|"L'ultima notte di Salomè"
(The Last Night of Salome), a black comedy by Emanuele Vacchetto, evokes
the mythic Fifties, the period of la dolce vita, Fellini and Callas, the
star system in Italy, and magical nights at the theater before the advent
of television. The play is a duet for two women--a famous actress and a
middle-aged barkeeper--who meet on a stormy evening in a seedy bar in Rome,
where they bond over booze and shared secrets. The play comes to La MaMa
E.T.C. from Istituto di Studi dello Spettacolo-Teatro Studio of Rome, and
will be performed in Italian with English supertitles. Directed by Maria
Luisa Bigai, this is the play's American premiere.
It's way past closing time in a dirty, rundown bar owned by Daisy, an
irritable, middle-aged woman whose only amusement that evening has been
insulting a stone drunk man--her husband--who has passed out at a table.
Outside, it's pouring rain. A glamorous woman enters in a distracted state
of mind. She turns out to be the celebrated actress Veronica Lopez, famous
for her roles as the femme fatale, especially Salome in Oscar Wilde's
play of the same name. By force of her star's personality, plus some cocaine
and a shared bottle of booze, Veronica slyly insinuates herself into Daisy's
confidence. The two women bond over their shared disappointment with their
deadbeat husbands--Daisy's is an alcoholic barkeep; Veronica's is a famous
film director. It is all brazenly played out within earshot of Daisy's
semi-conscious mate, and we get a fiery picture of the contrasting temperaments
of two women who've been wronged. Daisy, who was never able to pursue
her dream of being an actress, re-enacts a monologue she once performed
at her Dad's lodge. Veronica enacts bits of her recent performance as
Salome . Ultimately, we learn that life imitates art in this actress.
The piece stars Lydia Biondi as the tavern owner and Carla Cassola as
the actress. Ms. Biondi has been seen in NY as a performer with Mummenschanz
Mime and Masks Company. Ms. Cassola is a leading practitioner of the Grotowsky
method in Italy, where she has worked with the country's major directors
in film, theater and TV. Italian critics have praised the play as an excellent
interpretation by two diverse performers who find perfect harmony and
complicity in their acting. Messagero called it "an enjoyable piece
that mixes truth and fiction, the ridiculous and the surreal, making the
audience laugh through clenched teeth." Il Tempo praised its "irresistible
fascination," noting that "the tight rhythm of the dialog, two
full-bodied protagonists (the hilarious Lydia Biondi and the unsettling
Carla Cassola) and the light touch of the playwright convince the audience."
Istituto di Studi dello Spettacolo-Teatro Studio (www.teatrostudio.org)
was founded in 1960 by the Swiss mime Roy Bosier. Led by Lydia Biondi
since 1985, the group conducts classes and workshops in theater and movement
techniques and has worked with many noted artists, including Lindsay Kemp,
Giancarlo Cobelli, Mummenschanz, Teatro Nazionale di Riga, Jean Claude
Penchenet, Carlo Boso of the Piccolo Teatro di Milano, and the Wuppertal
Theater. Since 1996, Teatro Studio has presented FontanonEstate (www.fontanone.it),
an annual festival of theater, music, and dance on the Gianicolo hill
in Rome. The festival is part of the prestigious EstateRomana, a series
of summer events sponsored by the City of Rome.
Lydia Biondi (Daisy) has been an established actor in theater, film,
and television in Rome since the 1960s. In 1981, she joined Mummenschanz
and toured with them until 1985, when she returned with them to Rome.
In the U.S. she can currently be seen in the film "Casanova"
and as Merula in the HBO series "Rome." She also works as stage
director and choreographer and as an assistant director and casting director
in film and opera. She teaches commedia dell'arte workshops around the
Born in Tuscany, Ms. Biondi moved to Rome in the late-1960s and acquired
a master's degree in acting at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia.
In 1978, she founded the non-profit MTM (mimoteatromovimento), a theater
school and company that became one of the most important private theater
schools in Rome. In 1985, MTM became part of Teatro Studio and moved into
a prestigious space on the Gianicolo hill, the 17th-century baroque fountain
Carla Cassola (Veronica) studied acting with Jerzy Grotowsky in Poland
and has taught the Grotowsky method at La bottega dell'attore (an acting
school founded by Vittorio Gassman), at the National Acting Academy Silvio
D'Amico, and at Istituto Addestramento Lavoratori dello Spettacolo ( the
most prestigious performing arts center in Rome). She won the Nastro d'argento
for her dubbing work in the film "Orlando" by Sally Potter,
in which she voiced the film's lead role.
Ms. Cassola has worked with some of the major directors in cinema, theater
and television in Europe and the U.S., including Gian Carlo Corbelli,
Giorgio Albertazzi, Dino Risi, Giancarlo Calderone, Renny Rye, Giorgio
Capitani, Albert Pyhum, Luciano Fulci, Tinto Brass, Franco Brusati Liliana
Cavani, James Frankenheimer, Franco Laudario, Marco Bellocchio, Dino Risi,
Luciano Salce, Mark Herskovitz, Ricky Tognazzi, and Pat Murphy.
Avner Kam (Buffalo Bill) is a performer, writer and director of theater
and video; his work has been seen on MTV, The Pulse Theater, The Upright
Citizens Brigade Theater and the legendary Surf Reality. He wrote and
composed the one-person musical "The Singing Cowboy and his Invisible
Backup Singers" and is currently at work on a three-person musical.
He is an accomplished story-teller at the Moth. Avner Kam serves as the
International Ambasador for FringeNYC, the largest multi-arts festival
in North America.
Maria Luisa Bigai (Director) has directed many plays, including "Clitemnestra"
by Margaret Yourcenar (for which she won the Alessio di Giovanni prize),
"Misdirected" by Joe Borini, "La favola del figlio cambiato"
by Luigi Pirandello, "Erzbeth Bathory" by Dacia Maraini (Fondi
Prize), "Il Topo rode le Sillabe" by Andrea Camilleri, "In-chiostro,"
which she co-wrote with Emanuele Vacchetto, and "Notturno-Lettera
d'Amore" (Fiuggi-Europa-alle-Fonti Prize). She created and directed
three versions of "Pax-ione," a theatrical event in support
of Amref that involved more than 40 performers, and "Everything's
Gonna Be Allright," a revue of contemporary plays by American women.
Both were produced at the FontanonEstate festival in Rome. She teaches
at the Conservatory of Music in Cosenza and the Accademia Nazionale d'Arte
Drammatica Silvio d'Amico, the national theater school in Rome, ; .
Emanuele Vacchetto (Playwright) is best known for his work as a screenwriter
for television and cinema. He is a long-time collaborator of famed Italian
director Gianni Amelio. In 2003, Corriere della Sera called him "An
extremely versatile and witty author, under whose lively and ironic writing
is hidden a sharp and merciless denouncement of our times. Along with
Copi, whom he worked with in Paris in the 1970's, Vacchetto is one of
the most original voices in contemporary theater." For RAI television,
Vacchetto has written "Casa Cecilia," which won the Giardini-Naxos
prize; an adaptation/translation of "Hedda Gabler" with Gianni
Amelio; and "Il Segreto di Eva," among others. His play "Sorelle"
was produced at FontanonEstate.
Set decoration and costumes are by Natacha Tanzilli. Original music
is by Alessandro Molinari. Lighting design is by Marco Catalucci. Assistant
Directors are Benedetta Baglioni and Ramiro Sandoval.
The production of "L'ultima notte di Salome" is the result
of the collaborative efforts of Teatro Studio's Artistic Directors, Enzo
Aronica, Lydia Biondi and Maria Luisa Bigai, with Producing Director Elizabeth
Inserra. The La MaMa production is part of a project of Teatro Studio
that presents the work of contemporary Italian playwrights in the United
States and American playwrights in Italy. Previous productions in this
series include "Maleindirizzata" (Misdirected) by American Joe
Borini at FontanonEstate in 2001 and "Bread" by Margaret Hunt
at Teatro dell'Orologio in Rome in 2005.
Elizabeth Inserra, Producing Director, has worked with Teatro Studio
since 2001, leading a spirited effort to exchange contemporary dramatic
works between Italy and the U.S, particularly work from previously unheard
voices. She lives and works in New York City, but she "will always
return to Rome."