Canstage: spotlight.italy

The 150th anniversary of Italian unification partly explains the increased visibility of Italian theatre in Toronto and other parts of Canada this year; though in Quebec there is already a history of touring for many established Italian companies – such as Piccolo Teatro di Milano.

In Italy, theatre has great social and cultural relevance since it tends to focus on social issues within Italian society. Themes are universal and should therefore connect powerfully with people in Toronto. If there were more opportunities to see Italian theatre productions in Canada, would our audiences take advantage? Italian-Canadians, long established in Canada, not always relate to contemporary Italian culture because their concerns are different from Italy’s. Nonetheless, the artistic community in Toronto believes that the presence of Italian theatre in Canada has the potential to be truly transformative for Canadian audiences whether they have Italian connections or not.

Matthew Jocelyn, Artistic and General Director of the Canadian Stage Company, is one of them. He believes Canadians strongly feel the humour and irony of Italian productions and have a keen appreciation of their style, which is different from the naturalistic approach usually found in Canada. Before the start of the festival, he was hoping Torontonians would appreciate the degree of precision of specifically two of the shows, La Natura delle Cose and Basso Ostinato who have according to Jocelyn “the capacity to create a sense of something that is spontaneous but that is in fact highly organised.”

Back in Canada after having spent 25 years on European stages, Jocelyn was fortunate enough to have developed numerous relationships with independent Italian companies, thanks to which the presence of the company of Virgilio Sieni, Compagnia Scimone/Sframeli and Compagnia Caterina Sagna at the festival was made easier. Jocelyn adds in a laugh that “it turned out very opportunistic to be the 150th anniversary of Italy!”

 Jocelyn reminds us that, unlike playwrights in a young country like Canada, Italian artists live with an unbroken theatre tradition going as far back as Ancient Roman farce. “It is always present, he says, somewhere at the back of their brain.” And hence the question: how can Canadians learn and emulate this longstanding history on our own soil.

This fall, an example will be made when a translation by two scholars of six plays by 19th Century dramatist and novelist Pirandello will be published by the University of Toronto Press. One Little Goat Theatre Company will also perform a new English version of Pirandello’s play Come prima, meglio di prima (Like the First Time). (For more details: http://www.onelittlegoat.org)

The principal objective for the spotlight.italy Festival however, is to offer audiences a celebration of contemporary Italian theatre, in line with The Canadian Stage Company’s mandate to promulgate today’s theatrical art forms. Canadian audiences (and the Italian community of Toronto) will have the rare opportunity to sample the wit and inventive style of the latest production of Italian stage work.  

written by Panoram Italia