Lucasinho Ribeiro, father of Konkani Tiatr or Tiatrancho Pai! This is bound to create some confusion. How can Lucasinho be tiatrancho pai when Joao Agostinho Fernandes is called Pai Tiatrist and the Government has even named the main auditorium at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao after him? The confusion is justified as nobody, be it the tiatrist fraternity or the Tiatr Academy has thought it fit to throw light on this matter and set the record right. Here is an attempt to give the founders of tiatr their true place under the sun.
Constancio Lucasinho Caridade Ribeiro, better known as Lucasinho Ribeiro was born in a well to do family. His father Vicente Rosario Ribeiro hailed from Limavaddo in Socorro village while mother Maria Aurora de Souza was from Sokolvaddo in Assagao and he was born in Assagao, the village his parents chose to settle in after their marriage.
Lucasinho was highly talented and he displayed his art at a very early age. As was the custom of those times, he studied music at the village parochial school and was very proficient with the fiddle in his early teens. He was also a very good painter and his portraits were a marvel, so much so that he was even commissioned to draw the portraits of two Portuguese Governor Generals and his paintings even till date adorn the walls of some landlords in Assagao.
As was the practice of those times, the educated would migrate to Africa or British India for better career prospects. Thus Lucasinho landed in Bombay (now Mumbai) in search of employment and lived in the village Kudd. Once he happened to watch an Italian Opera staged in an auditorium and was so mesmerized by that performance that he decided to seek employment with that company. Being proficient in music and an accomplished violinist, he sought a job as a musician in the company, which however was not available. Due to the intervention of another fellow Goan, Lucasinho however got a job with the Italian company as a backstage hand.
Lucasinho travelled to Pune, Madras, Simla and Calcutta with the company and when it landed in Burma he quit the company. With his savings, he purchased the discarded costumes and props of the company and returned to Bombay with only one desire – to stage a Konkani presentation with the costumes and props of the Italian company by using all that he had learnt by then of stagecraft.
Back in Bombay, Lucasinho started writing the script for a Koknkani drama probably inspired from one of the French Opera’s he had seen. He befriended Caetaninho Fernandes from Taleigao who was then working with the Bombay Gazette and who was very impressed with the idea of staging a respectable Konkani play so far apart from the Zagors and Khells that were the known forms of Konkani stage then. Caetaninho told his friend Joao Agostinho Fernandes from Margao about this new concept and Agostinho too was impressed. They then met Lucasinho at Picket Road and after that the three would meet regularly to discuss the project.
The script had nine characters and the trio began looking for actors and Agostinho Mascarenhas from Mungul, Margao joined them taking the number to four. There was a fifth person whose name till recently was not known. However, John alias Kokoy Gomes, in his latest book Tiatr Palkkache Khambe names the fifth person, he is Fransquino Fernandes.
The five of them visited innumerable kudds in Bombay to convince others to join them in this novel presentation. However, as nobody wanted to participate in a Konkani presentation, the five then decided to put up the show with five actors doing double or multiple roles so that all nine characters could be portrayed.
The script was then divided into scenes or pod’des purely out of necessity as the actors needed to change their clothes backstage to return on the state in the second role being portrayed. In order to keep the audience occupied, a curtain would be lowered and another artiste would sing a song that had no connection whatsoever with the main plot and once the actor backstage was ready, the curtain would be raised and the play continued from where it had stopped. Thus what was done due to necessity, became the identity of the Konkani tiatr ie pod’des with the songs which over the years evolved from solos to duets, trios and even quartets.
Word spread of this experiment and the first show of the play titled Italian Bhurgo on 17th April 1892 at the New Alfred Theatre, Bombay was a sellout. This first performance of a Konkani play was done under the banner of The Goa Portuguese Dramatic Company.
However after a few more presentations, some of which were translations done by Joao Agostinho Fernandes, there was a misunderstanding the team split up with Lucasinho Ribeiro starting a new group named Ribeiro and D’Cruz Opera Company. He presented Alaudin ani tacho ojapancho divo, Alibaba, Carlos Magno amongst others. Lucasinho expired on 23rd January 1928.
On the other hand, Joao Agostinho Fernandes continued writing and presenting tiatrs and during his lifetime produced 27 tiatrs. His advanced age and the manner in which he carried him earned him the sobriquet ‘pai tiatrist’ and that is why the auditorium at Ravindra Bhavan is named after the pai tiatrist. However, Joao Agosinho Fernandes in his article in his article titled Theatrancho Bhangaracho Jubileo published in the 25th November 1943 issue of Ave Maria credits Lucasinho for being the pioneer of Konkani tiatr.
“The late Lucasinho Ribeiro, without doubt deserves the premier honourable position. I bow my head at the grave of Mr. Ribeiro who was my maestro in the field of theatre and I still tread the path he has shown by presenting plays of moral and educative values to my brethren.” This is what Joao Agostinho Fernandes wrote.
The first tiatr was written and directed by Lucasinho Ribeiro. The costumes and stage properties used in the first tiatr belonged to Lucasinho. Probably the songs and music for the first tiatr was composed by Lucasinho. Hence, in the fitness of things, to set the record right, and to give Lucasinho Rebeiro a place of pride, that deserves to be his, the title ‘Tiatrancho Pai’ or ‘Tiatrancho Bapui’ or ‘The father of konkani Tiatr’ should be bestowed upon Lucasinho Ribeiro.