Happy World Theater Day!

Today, March 27, is World Theater Day. I have a huge announcement at the end of this blog so stick around for that, but first a little history. WTD was created in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (ITI), World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on March 27 by ITI Centres and the international theatre community. Various national and international theatre events are organized to mark this occasion, such as the creation and circulation of the World Theatre Day International Message through which, at the invitation of ITI, a figure of world stature shares his or her reflections on the theme of Theatre and a Culture of Peace. The International Message is translated into more than 20 languages, read for tens of thousands of spectators before performances in theatres throughout the world. This year’s message comes from Dario Fo, a playwright, author and Nobel Prize winner!

His message says:

A long time ago, Power resolved the intolerance against Commedia dell’Arte actors by chasing them out of the country.

Today, actors and theatre companies have difficulties finding public stages, theatres and spectators, all because of the crisis.
Rulers are, therefore, no longer concerned with problems of control over those who express themselves with irony and sarcasm, since there is no place for actors, nor is there a public to address.
On the contrary, during the Renaissance, in Italy those in power had to make a significant effort in order to hold the Commedianti at bay, since these enjoyed a large audience.

It is known that the great exodus of Commedia dell’Arte players happened in the century of the counter-Reformation, which decreed the dismantling of all theatre spaces, especially in Rome, where they were accused of offending the holy city. In 1697, Pope Innocent XII, under the pressure of insistent requests from the more conservative side of the bourgeoisie and of the major exponents of the clergy, ordered the demolition of Tordinona Theatre which, according to the moralists, had staged the greatest number of obscene displays.

At the time of the counter-Reformation, cardinal Carlo Borromeo, who was active in the North of Italy, had committed himself to the redemption of the “children of Milan”, establishing a clear distinction between art, as the highest form of spiritual education, and theatre, the manifestation of profanity and of vanity. In a letter addressed to his collaborators, which I quote off the cuff, he expresses himself more or less as follows: “Concerned with eradicating the evil weed, we have done our utmost to burn texts containing infamous speeches, to eradicate them from the memory of men, and at the same time to prosecute also those who divulged such texts in print. Evidently, however, while we were asleep, the devil labored with renewed cunning. How far more penetrating to the soul is what the eyes can see, than what can be read off such books! How far more devastating to the minds of adolescents and young girls is the spoken word and the appropriate gesture, than a dead word printed in books.  It is therefore urgent to rid our cities of theatre makers, as we do with unwanted souls”.

Thus the only solution to the crisis lies in the hope that a great expulsion is organized against us and especially against young people who wish to learn the art of theatre: a new diaspora of Commedianti, of theatre makers, who would, from such an imposition, doubtlessly draw unimaginable benefits for the sake of a new representation.

Translation by Victor Jacono, ITI Italy and Fabiana Piccioli

A powerful message as we celebrate WTD.

I urge everyone to find a way to celebrate World Theater Day today. See a stage play, live or live on video. Watch a movie musical, read a play, take an actor out for coffee (or a director, writer, producer, etc). Do something to celebrate theater!

For more information on World Theater Day, check out World Theater Day NYC or the International Theater Institute.

Now for my huge announcement. About a month ago (March 5 to be exact) I posted a blog titled “140 Words” about Mind The Gap Theater‘s World Theater Day contest. This is part of what I wrote:

Can I do this in 140 words? Can I tell a complete story  while making sure each word has an impact? I guess we’ll find out, won’t we.

Well I found out…and I’m beyond thrilled and excited to announce that my short play Sunday Dinner has been selected as one of the plays that will receive a staged reading today! The submissions will be read while partaking in tea and biscuits at Paul Michael’s The Network, 242 W 26th St., 3rd Floor (between 7th & 8th) at 3:30pm.

This event is FREE and open to the public. However, seating is extremely limited so reservations are essential. To secure a seat call 212.252.3137 or email Mind The Gap Theater at allaboard@mindthegaptheatre.com with your name and contact number. Your reservation is automatically confirmed unless you hear back from us.

So if you are in the New York City area today at 3:30 and have nothing to do, I encourage you to see Sunday Dinner and the rest of the fantastic pieces from writers from both sides of the pond.

Happy World Theater Day!

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