Carnevale del Teatro
I have been asking myself for some time what our profession might mean today, I mean our making theatre, in a society in which human contact is becoming rarefied, and where craftsmanship fights to stay afloat; what are the limits, the values, the hopes that this profession carries with it. It’s true that the public, and often a new public, is rediscovering theatre, but this does not necessarily entail creative vitality for this form of performance; it could for example mean curiosity for a tribe of Indians who stubbornly continue to communicate with their mouth and their hands what is conveyed at much greater speed through other means of communication; or it could mean an authentic need for relationships that are not mediated by technology, the discovery of intelligence, of imagination, of human labour. In other words, and in any case audiences are changing (because history changes), whereas theatre seems to stay in the same place (because its stories don’t change) with its fascinating ambiguous magic tricks, with the great illusion, which is its power, that it is mirror of our times even when the times are no longer reflected in it.
The immutability of theatre (not of its natural self-representation) can however become something of a Copernican revolution, because slowly and safely the subjects and objects, causes and effects do change. The audience (sometimes unwittingly) becomes the actor, takes possession of the theatre, turns it into an object of reflection, study, research, dream, irony, regret; but it can also restore it to history with new reasons for existing and, perhaps, for changing.
To provoke, even in a short time and a limited space, an exchange of roles and confusion of languages, to interrogate those who make theatre and those who attend it about our future fate as clowns, seemed urgent, and perhaps necessary.
That’s how the Carnevale del Teatro was born.
The audience, the actors, and why not, chance did the rest, to which the images in this book bear witness.
But chance can’t help you if you don’t believe in our work and do not place your hope in the audience and the actors. Together with them, without any assessment of quality, we threw out into the streets all the ingredients that have made theatre and made Carnival over the centuries: masks, make-up, costumes, gestures, music, the spoken word. We were certainly helped by the awareness that the times we were living in were no party, which at most was yet another reason to reflect on the political utility of theatre today. The period of Carnival was in fact chosen because it meant interruption of the institutions, breaking the rules, possible and free pause for reflection and experimentation. Venice was ready to give us a hand, as if it had just been waiting for the opportunity; the city government itself had been urging Venetians for over two years to reclaim their lost but never forgotten popular tradition; so the theatrical interpretation of carnival met with the surprised but open acceptance of Venetians and “foreigners”, and the encounter with the “comedians” was full, joyful and often exciting as a mutual discovery. For one week we opened all the large and small theatres of Venice, day and night, so Carnival could uninterruptedly move from the streets to the theatre, to the square to the waters of the canals. We furthermore opened a small theatre space on the water, Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del Mondo, which not only echoed the floating stages built by Scamozzi and Rusconi, but also the purity of line of the Globe. I mention the use of that theatre, even though it was marginal compared to what was happening in the streets and the theatres at the same time, to underscore its particular bivalency, its inner and outer life, its potential to be used and experienced both as a container for performances and as an actor itself. This, and more, much more than words and images can convey, happened by chance in Venice, in 1980.
Ultimately, we associated three words that are used, and used almost as clichés, such as Carnival, Theatre, Venice, so that connected together they could acquire an original value, a different meaning and significance, to indicate one experience that could never be reproduced elsewhere, but is linked in Venice to specific moments of research and study parallel to the event, but undoubtedly separate and autonomous.