Maria Nadotti

  • Venezia salva

    THE ONLY PLAY by the French philosopher Simone Weil, Venise sauvée (Venice saved) was written and rewritten at different points of an exile that began with the Nazi occupation of Paris, in June 1940, and ended, with the play unfinished, at Weil’s death, in London, in August of 1943. With her parents, Weil, a Jew, had fled Paris, her birthplace, for the south. When she began Venise sauvée, she was “twisted with rage”1—stretched out on a sleeping bag in the kitchen of a small rented apartment in Vichy, with an injured leg that wouldn’t heal.

    Earlier this year, at Turin’s Teatro Carignano, the

  • Les Atrides

    Created and conceived by Ariane Mnouchkine for the bare and vaguely churchlike sheds of the Cartoucherie in Paris, the stage for the Les Atrides tetrology was as essential as a ritual space. Directly in front of the audience, and arranged along bleachers, the stage was enclosed on three sides by a low crenelated wall, the wall of an ancient city, a perimeter, but also a line of communication territorially distinct from the central auditorium. From one tragedy to another, radical and unexpectedly contradictory transformations occurred. Mnouchkine arbitrarily provided a prologue for the Aeschylean

  • Dario Fo

    For the Expo ’92 in Seville, Dario Fo, the Italian playwright and actor, revived his own historical performance, Isabella, tre caravelle e un Cacciapelle (Isabella, three caravels and a con man), which, back in 1963, had parodied Spanish history and annals, pointing out the many misdeeds carried out by the Catholic queen of Spain in the name of holy causes or in the name of the marriage of private interests and ideological-religious propaganda that is fundamental to colonialism.

    With the lights on, before getting to the actual performance, Fo proceeded with an introduction, which is both a

  • Enzo Cosimi

    The stage, grazed by the beam of the floodlights that divide it into zones of shadow and golden light, is empty. There is a single, bulky presence—a large egg—this too is golden. Fetish, totem, primordial mineral amulet, it seems to allude threateningly to a monstrous, imminent birth. But it also refers to the self-sufficiency of that which, not being procreated, doesn’t know how to procreate. The movement of this disturbing body, pushed diagonally across the stage, seems, through some paradoxical cloning, to bring into being the surreal shape of a creature, both horrible and enchanting. Similar

  • La Trilogie des Dragons

    La Trilogie des Dragons (The dragons’ trilogy), produced in 1987 by the Théâtre Répère and directed by Robert Lepage, is in the midst of a long international tour. First presented as a work in progress and still under constant revision, this complex cooperative venture is both grand theater and a delicate, erudite historical fresco. In three acts that stretch over six hours, La Trilogie des Dragons actually depicts a time span that lasts beyond any of the many private and individual stories it contains. Seventy-five years—from 1910 to 1985—of Canadian history are structured according to a fourfold

  • Two Tempests

    THEATRE VERSUS CINEMA: this is the most obvious difference between the Tempest directed by Peter Brook in Paris last autumn, from a translation by Jean-Claude Carrière, and Prospero’s Books, Peter Greenaway’s recently released film version of Shakespeare’s play. But their different media are actually the least important divide between these two polar-opposite productions. Instead, the distance between them lies in the way each revises Shakespeare.

    Brook’s vision is apparently the more respectful, and also the more traditionally linear. It preserves the play intact, just barely modernized by

  • Markisinnan de Sade

    Tatsushiko Shibusawa’s biography of the Marquis de Sade led Yukio Mishima to a historical character with apparently unfathomable motives. Renée de Montreuil, de Sade’s wife and faithful long-distance companion during his lengthy imprisonment, refused to see him when he was released and sent back home. In the eighteen years he was gone, the French Revolution had taken place, and she had withdrawn to a convent. Why? Biographers, historians, and scholars have viewed this final act with either incredulous silence or inconsistent suppositions.

    Provoked by this anomalous and historically marginal female

  • Dramatizing Dante

    Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray

    from the straight road and woke to find


    alone in a dark wood. How shall I say

    what wood that was! I never saw so drear,

    so rank, so arduous a wilderness!

    Its very memory gives a shape to fear.

    Death could scarce be more bitter than that


    But since it came to good, I will recount

    all that I found revealed there by God’s


    —Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. John Ciardi

    THREE YEARS AGO the director and actor Federico Tiezzi, along with his group Magazzini Produzioni (originally named Magazzini Criminali, and formed by Tiezzi, Marion

  • Township Fever

    THE VILLAGE VOICE, democratic organ of the New York white guilty conscience, showed its usual resourcefulness in a headline it ran last December to kick off an article on the recent musical by the South African playwright, composer, and director Mbongeni Ngema. In a malevolent twist on the production’s name, Township Fever became “Broadway Fever”—telling the magazine’s readers, even before they had read the article, that the most relevant feature of this new work was its author’s desire to repeat the global commercial success of his 1988 musical Sarafina!. For Ngema, the article’s subtitle

  • Stephen Frears

    Stephen Frears, creator of a handful of small, snarling, memorable films that bridge cinema vérité, political satire, and social criticism (The Hit, 1984, My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, 1987, Prick Up Your Ears, 1987), is evidently a man of common sense, aware of his talents, but also of his limitations. During the ’60s he was part of the English school of “free cinema” in a country that was sliding toward economic collapse and the crisis of traditional forms of political representation. Recently, he has been catapulted into the heart of Hollywood thanks to the widespread

  • Juan Darién, A Carnival Mass

    Adapted from the story by the Uruguayan Horacio Quiroga, Julie Taymor’s and Elliot Goldenthal’s Juan Darién, A Carnival Mass, presented by the Music-Theater Group, demonstrates that theater provides an ideal means of expressing that duplicity between reality and magic that has come to seem characteristic of the literary production of Latin America.

    As the action begins, we are in a fabulous jungle. Darkness envelops the stage at the center of which lie a jaguar and her cub in a tangle of liana. A hunter enters, disrupting the charged atmosphere of the scene, and slays the jaguar. The little one

  • Robert Wilson's Orlando

    Nineteen eighty-nine was a strange and densely packed year. At its end, History acted out a scenario bizarrely symmetrical to the one designed by Robert Wilson, in collaboration with Darryl Pinckney, for his interpretation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. The production had its world premiere in November at the small but sumptuous Schaubühne theater in West Berlin. Outside the theater, the Berlin Wall, shocking signifier of separation and prohibition since 1961, was replaced by a festival of reconciliation both euphoric and anxious. Inside, Wilson’s rigorously dualistic stage design congealed in


    I’m out of step with the times, through laziness, or perhaps through wisdom. Through foresight, through economy. And this is because, being able to anticipate end results rather clearly, I can allow myself to deny excessive importance to intermediary stages. Thus I give the impression of being behind the times, or immobile, given that I am in advance. But the avant-gardes, I’m certain, will find me on their path at the point where their experiences are over. For I will not have imitated these experiences, I will have experienced them already, earlier, internally and personally. In other words,

  • Reinterpreting Chekhov

    IN EVERY GREAT THEATRICAL TEXT there are internal tendencies, subterranean movements that illuminate its fate for future epochs and different cultures. In fact, every work is subject to periods of dormancy that alternate with moments of brilliant renewal, during which, thanks to a latent vitality that remains unchanged, there occurs, between the text and those who re-read it, a movement of asynchronic recognition.

    This recently happened in Europe with Three Sisters, one of Chekhov’s most famous texts, one that this century’s theatrical tradition had rigidified into melodramatic stilemes, a


    THE “MARVELOUS” SPARKS DESIRE, but the notion of the “marvelous” itself precedes the desire it kindles. Whether it be a person, thing, image, or fact of nature, the “marvelous” object, we like to think, does not depend on being looked at. It needs no justification. It exists, period. But the etymological history of the word “marvelous” tells us a different story. It comes from “marvel,” and “marvel” from mirabilia, mirabilis—that which allows itself to be looked at, that which captures the attention. “Marvel” is related to “admiration"; they too spring from the same etymological root, mirari.

  • Karen Finley's Poisoned Meatloaf

    IN THE JARGON OF photography, the term “overexposure” usually indicates a technical error, the bleach-out that follows when film is exposed to too much light. Manipulated deliberately, the mistake can become a technique—a voluntary choice of style, a code, a vehicle of expressive or narrative meaning. In either case, overexposure embodies a paradox: the world must be illuminated to be seen, but can be canceled, annulled, through an excess of illumination, made invisible through a surfeit of visibility.

    Now let’s suppose that the performance artist Karen Finley consciously and systematically

  • Film

    WE ALL KNEW that attraction was fatal by the time the attitudes and policies of the nation’s most popular president had rampaged their way through the country, leaving scant options for individual freedom, especially for women. Even so, in the now remote autumn of ’87, when the film of the incomparable Adrian Lyne burst on the scene—with its apocalyptic view of the conjugal relationship and its symmetrical extraconjugal flip side—many of us were alarmed. Not only because it was impossible to fail to read in Lyne’s Fatal Attraction an arrogant revival of the old sawhorse principles of crime/punishment,


    I like to laugh a lot, even when I’m in a terrible mood. For me, it’s all so extreme. You even see it by the subjects I choose for my theater pieces: on the one hand,Vienna at the turn of the century, frivolous, gay, elegant, enervated by the myth of beauty and form; on the other hand, . . . the Kafka of depression and fatalism, but also of decidedly lyrical passages.

    THIS IS MARTHA CLARKE speaking about herself and her work. After choreographing for and dancing with Pilobolus from 1972 until 1978, and then cofounding, in 1978, the Crowsnest company, a small ensemble dedicated to exploring the

  • Film

    “WHEN THE CHILD WAS A CHILD.” A time of questions without the possibility of answers.

    “Who am I? And why am I not you? And you me?”

    An extra-ordinary time of self-interrogation, undertaken not so as to know, but so as to describe a meaning for existence within the historical space of the individual geography. An originary time of innocence, of discovery undirected to whatever small apparent benefits may follow. A golden age in which dream has the weight of reality, desire the force of action, in which the only form of representation and explanation that is given is the tale, the fable, the potent