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Italian Theater in New York: Italy on Stage, for All

In Scena! Italian Theater Festival is back for its sixth edition from May 7th to May 21st - with its most ambitious and timely programming yet

di Carlotta Brentan
InScena, Shakespeare, New York
Since 2013, In Scena! has provided a unique showcase to introduce the best contemporary Italian theater to new and returning audiences in all five New York City boroughs. The 2018 festival will feature a record 12 productions plus readings, conferences, “infosessions,” and the fifth anniversary of the Mario Fratti playwriting award. This year’s festival focuses on women-centric stories and LGBTQ themes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: In Scena! Italian Theater Festival NY is about to open its doors once again! An entirely unique festival – the first and only showcase entirely dedicated to bringing contemporary Italian theater to a variety of venues all over the five boroughs of NYC. We have been lovingly growing and curating In Scena! since its launch in 2013, and we’re now looking forward to an exceptional 2018 edition with a record-breaking number of shows, partnerships with new exciting institutions, and many opportunities to join the conversation. As In Scena!’s Executive Producer, I’m thrilled and proud to talk you through our ambitious sixth edition.

This year’s festival highlights two themes, through partnerships with two important New York institutions: BAAD, our partner in presenting LGBTQ-themed pieces, and  Parity Productions, our partner in presenting women-centric productions. Our LGBTQ-centric pieces include the multi award-winning F. M. and His Double, which challenges notions of sexual identity through the gaze of a restless teenager’s love for theatre, and Degen(d)eration – The Ghost of the Tribade, which traces the gradual restrictions of autonomous spaces for women under fascism. No fewer than seven of this year’s productions focus on women-centric stories, with six boasting female directors and multiple artistic teams composed of at least 50% female artists. These include A Mother’s Heart, in which an unforgiving therapist is tasked with verifying the mental state of a girl who has just killed her father and attempted to kill her mother; Dhana and the Rosebuds, the dreamlike odyssey of a young Syrian woman who sees her estranged grandmother on TV and journeys from New York to find her; Happy Mary, one woman’s journey of discovery of the many facets of the figure of the Virgin Mary; and Angela’s Wars, the story of four women by the name of Angela who experience World War I in very different ways – based on real diaries of WWI soldiers. We are thrilled to have the support of Parity Productions for the above shows, collaborating with Parity’s mission of promoting theater created by productions that have – at least – equal representation.

And we’re not done yet! The focus on women’s stories continues with Stria, another piece inspired by a the true story of an Italian girl who was burned at the stake in the middle ages for trying to exact revenge for a childhood friend’s rape. My Last Night – Mia Martini, a life also takes us inside the life of a real person, the great singer Mia Martini whose ultimately tragic life was marred by rumors that she brought bad luck. Rounding out our showcase of women’s stories is The Mejerchold Twins, a vaudevillian comedy-musical blend with live music in which two very different siblings play out an eternal struggle for domination on the stage and in life.

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A scene from We Are Not Alone by Dario D’Ambrosi

Adding to this exceptional Official Selection is the thriller Echoes, a dystopian drama in which a man interviews the person responsible for the murder of a million people, and This is My House, a powerful drama centered on the destruction of a friendship in the ruins of the Abruzzo earthquake of 2009. From comedy to drama, plays with music to one-person shows, this year’s Official Selection is our most varied and far-reaching yet, with most of the pieces presented in Italian with English supertitles.

As is now tradition, the Festival will kick-off in our now long-time home, the historic Cherry Lane Theatre in the West Village, with a very special opening performance of Dario D’Ambrosi’s We Are Not Alone. This powerful piece, which was first presented at LaMaMa in 1980, was written as a reaction to the Italian Mental Health Act of 1978 and portrays a psychiatric inmate who is victimized by neglect in the outside world.

As always selected through an open submission process, this year’s companies are among Italy’s most innovative, exciting and award-winning theater artists. As if this wasn’t enough, the 2018 edition of In Scena! will offer more opportunities than ever before to join the conversation: a full-day conference on various timely issues in the world of theater, co-presented by the League of Independent Theater at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’, four “infosession” panels with theater experts in our Brooklyn home at The Brick – which is hosting us for a whole week this year! – and what is often a highlight of our entire program: Free Verse meets In Scena! This dynamic hybrid event sees our Italian artists meet and create poetry with the participants of the Free Verse creative writing program at NYC NeON probation centers.

All this – and I haven’t even mentioned our multiple readings of Italian plays in translation, a screening of the film Shakespeare on the Rock, multiple Q&As with the artists and the fifth edition of the Mario Fratti playwriting award. A reading and award ceremony in honor of this year’s winner, The City Rises by Chiara Boscaro and Marco Di Stefano, will be closing out our festival on May 21st at the Italian Cultural Institute. We truly have something for everyone – and something for everywhere (venues’ list is on the website).

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A scene from Shakespeare on the rocks

I asked my fellow formidable In Scena! colleagues what they’re especially excited about this year. Laura Caparrotti, the festival’s Artistic Director told me:

It’s a special thing when, through various incarnations, a project really takes the shape of something that was once a figment of your imagination, which you didn’t even dare describe out loud. That’s what In Scena! is. When we started in 2013, I was just filling a void in the New York theater scene: there simply wasn’t enough Italian theater making the journey from Italy. Fast forward to now, six years later, and it’s clear that we’re not just bringing Italian theater: we are accomplishing our true goal of creating an international community, an ongoing dialogue between artists, audiences and diverse groups of different ethnicities, languages and backgrounds. All in the name of theater. This year, I’m particularly excited at having expanded the scope of our work with Free Verse! by visiting more venues and publishing a book about this program, a book where the Free Verse! participants speak to how transformational this exchange with Italian artists and Italian theater has been for them. We’ve also added infosessions, roundtables, conferences. We’re collaborating with students, schools, theatrical institutions, women-centric institutions and LGBTQ groups. Dialogue is always key. In Scena! 2018 is all about dialogue – and for that, I am extremely proud.”

And here is Donatella Codonesu, the festival’s Associate Director:

As always, it’s impossible to pick one event I’m most excited about – as I’m proud and excited for everything we have on the calendar, every year more articulate. Looking back to when we started six years ago, it’s remarkable to remember that we began by presenting three shows and a handful of readings. Now, our sixth edition will last two full weeks, and feature a record-number of shows plus multiple daily events all over the city, timely theatrical themes and languages. Our vision was always to expand, but the sheer size and speed of this expansion is a testimony to how well received this enterprise has been, and how an international cultural bridge was desired and necessary. Because of this belief, we are also launching a new adventure in Italy, at the other end of the bridge. It’s called OnStage!Festival and you can read all about it here.”

For my part, I am convinced that the mission, ideals and goals of the festival are more timely today than ever before. Our determination to serve all five boroughs in order to eliminate barriers to access for a diverse range of communities in New York; our commitment to offering free admission to all our events in order to open our doors as wide as possible to everyone and anyone who is called to engage with theater; our focus this year on amplifying and supporting the voices of women-centric productions and LGBTQ-focused productions in order to play our part in inching towards equal representation and the opportunity to be heard – these are factors that are embedded in the fabric of In Scena!, and make us exceptionally proud to be on the verge of its sixth edition.

Don’t miss it!

For detailed information regarding shows, events, schedules, venues and RSVPs, visit our website. Keep an eye here on our fantastic Media Partner’s Voce di New York for upcoming interview with all of our artists. Admission to all In Scena’s shows, readings, special events is free.

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