FOLLIES IN TITUS to Re-Imagine Shakespearean Classic at La MaMa
In "Follies in Titus," Italy's Dario D'Ambrosi, originator of the theatrical movement called Teatro Patologico (Pathological Theater), re-imagines Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus," retelling the bard's bloodiest and most violent work through the voices of the patients of a psychiatric hospital.
The play is devised and directed by D'Ambrosi and is performed by actors from the Integrated Theater of the Emotions, an Italian university program in performing arts that he founded for people with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities.
La MaMa will present the play's American premiere November 30 to December 9 in its Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East Fourth Street.
Mr. D'Ambrosi, one of Italy's most distinguished theater artists, has made a career of plays and films that are with and about people with psychiatric disabilities, creating productions that portray their unique perspective on life. "Follies in Titus" was influenced by the intrinsic confrontation with human violence that "Titus Andronicus" evokes in both its audience and its interpreters. This 16th century tragedy, Shakespeare's first and bloodiest, is the fictional story of Titus, a general during the late Roman Empire, who engages in a cycle of revenge with Tamora, Queen of the Goths. Titus' murder of Tamora's eldest son in a ritual of war leads to the rape and mutilation of his own daughter, Lavinia. As his revenge, Titus murders Tamora's remaining sons, bakes them into pie, and serves them to her at a feast. Through a careful exploration of the pathological and psychotic behavior of the protagonists of the play, D'Ambrosi and his collaborators reduced the original text to its essential elements, giving space to the creativity of its actors, who re-tell the play in a fantastical narration through the eyes of psychiatric patients.
The focus of the production is not on Shakespeare's mixture of horror and vengeance, but rather on the alternation of true and feigned madness. D'Ambrosi holds that the ferocity depicted in many of the scenes of this first Shakespearean tragedy reflects the perpetual political and social struggle that many people face daily. The creative process behind the production involved the creation of a "canovaccio" (an Italian term borrowed from Commedia dell'Arte, which roughly translates to "plot outline"). After the assignment of each role, the performers were asked to "let the characters speak." That is how the script, comprising original and devised text, was born.
The performance was first presented in Rome as the annual culminating project of D'Ambrosi's Integrated Theater of the Emotions. Dario D'Ambrosi and his Teatro Patologico are internationally-recognized, with a strong ties to New York's La MaMa E.T.C., founded by Ellen Stewart. Every year students with disabilities who attend the association's theater therapy classes take part in international productions. Their 2017 tour also includes other prestigious venues in major cities around the world, including Los Angeles and Tokyo.
The acting ensemble are Paolo Vaselli, Cristiana Saporetti, Emanuele Antei, Marco Antonazzi, Fabio De Persio, Andrea Ferrari, Nicolò Fronticelli Baldelli, Paolo Giliberti, Sara Naso, Silvia Sorcini, Andrea Scrimieri, Claudia Terracini and Daniele Tortosa. Original music is by Francesco Santalucia. Choir coordination is by Papaceccio. Costume design is by Raffaella Toni. Organization is by Valeria Gaveglia.
IF YOU GO:
FOLLIES IN TITUS
November 30, 2017 - December 9, 2017
At La MaMa E.T.C. (Ellen Stewart Theatre), 66 E 4th Street, 2nd Floor
Presented by La MaMa E.T.C.
Thursday to Saturday at 8PM; Sunday at 4PM
$25 Adult Tickets; $20 Students/Seniors + $1 Facility Fee
Ten $10 tickets will be available to every performance on a first-come, first-served basis (advance sale recommended).
Box office 212-352-3101, www.lamama.org
Runs: One Hour. Reviewers are invited on or after November 30.
On December 4 at 6:30 PM at the United Nations headquarters (ECOSOS Chamber), in celebration of the International Day of People with Disabilities, Dario D'Ambrosi will give a presentation on The Integrated Theater of the Emotions, together with a performance of D'Ambrosi's award-winning version of "Medea," in which a chorus of 14 actors with differing abilities from the Integrated Theater of the Emotions perform in Attic Greek. The production, which premiered at La MaMa, was presented in 2012 at Wilton's Music Hall in London and won the Wilton Prize 2012/13 as the best show of the season. For more information, visit www.jsnyc.com/season/ECOSOS.htm.
Dario D'Ambrosi is a former professional soccer player, one of Italy's leading performance artists and originator of the theatrical movement called Teatro Patologico. His plays investigate mental illness by grasping its vital artistic and creative aspects with the intention of restoring the "dignity of the fool."
In the '80s and '90s, D'Ambrosi marched irresistibly into the forefront of Italy's theatrical ambassadors, a cohort led by Pirandello, DiFilippo and Dario Fo. In 1994, he received the equivalent of a Tony Award in his country: a prize for lifetime achievement in the theater from the Instituto del Drama Italiano. D'Ambrosi first performed at La MaMa in 1980 and has been in residence there nearly every year thereafter. He has written and directed over 16 plays, acted in 18 major films and TV movies, and written and directed three full-length films. Fifteen of his plays have had their American premieres at La MaMa. In the US, he has also performed at Lincoln Center, Chicago's Organic Theatre, Cleveland's Public Theater and Los Angeles' Stages Theatre, among others.
D'Ambrosi writes, "The emotional states, the tempo and rhythm of great actors are indeed very similar to those who live with intellectual disabilities and this experiment is the confirmation that in order to interpret a character and give it a life of its own what truly matters is the emotion that we live and evoke into others."
The Integrated Theater of the Emotions was developed by Dario D'Ambrosi's Teatro Patologico in collaboration with the University of Rome "Tor Vergata" and MIUR (the Italian Ministry of University and Research). Now serving more than 60 students each year, its mission is to stimulate the students' creative freedom by giving them theoretical and practical means to express themselves on the stage. Its curriculum (and its final project at the end of the academic year) isn't so much a form of therapy as it is an amazing chance for students to be and feel themselves as principal actors, to manifest themselves artistically and emotionally, and to socialize and form important life skills.
The program includes a compendium of theater-related courses: acting, playwriting, directing, set design, costume design, music therapy, singing and dance. Fifteen teaching artists instruct sixty students, including people of all ages who are schizophrenic, catatonic, manic depressive, autistic, and born with Down Syndrome. The students acquire tools to help them approach the professional world and recover an often denied dignity. Many have broken through their isolation, found self-knowledge and made themselves understood through theater.
An integral part of New York City's cultural landscape, La MaMa has a worldwide reputation for producing daring work in theatre, dance, performance art, and music that defies form and transcends boundaries of language, race, and culture. Founded in 1961 by theatre pioneer and legend Ellen Stewart, La MaMa is a global organization with creative partners and dedicated audiences around the world. La MaMa presents an average of 60-70 productions annually, most of which are world premieres. To date, over 3,500 productions have been presented at La MaMa with artists from more than 70 nations.
La MaMa's 56th season highlights artists of different generations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, who question social mores and confront stereotypes, corruption, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia in their work. Its stages embrace diversity in every form and present artists that persevere with bold self-expression despite social, economic, and political struggle and the 56th season reflects the urgency of reaffirming human interconnectedness.
Pictured: Dario D'Ambrosi (center) and members of acting ensemble of Integrated Theater of the Emotions in a curtain call after a production in Italy. Photo by Federica De Benedetto.