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I AM THE DEAD MAN 16x9.png

A New Work Presented by Saudade Theatre

in co-production with
University of Florida School of Theatre and Dance

In 1998, on the Island of Mozambique, Izidine Naíta investigates a homicide inside the old Portuguese fort of São Sebastião, now a decaying old people’s refuge. Inside, Naíta faces the dead, clashes with life, and finds the truth nearly impossible to unravel from a series of convoluted confessions from the elderly, mysterious residents.

PLAYWRIGHTS  Stephen Ruffin, Filipe Valle Costa

DIRECTORS  Filipe Valle Costa, Stephen Ruffin

PRODUCER  Vanessa Varela

DRAMATURG Vanessa Varela

MATERIAL Adapted for the stage from Mia Couto’s novel Under the Frangipani.


July 21, 7:30PM

July 22, 7:30PM

July 23, 7:30PM

July 24, 2:00PM

Black Box Theatre | University of Florida School of Theatre and Dance

Behind the Work

Written by Stephen Ruffin and Filipe Valle Costa, I AM THE DEAD MAN aims to reevaluate and recontextualize Mia Couto’s 1996 novel Under The Frangipani with attention to contemporary issues affecting American audiences, through an exploration of the hostile relationship between Mozambique and Portugal in the last half of the twentieth century. 


The first pages of I AM THE DEAD MAN were written in 2020 for Saudade Theatre’s RE•DESCOBRIMENTOS Festival: a virtual series of original plays reevaluating the legacy of colonialism and racial oppression, created in urgent response to the perpetuation of violence against African American people in the United States.

As a company straddling both the American and Portuguese psyches – former colonial powers hamstrung by present-day systemic inequality – Saudade Theatre tasked itself with investigating how theater could respond to this reckoning. The collaboration between Stephen and Filipe (respectively African American and Portuguese artists) took root. The playwrights set out to confront the consequences of Portuguese colonization in Africa and around the world, not least Portugal’s role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and have that dialogue happen here in the United States on the very soil where generations have lived those consequences and traumas. Couto’s Under The Frangipani proved to be an ideal vehicle for this discussion: at the heart of Couto’s rich story is a search for identity, a reconciliation of history, a catharsis of trauma and a quest for understanding.

The Collaboration

A co-production between Saudade Theatre and the University of Florida School of Theatre and Dance, I AM THE DEAD MAN will be workshopped this summer on campus in Gainesville, FL, where Saudade Theatre will collaborate with student theatremakers to mount 4 performances at the Black Box Theatre, from July 21-24, 2022.

I AM THE DEAD MAN is created by a trio of University of Florida Alums: Saudade Theatre’s Founder and Co-Artistic Director Filipe Valle Costa,  Guest Artist Stephen Ruffin, and Producing Director Vanessa Varela.

The Creative Team

STEPHEN RUFFIN, Co-Author & Co-Director

Stephen Malcolm Ruffin is an Atlanta artist. He studied acting for 4 years at the University of Florida on a full Honors scholarship and began his stage career at the Hippodrome State Theatre. After graduating with a BFA in Acting, he apprenticed with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company. Some significant Atlanta stage credits include Romeo and Lysander at Atlanta Shakes, Pika/Francis in the Atlanta premiere of “Cardboard Piano” at Actors Express, “Omari” in “Pipeline” at Horizon Theatre and originating the role of Bowzie Brandon in “Too Heavy For Your Pocket” at Alliance Theatre. Some on-screen credits include: TV: "Snowfall", "Terror Lake Drive", “BMF”, “Survivor’s Remorse”, “Love Is”, “The Resident”, “Legacies”; Film: SXSW 2018 premiere “Summer 03”, Sundance 2020 premiere “Beast Beast”, Disney's “Safety.”

FILIPE VALLE COSTA, Co-Author & Co-Director

Filipe is a Brooklyn-based artist from Lisbon, Portugal. He holds a B.A. in Theatre from Graceland University and a M.F.A. in Acting from the University of Florida. Filipe is the Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Saudade Theatre and currently teaches Acting with Waterwell Theater. As a theatre maker, he directed the West Coast Premiere of Mickaël De Oliveira’s The Constitution, co-created El Comanchero or [The Path to the Kingdom of Heaven], among others. Filipe’s onstage acting credits include: Torera (Alley), Good Grief (INTAR), Lilia (Rising Circle), I’m Dreaming (But Am I) (Cherry Lane), Henry V, Love’s Labors Lost (Shakespeare Forum), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Northern Stage), End Days, Sirens, Dracula (Hippodrome), El Comanchero, My Favorite Suicide, The Constitution (Saudade Theatre). TV credits include: Snowfall (FX), Chicago Med (NBC), Blue Bloods (CBS), Gotham (FOX), Unicornland. Film credits include: Geostorm, Son of a Kingpin, Posthumous.

VANESSA VARELA, Producer & Dramaturg

Vanessa produces Theatre, Sports & Entertainment Events and Digital Media in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. She also serves as the dramaturg for Saudade Theatre's original works, including I AM THE DEAD MAN and EL COMANCHERO or [The Path to the Kingdom of Heaven], which premiered April 15 at Kraine Theatre, as part of Saudade Theatre's residency with FRIGID New York. 

In Media Production, she manages AV staffing for live sports and entertainment events throughout New York State, including for the New York Mets and New York Islanders. Previously, Vanessa worked with Beverly Hills agency Nathaniel Howe Studios producing broadcast graphics packages, on-air promos, and network rebrands; she was also Production Manager at Media2, working on unscripted television series, arena graphics packages, AV services, corporate videos and digital content. Vanessa received her B.S. in Television Production from the University of Florida.

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