THP 3232 / 4 credits / Summer (offered in Italy)
“Italian performance and plays from the 20th century are considered in their social and political contexts, including the works of Dario Fo, a performer and playwright who received the Nobel Prize in Literature. The course culminates in a student performance of selected scenes and excerpts, staged in an ancient piazza.”
Over the summer, while I was studying abroad in Pisciotta, Italy through SUNY Purchase, one of the classes that I took was called 20th Century Italian Theatre and Drama. Throughout this course, taught by Professor Champagne, we read through many Italian plays of the twentieth century.
Early on, we started to memorize lines from the plays, because at the conclusion of the class, when we were to leave Pisciotta, we had to put on a play for the entire town. We memorized quite a few scenes from a few different plays, all in Italian. This was no easy feat for me since I have had to previous acting experience, unless a play that I did in 2nd grade counts, and all of the other students in the class were Theater majors. The other aspect of the play that was difficult was that all of the lines that we had to memorize were in Italian. At least this aspect was a little bit easier for me since I had been studying the language much longer than the others had been; most just started to learn the language when we came to Pisciotta. Aside from our scheduled class times, where we would rehearse, our professor would schedule time for us to do rehearsals in the old piazza where we were to perform. I ended up acting in a few of the scenes in the play such as in La distanza della luna by Italo Calvino in which I played “la Luna” or the Moon, L’ispezione by Ugo Betti in which I played Iole, and in Dario Fo’s Non si paga! Non si paga! in which I was an extra dancer for one of the scenes.
After weeks of practice, we finally performed our stitched together scenes in front of the entire town in their old piazza. I am a person of extreme stage fright, so I did not know how I was going to be able to do it, but somehow, with a lot of encouragement from the locals and from my friends, I did; I went out into the piazza and said my lines without forgetting anything. I may have completely avoided looking at the audience, but I performed nonetheless. One thing that my professor was nervous of was that throughout practices I was always to quiet, but after the performance she congratulated me and told me it was as if I had turned into a completely different person which does make sense since I was playing a range of other characters. As much as I may have detested going to extra rehearsals and fearing the thought of performing a play in another language that is not my native to tongue to native speakers, I think that if given the chance, I would do it again and again, as long as I have Pisciotta and the people I was surrounded with to work with again.