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Biennale Teatro 2023

Armando Punzo

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement

Award ceremony

Saturday 17 June, 12:00 noon
Ca’ Giustinian, Venice

Armando Punzo

La Biennale di Venezia will present the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Armando Punzo.

In their motivation for the award, Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte write: “The search for the meaning of theatre begins when we venture into human territory driven by the need for a personal, original cultural identity. Where the stage is nurtured by real life. In the attempt to communicate through isolation, both artistic and geographical; prison and its barriers. Force a limit, the absence of freedom that shatters axioms through Theatre to become exuberant harvesting. Start to dream of a new man and impose him on reality. A visionary form of communication that distils a language reconstructed in the shadow of a prejudice: there are no bars that can restrain the spirit and the imagination, but more importantly, are we certain that the Others are the prisoners condemned to confinement within a perimeter? Our limits, fears, need for social assertion, blindness when it comes to others; to make the intangible, the unconscious, visible: a cultural utopia of which Armando Punzo and the Compagnia della Fortezza are the shining embodiment”.

The career as a director of the shamanic artist Armando Punzo spans across thirty-five years of totalizing, full-time day to day work with eighty or so inmate-actors, producing more than forty shows. Sensational productions that won awards in Italy and abroad: Marat-Sade, I negri, I Pescecani ovvero quello che resta di Bertolt Brecht, Hamlice – Saggio sulla fine di una civiltà, Beatitudo are just some of the more memorable titles that frame Punzo’s inquiry into the great themes of humanity turning a penal institution such as the Medici Fortress in Volterra into an avant-garde cultural centre. Many initiatives have burgeoned from there, such as the European project “Theatre and prison in Europe” with Italy as the project leader, involving penitentiaries in France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, and Great Britain.

Biographical notes

Armando Punzo (Cercola - Naples, 1959) is a director, playwright and actor. He has worked since 1988 in the Prison at Volterra, where he founded the Compagnia della Fortezza, the first and most lasting experience of theatre in a penitentiary institution. From 1996 to 2016, he also directed the Festival Internazionale VolterraTeatro, entitling his artistic direction to the idea of the Theatres of the Impossible. In thirty-five years of work with la Fortezza, which now counts approximately eighty inmate-actors, he has staged over forty plays, including Marat-Sade, I Negri, I Pescecani ovvero quello che resta di Bertolt Brecht, Hamlice, Santo Genet, Beatitudo, Progetto Naturae, many of which, following their debut at the prison, were later performed in the major Italian festivals and theatres. In parallel, while obstinately pursuing the goal of creating the first Teatro Stabile in prison in the world, he directs international workshops and productions, focusing in particular on major urban and installation-performance projects. They include a site-specific edition of Hamlice at the Hangar Bicocca in Milan for over three thousand spectators; a series of collective performances in city squares, courtyards and museums for the project Mercuzio non vuole morire; the installation-performance Paradiso. Voi non sapete la sofferenza dei Santi, which was staged at the foot of the Ilva industries, and involved the citizens of the Tamburi District in Taranto; L’Opera Segreta. Rovine e resti dell’umanità di Shakespeare, set on the Escalators of Santa Lucia di Potenza, with one hundred people on stage; Le Rovine Circolari, a special version of Beatitudo, inside the cooling area of the Enel Nuova Geothermal Power Plant in Larderello in the Green Triangle of Peccioli; Naturae. La valle dell’innocenza, a site-specific production for the Nervi Pavilion in the former Salina di Stato in Saline di Volterra.

He has won many awards and acknowledgments including: six UBU Prizes, the Medal of the President of the Republic, the Sigillo d’Ateneo from the Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo, the National Association of Theatre Critics Award, the Carmelo Bene Prize from the Rivista lo Straniero magazine, the Europa Taormina Arte Prize, the Premio per la Cultura Contemporanea award from the Regione Toscana, the Premio Speciale Biglietto d’Oro Agis, Premio Napoli, Premio Scenari Pagani, Premio Nesi, Premio Speciale Fiesole, Premio Anima. He is the author of two autobiographical books: È ai vinti che va il suo amore (Clichy 2013) and Un’idea più grande di me (Luca Sossella 2019). His theoretical writings have been published in the major Italian and foreign theatre magazines. Since 1998, he has been the artistic director of the Teatro di San Pietro di Volterra, which is also the headquarters for the Associazione Carte Blanche which has always supported his work and the Compagnia della Fortezza, and where important cultural projects and theatre seasons are presented every year. In 2004 he conceived the project titled “Theatre and Prison in Europe ­– Education and development and dissemination of innovative methodologies” in collaboration with some of the most important European bodies working with theatre and prisons. This was followed by a new European project (2013-2015) titled “PICP – The prison, from penal institute to cultural place” the aim of which was to investigate how good practices regarding theatre in prison might be summarised into a model that could be exported to other prisons and/or other sectors of exclusion and/or other targets.

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