 12: In the first ten rows of the orchestra level and the first two rows of balconies, women are prohibited from maintaining hats on their heads during the show.
§1: Café-concertos [think Moulin Rouge] are exempt from the above rule.
§2: Theater companies must announce the above rule in all publicity.
§3: Box offices must have seating charts indicating which seats are hat-restricted.
Art 45: Male audience members should:
§2: Maintain their heads uncovered during shows, except in café-concertos; women can't don hats in sections of a theater where this is prohibited.

Italian singer Amelia Novelli in A Vida Moderna 2, no. 29-30 (25 Dec 1907), p.45 "Fashion--The Latest Parisian Novelties," Fon-Fon! 1, no. 1 (13 Apr 1907), p.33 "Leaving the Lyrico [Rio's opera house]" Fon-Fon! 1, no. 1 (13 Apr 1907), p.25

Photos: Italian singer Amelia Novelli in A Vida Moderna 2, no. 29-30 (25 Dec 1907), p.45; "Fashion--The Latest Parisian Novelties," Fon-Fon! 1, no. 1 (13 Apr 1907), p.33; "Leaving the Lyrico [Rio opera house]" Fon-Fon! 1, no. 1 (13 Apr 1907), p.25.

So why all the hubbub?  One way to sum it up is the challenge of gendered habits.  The height and broad brims of turn-of-the-century hats added a touch of masculinity to female fashion, but that touch was compromised by etiquette.  While men were accustomed to removing hats indoors and in greeting, women were not held by that rule.  In fact, in some cases, it would have been an extraordinarily difficult feat for a woman to do so, not to mention odd to observe.  Hats were a part of the hairdo, as pinned and elaborately set as Betty Draper's beehive in Mad Men.  The most expensive hats featured an assortment of ribbons, feathers, flowers, and even stuffed hummingbirds (think My Fair Lady's Eliza Doolittle at the races).  And they were big.  In a recent episode of Modern Family, Gloria wonders why giant hats are back in fashion, and with good reason.  Just take a look at Marc Jacobs's Fall 2012 show.  Imagine trying to enjoy, say, Puccini's La Bohème while sitting behind this monstrosity.

The other problem of gendered habits has to do with the shift in audience seating.  Through much of the nineteenth century in Brazil, the orchestra level (platéia, which also refers to the audience at large) was male territory (see Giuliana Martins Simões's 2001 USP Masters thesis).  Women sat in chairs in boxes, far from the dangers of the crowd but within easy line of sight.  While perched in their lofts, women's hairstyles and hats were never an inconvenience to fellow spectators; on the contrary, such embellishments were key to attracting attention and displaying status.  That function was still served by large hats in 1909, but now women were sitting in the front rows, rubbing elbows with men.  

As Decree 1714 implies, a co-ed platéia was not necessarily a sign of female liberation, but rather indication that (certain) auditoriums in their entirety had become more wholesome.  Articles 27 and 45 asked spectators to preserve a "correct attitude," not disturb their peers or performers, and at least arrive clean, sober, and appropriately dressed.  Such laws were hardly new and, moreover, were increasingly self-enforced as notions of the relation between audience and performance were debated and revised in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Perhaps the best known theoretician was composer ("total art"ist?) Richard Wagner, who intended his work to be a sensual experience so complete that audience members would disconnect from their environment, each silently and individually absorbed by the performance.  The individualization of the public coincided with the emergence of crowd theory, such as that propagated by Gustave Le Bon (The Crowd, 1895), which further spurred lawmakers to regulate audience behavior.

Regulation took many forms, and in the case of hats, it underlined the continued perception of women as the more sensitive, decorous sex.  In São Paulo, the hat controversy arrived by way of Wisconsin (yes, the state of cheese curds and frozen custard).  In May of 1897, A Platéa reported in jest that the Wisconsin senate had voted against a bill that would have fined women for wearing large hats inside theaters.  (To which the columnist added, "The curious thing is that the opinion of the Senate special committee had been composed in verse!")  Three months later, the same column condoned the solution proposed by Bridgefort, CT: a female "hat inspector" whose sole job would be to request "with delicacy" that a woman sporting an obstructive hat promptly remove it.  Police assistance would only be called upon in the stubbornest of cases.  Paulista lawmakers were not yet ready to employ women, but they were interested in safeguarding their propriety.  In the spirit of Bridgefort, theater inspectors were encouraged to display the utmost "prudence" while enforcing the hat restriction (Art 46 §5).  No need for throwing gentlewomen out the door--for indeed the bearers of large hats were gentlewomen.  Imagine the scandal that would have ensued.  And all because of a hat.

A bit of why and how – or, History in the digital age

posted May 27, 2013, 7:44 PM by Aiala Levy   [ updated May 27, 2013, 7:47 PM ]

[originally posted on January 1, 2012, at aialalevy.posterous.com]

So why 1854 in the previous post if the dissertation begins in 1890?

1. The thorough historian's justification: context is key.  If I don't understand the politics of theater prior to 1890, how can I highlight changes, discover exceptions, or spot continuities?  What may seem to be representative of turn-of-the-twentieth-century modernization/modernity (or progress/civilization, to use the more popular terms of the day) may have actually already been in practice or in thought long before.  Or maybe not.  

2. The practical historian's justification: researching the establishment of the Theatro São José would make for a perfect short paper for a fascinating panel in an interesting conference conveniently taking place in São Paulo in July.  And it's a theater that still existed after 1890 so studying its origins wouldn't be such a digression, right?

The truth, of course, is that the historian never knows exactly where the sources will lead her.  Or at least I never do.  Nor do I want to; part of the fun of History with a capital "H"--the study of history, the doing, the finding, the interpreting, the writing--is precisely the mystery and surprise.  Like a cartographer embarking on an expedition, I may not be forging a new path and may even have a general sense of what form my final map may take, but the details and precise measurements are lacking.  If I knew ahead of time what lay in store, there'd be no point in undertaking the project.  

This time around, my sources led me to the Theatro São José, the province/state funded theater that burned down in 1898.  Tales of embezzlement, mismanagement, and unheeded warnings surrounded this public-private enterprise that was intended to bring civilization to a backwater provincial capital.  Yet, despite the theater's shortcomings, in terms of both architecture and programming, its destruction was bemoaned by São Paulo's press and added urgency to the demand for a municipal theater.  All of this I gleaned from the major dailies of 1890s São Paulo: A Platéa, A Noite, and O Estado de São Paulo.  I was now hooked and wanted to learn more.

So how does one get to 1854 from the 1890s, especially given the lack of available periodicals from the earlier period?  (An absence felt more acutely now that the Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo is closed through at least March 2012.)  One helpful resource has been the Acervo Histórico da Assembleia Legislativa do Estado de São Paulo (the Historical Archive of the São Paulo State Legislative Assembly), an intimate archive with welcoming and knowledgeable staff (I was even offered cake and coffee!).  Much of the archive's holdings are digitized, and those documents unclear or unavailable online were (re)scanned for me at the director's suggestion.  Other digitized files too large for uploading online were graciously shared via an 8GB USB flash drive (BYOFD).  I was impressed.

The beauty of digitization is the ability to search.  Keyword queries obviously have their limitations.  First, the source must have words to search.  Second, the querier must already understand and anticipate the diction and spelling likely to be used.  Third, OCR (optical character recognition) technology is still less than perfect; depending on the condition and typeface of a given document, "t" may be confused for "f," "8" for B," or a character ignored altogether.  But in the grand scheme of things, searchability has thus far proven to be more of a boon than a hindrance.  

At the Assembly (ALESP) Archive, the online database of digitized documents can be searched by keyword, date, and location.  While the staff-created descriptions occasionally have minor inaccuracies or spelling errors, you can't beat the ease of typing in "theatro," downloading a dozen PDF copies of handwritten manuscripts, and then reading and annotating these beautiful documents in the comfort of your own home.  Link the PDF files to a bibliographic record on Zotero and, voila, history's at your fingertips and ready to use!

The handwritten documents from the ALESP Documentos database may not be word searchable themselves, but the typewritten anais (annals of legislative sessions) are.  This is incredibly helpful when plodding through a 500-page text, much of it petty arguments stemming from bruised egos (OK, so some of it is entertaining).  Enter "S. José" or "theatro" (or just "heat" to compensate for the difficult "t" while avoiding other words) and you'll at the very least pick up a legislative trail.  From there you can find other potential keywords (for example, an impresario's name or a bill number) and figure out what other dates your topic of interest may appear in the annals.  Suddenly you feel like Sherlock Holmes.

But what to do about the thousands of pages of legislative debates not digitized and unindexed?  I discovered the following algorithm for their efficient examination:

1. Run keyword queries of all legislation passed by the province of São Paulo during my studied period, available on the ALESP website.  Some keywords I've successfully used thus far: theatro, teatro, Quartim, dramatica (no accent marks).

2. Note each bill's date(s), sponsor(s), and related draft/proposal (projeto) number(s) as available.

3. Work backwards from the bill's date in the records, using the sponsor's name, bill/proposal number, and keywords as signposts when skimming.

The disadvantage of this method is that I run the risk of missing a relevant debate that did not materialize into legislation.  Most of the unindexed and undigitized annals at the ALESP archive, however, are not original minutes (there was no official typographer prior to 1868 or so) but edited compilations, meaning that they're relatively quick to read and that they're lacking many discussions.

No method is foolproof, but I can't help but be excited by the opportunities enabled by text analysis technology, which everyday grows more sophisticated.  Text analysis, of course, requires digitization, which not only aids the researcher of the present but will also prove invaluable in the future as historical materials continue to deteriorate.  Undoubtedly, a certain magic is lost with the conversion of touchable, smellable objects to series of 0s and 1s, and reading manuscripts at home cannot substitute the knowledge and community gained by interacting with staff and scholars at a brick and mortar archive.  Nevertheless, I'm glad digitization is being taken seriously by not only the Assembly Archive, but also by the State Public Archive, the Edgard Leuenroth Archive at UNICAMP, the Brasiliana collection at USP, and the Museu Lasar Segall, among others.  Thanks, guys, obrigada!

"Is a theater a public service?"

posted May 23, 2013, 9:17 PM by Aiala Levy

[originally posted on December 10, 2011, at aialalevy.posterous.com]

Antonio Joaquim de Sampaio Peixoto asked his fellow members of São Paulo's Provincial Legislative Assembly (Assembleia Legislativa Provincial) on April 22, 1854.  "If it's a public service, why has it never been part of the [provincial] budget?  A theater, Mr. President, is a business, and nothing more."

As a business, Peixoto implied, a theater had no reason to receive funding from the provincial government, whose deficit for the 1854-1855 fiscal year would assume a whopping 254:905$000 (205 contos and 905 mil-réis) if all budgetary amendments on the table were adopted.  The controversial subject of discussion was the Teatro do Largo do Palácio, referred to interchangeably in Assembly documents as the "theater of São Paulo," the "public theater of this Capital," and the "Theatro da Ópera" (the latter signifying the theater's prominence rather than the genre of performances within).  The provincial budget for 1853-1854 had stipulated that this theater, i.e. its impresario, receive an annual subsidy of 3:000$ in order to improve the quality and frequency of performances.  But times were tough, claimed Peixoto.

"Three contos de réis is nothing," representative Antônio Luiz dos Reis França retorted.  "It is an embarrassment for the Province of São Paulo to not have a capable theater."

"Pernambuco gives 16 contos to theater," Antônio Joaquim Ribas chimed in, with José Pedro de Azevedo Segurado adding, "Maranhão gives 10 contos."  And, of course, Rio de Janeiro with its magnificent, Imperial Court sponsored Teatro Lírico Fluminense, could not be excluded from the conversation.

"What do I care what they do in other parts?" Peixoto snapped in response.  "He who is rich can have vices… whoever spends without a budget ends up without honor."  But Peixoto was the only one who dismissed theater's value.

"It's necessary to entertain the people," Manoel Eufrazio de Toledo argued.

"We are not under an absolute government… in which, in order to distract the people, it pays for entertainment from the king's treasury," Peixoto countered.

"The theater only entertains?" questioned Hipólito José Soares de Souza, arching a condescending brow (I'm sure) at the narrowness of Peixoto's reply.

No, no, Peixoto agreed.  "A well regimented theater is a school of morality, but we have public services of absolute necessity."  He later clarified, "I am not an enemy of the theater, but the public coffer should only be opened for theaters when, for example, there is a fire… it's the case of charity, as we have done in this House for businesses that, due to greater forces, have needed to rebuild themselves."

There are functions for the theater that make it well worth the government's consistent support, insisted Prudêncio Geraldes Tavares da Veiga Cabral.  The province's contract with impresario Antonio Bernardo Quartim would require that the theater host performances celebrating current civic events and commemorating those of the past.  As a space for instilling patriotism and educating paulistas in the history of their nation, the theater certainly was nothing if not a public service.

"But until when [must we be forced to fund this]?" was all Peixoto could say.

"For as long as there is an empire of Brazil," Cabral calmly replied.  The Assembly burst into laughter.

"Our entire life, my dear sirs," Peixoto exclaimed in exasperation, "per omnia secula seculorum!!"  For ever and ever.

"Amen," cheered a chorus of voices.

Eighteen days later, the president of the province of São Paulo, Josino do Nascimento Silva, approved his government's budget for 1854-1855.  It included not only a subsidy of 3:000$ for the existing "theater of this capital," but also an annual allocation of 9:333$ (a total of 28:000$ over three years) toward the construction of a new theater.

Thirty-five years later, the empire of Brazil collapsed.


Moral of the story: Yes, dear Peixoto, a theater can be a public service.

Unintended moral of the story: Never make claims about the future course of history.  The historian, sitting alone in the archive and craving diversion, will someday laugh at your foolishness.

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