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Plays Portfolio 5

September 29, 2016in Director

Whereas Puppies Are Adorable by Tom Reed

The PIT, NYC
Within the Raucous Caucus political theatre festival organized by Box Wine Theatre at The PIT, I directed Tom Reed's Whereas Puppies Are Adorable, a scathing critique of the current over-conflicted Congressional atmosphere. Everything is debatable, even the most innocuous bill proposed by a rookie house representative simply arguing that puppies are adorable. On stage an ensemble of energetic "political animals" embodied by Charlotte Grady, Mahmoud Hakima, Anthony Paglia, Maya Schnaider, and Dennis Zavolock. With them, I worked on a gradual transition from civil discussion to grotesque physical confrontation when the beastly natures of politicians emerge. Everything, of course, is immediately broadcast through social media as the representatives soon find out.
See the full post here.
June 24, 2016in Director

Fru Mary by Berioska Ipinza

440 Studios, Black Box Studio, NYC
In my second collaboration with Chilean NYC-based company LaMicro Theater, I directed Berioska Ipinza's Fru Mary, an exploration of how two siblings use their imagination to cope with being abandoned by their mother. Digging into the potentiality of this play, two talented performers, Daniela Thome and Roberto Sanabria have made rehearsals a true process of discovery. We presented this piece during LaMicro's Summer Session.
For the full post click here.

Resident Artist: Your [____] Neighborhood

Center for Performance Research, NYC
Between April and May 2015 I was invited to my second artist residency with Forwardflux for three weeks of intense collaborative exploration of how neighborhoods are transformed, gentrified, or even colonized. Through meetings once a week with the whole group of participants and more intimate rehearsals with two smaller groups, for the first time I worked as dramaturg of a dance piece, Changing Neighborhoods.
For the exhibition program, click here.

Changing Neighborhoods

Center for Performance Research, NYC
In April/May 2015 I collaborated as dramaturg and director with three performer-choreographers – Lori Hamilton, J Reese, Sarah Starkweather – and musician Ken Kruper on a dance piece that tries to capture the spirit of a neighborhood as it changes over time. New people are first attracted and then pushed out in a constant recursive flux that materializes at different times during the exhibition through movement and music. This dance piece was created during the Your [_____] Neighborhood residency produced by ForwardFlux.
See the full post here.
January 15, 2015in Director, Resident Artist

Tics, or Doing the Deed by René Berton

The Flea Theater, New York City.
The Fall season of 2014 at The Flea was dedicated to the Cutthroat series, eleven Grand-Guignol plays organized in four pods. Each of them replicated the concept of the douche écossaise, a mix of gory and lustful pieces. Not only did the title of the series apply to the stories portrayed, it also meant that each evening the audience voted for the best play, eliminating the others.
I directed Tics, or Doing the Deed (Apres Coup!... ou Tics) by René Berton with a cast of BATS, the resident company. In this outright farce, animal instincts resurface and human impediments disrupt the tranquil and boring routines of the bourgeoisie in the country. Everything ends with a loud and chaotic pandemonium.
See the full post here.
November 6, 2014in Director, Resident Artist

The Cutthroat Series: Grandguignol Duels at The Flea

The Flea Theater, New York City.
The Fall season of 2014 at The Flea was dedicated to the Cutthroat Series, eleven Grand-Guignol plays organized in four pods. Each of them replicated the concept of the douche écossaise, a mix of gory and lustful pieces. I directed Tics, or Doing the Deed (Apres Coup!... ou Tics) by René Berton with a cast of BATS, the resident company.
Not only did the title of the series apply to the stories portrayed, it also meant that each evening the audience voted for the best play, eliminating the others. Tics received the most votes and was extended for a run in January 2015 for the Winners' Victory Lap.
See the full post here.
January 30, 2014in Director, Producer

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

Theaterlab, New York City.
The 110th anniversary of The Cherry Orchard prompted me to stage this phenomenal play with my company, on the exact dates of the anniversary of its premiere at the Moscow Art Theatre. For this show I wore several hats: director, producer, set designer, event manager, translator, and a few others. You can find the Playbill for the show, including my director's notes, here.
For the promotional video and photo galleries, see the the full post here.
October 16, 2013in Director, Resident Artist

Pirandello's The Giants of the Mountain

Theaterlab, New York City.
On October 15, 2013 the Pirandello Society of America sponsored a reading I adapted and directed of Pirandello's The Giants of the Mountain. This is a “myth” between fable and reality that Pirandello continued to imagine, write, and rework from 1929 to 1934, but eventually left unfinished despite encouraging contracts with American impresarios. Yet, in its present form, the play vibrates with the powerful contradictions of sublime Art torn between the inner necessity to reach out to spectators who may not understand it and the temptation to abandon the world altogether. It was, in the playwright’s opinion, the culmination of his artistic endeavors.
See the full post here.
May 25, 2013in Director, Resident Artist

The Tortured One by Jason Sofge

Theaterlab, New York City.
The Tortured One was developed for the May 2013 Forward Flux collaborate:create "Power of Silence" 3-week residency at Theaterlab. For more info click here. With David Riley and Joyana Feller.
As we struck up a conversation on our first meeting, Jason Sofge had an idea for a character to be able to use silence as a weapon. In this harsh power struggle, one character would always speak, while the other would remain silent throughout.
See the full post here.

Cherry Blossoms (from Chekhov)

Theaterlab Gallery, New York City.
Cherry Blossoms was developed for the May 2013 Forward Flux collaborate:create "Power of Silence" 3-week residency at Theaterlab. For more info click here. With Rebecca Tucker and Kelly Sloan.
I see silence as the zero-point energy of theatre, the point where everything can be created from nothing. How can a short scene expand – and to what extent – into a longer piece, and at what distance lines and fragments of the text can still cohere or instead become other? To attempt a response to this question, in “Cherry Blossoms” I explored the silence between lines and words, as a place for events to occur in the absence of speech.
See the full post here.
May 25, 2013in Actor, Director, Resident Artist

Resident Artist: The Power of Silence

Theaterlab, New York City
In April 2013 I was selected as one of the 20 resident artists for a three week marathon on the theme "The Power of Silence" produced by Forwardflux at Theaterlab in New York City. This was an awesome experience made of fruitful discussion and unexpected discoveries, but most of all of intense collaboration with artists from many disciplines, including visual arts, dance, and even advanced mathematics. Additionally, since I was involved in 4 projects overall, I enjoyed stepping out of my usual role of director and perform as actor in a couple of them.
For more info, pics and videos, click here.
January 21, 2012in Courses, Director

Commedia! - A semester's journey

This blog chronicles a whole semester of my Commedia! course taught at Gettysburg College in the Fall of 2011. The course is based on the teachings of maestro Antonio Fava, with whom I studied at his international school in Reggio Emila, Italy.
Compared to the full-time experience afforded by Fava's school during an intense month of physical training, a first year seminar consists of just two weekly classes of 75 minutes for 14 weeks. Despite this limitation and the little time available for two groups of 8 students to rehearse outside of class, the results are often impressive.
You can read some comments I received from the students who attended this course by clicking here.
January 2, 2012in Courses, Director, Dramaturg

Chaz (from Luigi Pirandello’s Cece')

Stevens Theatre, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg PA
An adaptation in four parts for the students of my Modern Italian Theatre course. Based on a list of physical actions, we devised and rewrote four versions of the same play set, in turn, in an informal college environment, a morbid Eighteenth century, a flashback from the point of view of one of the minor characters, and finally a puppet world. See the evening's program here.
An account of the theory underlying this course can be found in my article “The Short Play and Postmodernist Stage Directing: A Virtual Experiment with Pirandello’s Cecè.” published in Quaderni d’Italianistica 32.2 (2012)
April 4, 2009in Director, Translator

The Liar by Carlo Goldoni

Kline Theatre, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA.
The Theatre Arts Department at Gettysburg College asked me to direct a mainstage production during the 2008-09 season. Thus, I adapted and translated the play into English in collaboration with Susan Russell, Chair and Professor of Theater Arts. The action was set in contemporary California and the Italian aristocracy was transformed into its American counterpart based on wealth.
Also, in line with Goldoni's biography, I imagined that the playwright himself was writing in a haste, in order to keep his promise of delivering as many as 16 new comedies during a single season, and thus win a bet against his competitors. Since everything was being created on the spot, the actors received their parts page after page and the set itself was brought in piece by piece and moved around as the play developed.
See the full post here.
January 2, 2006in Director

Ohio lmpromptu by Samuel Beckett

Some obscure black-box room in snowy Madison, Wisconsin
In this theoretically infused production I worked with Stephen O’Connell, a talented MFA actor, to deconstruct the idea of “presence” by having the actor play both parts of the play, first in front of a mirror, then to a video of himself previously recorded.
You can find rehearsal videos and all the steps leading to the production here.
February 10, 2002in Director, Dramaturg

Alexis by Marguerite Yourcenar

S. Giovanni Bosco Theatre. Modena and San Martino Theatre. Bologna, Italy
By special arrangement with the Yourcenar Estate, I presented thhis monologue within the context of “La manica tagliata” (The Cut Sleeve) an LGBT festival, with Francesco Stella as the protagonist. Since the piece is particularly long, it offered a challenging field for experimentation in the areas of dramaturgy, storytelling, and composition.
For the full post, see here.
February 1, 2001in Director, Dramaturg

La Traviata from Giuseppe Verdi and Alexandre Dumas

Teatro del Tempo, Parma, Italy
For this dinner theatre show, I combined scenes from Verdi’s opera and Dumas’ La Dame aux camélias, with music played by an ensemble directed by Alessandro Nidi (Parma Conservatory). Two sets of performers, four actors and three singers, led the audience into the depths of passion as seen through the different conventions of spoken and musical theatre. The show had a lot of coverage in the newspapers and on TV since it was held during the year of the celebrations for the first centenary of Verdi's death.
For pics, video, and the evening's program, click here.
December 14, 2000in Director, Dramaturg

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (from Shakespeare)

Teatro del Tempo, Parma, Italy.
I was called by Numeriprimi, a company of young actors who had just graduated from a professional course supported by the European Union. I chose The Two Gentlemen of Verona based both on the composition of the group and the script’s opportunities for experimenting with physical theater. Each song is a Shakespearean sonnet, translated into Italian. With original music by Marco Caronna, played by Luca Savazzi, the show came to resemble a musical.
For the full post and videos of the show, click here.
October 23, 2000in Director

The Giants of the Mountain by Luigi Pirandello

Teatro del Tempo, Parma, Italy.
With members of the Numeriprimi Company, I organized a public lecture about Pirandello's The Giants of the Mountain (I giganti della montagna) for the students of the Italian Lit course at the University of Parma (Prof. Marzio Pieri). It included a dramatized reading, with actors working vocally to portray the many roles each of them was called to play. While stage directions were read aloud, a visual artist drew each character on a large sheet, building up to the impressive final scene where each of them was visible simultaneously around the theatre.
Read an article published by the Gazzetta di Parma (in Italian) here
August 1, 2000in Director

The Seagull (A Fragment) from Chekhov

Stanislavsky's House Museum, Moscow, Russia
The final directing project of the professional development “School after Theater” session held in Moscow consisted in choosing a short section of Chekhov's The Seagull to be performed as an entire show. I worked with four actors from the Swedish National Theatre, plus many master class participants who were called to embody the dreams and expectations of the protagonists in the background. I directed in English, while the performance was in Swedish: despite the short (but intense) rehearsal time, I was impressed by the combination of focus and flexibility demonstrated by the players, which resulted in a really crisp performance. Plus, this was even more exciting as it was held in Stanislavsky’s own “chamber theatre.”
July 22, 2000in Actor, Director

Hamlet in Raimondo's Castle (from Shakespeare)

Montecuccoli Tower, Pavullo and Monteceneri Tower, Lama Mocogno, Modena, Italy
This site-specific Hamlet summer project was held at two historical locations, very different spatially, a remodeled castle that normally functioned as a museum hall and a multi-level medieval tower near Modena, Italy. I directed Act III in a postmodern experimental way: for instance, the dialogue between Hamlet and the Queen (scene 4) occurred three times, in separate versions that spanned the range between ironic detachment and intense emotional involvement. Overall, my interpretation of the whole act derived by a sense that every character is constantly under surveillance and every scene is being watched by someone else within the world of the play. For the same project, I appeared as one of the play-within-the play masked actors.
January 1, 2000in Director, Dramaturg

A Coffee in Suspense from Eduardo De Filippo

Spazio Ludialydiis. Milan, Italy
This was a stimulating collaboration with Cecilia Vecchio, an actress from Teatro della Tosse (in Genoa), on a dramaturgy juxtaposing several female characters from Eduardo De Filippo’s oeuvre. I collaborated on this project to weave the different scenes into a coherent performance, which became Un caffè sospeso, a reference to the Neapolitan tradition of leaving a cup of coffee paid for, for the next customer who might need a free one.
See the full playbill here.
August 28, 1999in Director, Dramaturg

Tie Up That Shakespeare! (Shakespeare da legare)

Teatro della Memoria, Milan, Italy.
For a while I collaborated with an energetic company of young actors, I Mercenari in Milan, Italy. This show took its title from the fact that many scenes from different plays were tied together in the context of an asylum, which gave us a lot of freedom in experimenting. The show had quite a few versions adapted for different types of venues, from regular theatres to outdoor settings and dinner theatres.
With all the Bard’s words, the most impressive scene remained the final silent one, where all the performers gradually wrapped themselves up as a group in a long yellow sheet. Here is where I came to fully realize the power and intensity of images.
Click here for the full post.
April 17, 1999in Director, Dramaturg, Producer

Hamlet '99

Teatro Comunale Concordia, San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy
The first show where I experimented with brevity and improv together. One of the four actors and I produced a minimal version of Hamlet, and offered the audience the opportunity to choose the style they wanted it played, form serious to comic, spoken or musical-style.
See the full post with pics here.
April 9, 1998in Director, Translator

Macbeth (from Shakespeare)

Franco Parenti Theatre, Milan, Italy
My MFA diploma production with the actors of the School of Dramatic Art “Paolo Grassi”. I emphasized Malcolm’s story, and the theme of free will. The video of the performance was later shown at Centro Festival del Teatro d’Europa, Palazzo Reale, Milan.
See the full post with pics here.
July 16, 1997in Director

Miracles by Alessandro Rossi

Teatro Alfredo Chiesa, Milan, Italy
A contemporary script satirizing the dangerous overlapping in the Italian system of media and politics, both under the influence of prime minister Berlusconi, here called "The Man Who Smiles." The cool part was that since each of the components of the company “Movimenti Maldestri” was working in the same fashion magazine (Vogue Italia), we received both costumes by Moschino and coverage on the national magazine Panorama.
See full post here.
May 30, 1997in Director, Dramaturg

The Tragedy of Noble Antony (from Shakespeare)

School of Dramatic Art "Paolo Grassi" - Sala Colonne, Milan, Italy
In this dramaturgy of two Shakespeare's Roman plays, scenes from (Julius Caesar and Anthony and Cleopatra) explored Antony’s character in its entirety. Three male actors played all roles including Cleopatra and the Roman mob, and this brought about many inventive solutions in a mixture of tragedy and comic moments.
See full post here.
April 1, 1996in Director

The Wisteria by Serge Rezvani

School of Dramatic Art "Paolo Grassi", Milan, Italy

Villa Casalini, Rovigo, Italy
A play by a visionary Iranian/French contemporary author. I staged staged it first in a circus setting, then in an actual Italian villa, where the fictional action takes place. The two versions tackled the challenge of how to show beauty onstage in two different ways: the first through imagination and transposition, the second by referring to the real thing.

See the full post here.
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The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

Theaterlab, New York City.
The 110th anniversary of The Cherry Orchard prompted me to stage this phenomenal play with my company, on the exact dates of the anniversary of its premiere at the Moscow Art Theatre. For this show I wore several hats: director, producer, set designer, event manager, translator, and a few others. You can find the Playbill for the show, including my director's notes, here.
Here's the promotional video for the show, which captures the mix of serious and funny that Chekhov writes in every line and we tried to match at every step.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1323cUef_og

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Photos: Jeff Becker © 2014
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Photos: Jeff Becker © 2014
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Photos: Jeff Becker © 2014

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Cherry Blossoms (from Chekhov)

Theaterlab Gallery, New York City.

What is there in the empty space of the role? [...] You have to discover material for the role and organize the scenes in pauses, between phrases, between the lines and even between words.

Jurij Alschitz40 Questions of One Role
Cherry Blossoms was developed for the May 2013 Forward Flux collaborate:create "Power of Silence" 3-week residency at Theaterlab. For more info click here. With Rebecca Tucker and Kelly Sloan.
I see silence as the zero-point energy of theatre, the point where everything can be created from nothing. How can a short scene expand – and to what extent – into a longer piece, and at what distance lines and fragments of the text can still cohere or instead become other?
To attempt a response to this question, in “Cherry Blossoms” I explored the silence between lines and words, as a place for events to occur in the absence of speech.
The actors and I devised three versions of the same brief dialogue from the first act of Anton Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard. Two sisters, Anya and Varya, reunite after one of them has been on a long trip. The different lengths of these versions – about 1, 3, and 5 minutes – depend on how the silence in the interstices of the text is either ignored or allowed to blossom.
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Ohio lmpromptu by Samuel Beckett

Some obscure black-box room in snowy Madison, Wisconsin
In this theoretically infused production I worked with Stephen O’Connell, a talented MFA actor, to deconstruct the idea of “presence” by having the actor play both parts of the play, first in front of a mirror, then to a video of himself previously recorded.
Below you can find both the final product and a series of steps that led to it. For a director, the process is at least as important as the “end” result.

Final presentation

Rehearsals

The first day of rehearsal was a lot about finding various approaches to the text in a constant process of exploration, starting with the alliterative sounds in the play. Although the video is not always in focus – directing and filming at the same time is not advised 😉 – this rehearsal demonstrates a post-modern style of acting/directing that does not ever come to a closure, while at the same time never giving up on potential further meanings. It also details the game of mirrors that will produce the final video.
The second day we tried to gauge the boundaries of the text, from a jazz version to a more expressive one with words only, up until an esoteric experiment of inner displacement in front of a mirror (first part). Finally we tapped into the forces of the four elements: water, air, fire, earth with surprising results (second part).
The third day’s rehearsal tried to blend all layers previously explored, but was also mostly devoted to figuring out how to record a video of the Listener to be played, later, to the same actor playing the Reader.
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La Traviata from Giuseppe Verdi and Alexandre Dumas

Teatro del Tempo, Parma, Italy
For this dinner theatre show, I combined scenes from Verdi’s opera and Dumas’ La Dame aux camélias, with music played by an ensemble directed by Alessandro Nidi (Parma Conservatory). Two sets of performers, four actors and three singers, led the audience into the depths of passion as seen through the different conventions of spoken and musical theatre. The show had a lot of coverage in the newspapers and on TV since it was held during the year of the celebrations for the first centenary of Verdi's death.
Read a series of articles published by the newspaper Gazzetta di Parma including a glowing review by Valeria Ottolenghi here. (in Italian, translations coming soon...)
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Here is an 11 minute promo of the show:
Hover to see inside of program
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The Seagull (A Fragment) from Chekhov

Stanislavsky's House Museum, Moscow, Russia
The final directing project of the professional development “School after Theater” session held in Moscow consisted in choosing a short section of Chekhov's The Seagull to be performed as an entire show. I worked with four actors from the Swedish National Theatre, plus many master class participants who were called to embody the dreams and expectations of the protagonists in the background. I directed in English, while the performance was in Swedish: despite the short (but intense) rehearsal time, I was impressed by the combination of focus and flexibility demonstrated by the players, which resulted in a really crisp performance. Plus, this was even more exciting as it was held in Stanislavsky’s own “chamber theatre.”

A close-up of Stanislavsky's portait