Tiatr – A birth story Retold 124-years-later!


Tiatr, the unique and famous form of theatre from Goa turned 124 years-old this year. Lucazinho Ribeiro from Assagao, Caetaninho Fernandes of Taleigao and João Agostinho Fernandes of Borda (Margao) staged the first tiatr ‘Italian Bhurgo’ in then Bombay (Now Mumbai) on April 17, 1892.

It all began when Lucazinho Ribeiro moved to Bombay (Mumbai) in search of employment. He knew to how read and write in English. He took tuition for English in Goa. While being unemployed in Goa he decided to move to Bombay. Much like many Goans of that time did. However his love for cultural activities especially theater never left him. In fact while in Goa Lucazinho would stage small cultural programs in the balcony of his house.

In Bombay Lucazinho was introduced to Italian operas. These impressed him so much that he got employed as a backstage artist. The troupe was performing ‘Italian Boy’. Finally, when the troupe left India, Lucazinho purchased the costumes used by them. His intention was to stage a play in Konkani based on the opera.

Trivia – Italian troupes during that period would come to perform ‘Operas’ in India. they would travel to the major cities like Bombay (Mumbai), Calcutta (Kolkata), Delhi and Madras (Chennai). These troupes would arrive with the required number of artists. employing Indians mostly as backstage artist.

Hence, lucazinho teamed up with Caetaninho Fernandes and João Agostinho Fernandes to stage the first Tiatr ever. Italian Bhurgo had many scenes. These needed props and decoration to be set-up on the stage. To overcome this problem and to keep the audience entertained throughout the play. Lucazinho came up with a unique solution.

He dropped the curtains on stage. Behind the curtain the backstage artists would start building the set for the next scene. While in front of the curtain an artist would sing and dance. These songs had nothing to do with the main theme of Italian Bhurgo.  Partly because they were a mere distraction for the audience.

In 1895, João Agostinho Fernandes Scripted and staged Belle de Cavel (Sundori Cavelchi). It is considered to be the first original tiatr. Eventually for his work in the field of Tiatr João came to be known as ‘Pai Tiatrist’. He is also referred to as ‘Father of Tiatr’.

On the occasion of the golden jubilee of tiatr in 1943. Joao published a letter in ‘Ave Maria’ (issue date November 28, 1943). In it he mentions the important role played by Lucazinho in developing the tiatr.  Also that he considered Lucazinho to be his guide and teacher.


Picture – Tiatrist

Author – Frederick Noronha

License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en