Dec 5, 2016
We arrived in Bologna around 5am and settled at the bus stop for a second to figure out what our next move would be since the check-in time for our stay started at 3pm.
After the five of us shared one cup of coffee, we decided to head to the hostel anyway and see if they would let us sleep on their couches until it was time check-in.
When we arrived they were kind enough to offer us their cinema room (which was closed to the public) so we could sleep since our rooms wouldn't be available until later in the day.
The cinema room was equipped with large bean bags and plush pillows and we quickly created makeshift beds and pulled out blankets, jackets, and scarves to keep warm. The cinema was pitch black once the door was closed and we went right to sleep, a well needed deep sleep.
When we woke up we got ready for the day and headed out to meet up with Thomas S. Walker, Daniela Francesconi Nicolo and Enrico Casagrande from Motus. John Martello was also in town and it was nice to see familiar faces halfway through the tour.
We caught up and traded tales, relaxing into lunch, before we headed over to La Soffitta Alma Mater Studorium at the Universita de Bologna to watch the documentary that Motus made about the rehearsals that occurred between Silvia Calderoni and Judith Malina for The Plot is the Revolution. The documentary takes place during the Santarcangelo Theatre Festival and in NYC at 21 Clinton Street (the last theatre inhabited by the Living) on the Lower East Side.
The last time the company had been in Italy was when Judith was still alive and came to perform The Plot in Bologna at Museo per la Memoria di Ustica and in Rome at the then occupied Teatro Valle Occupato. The force of that show is one that can only be understood by witnessing it. The passing down and exchange of revolutionary ideals between Judith and Silvia was a captivating event that was a true testament to the legendary work of The Living Theatre throughout theatre history.
We arrived to the screening, gathering together in the lobby beforehand, buzzing with energy. We had only one day/night in Bologna and this tribute and celebration of Judith was the focus of the evening. It felt fantastic to be able to spend some time with Judith, in the middle of the tour, to check in and honor what she and Julian created, something that grown beyond a theatre company and paved the way as a significant political and artistic movement.
We spent the next hour or so transported back to the days when Judith was still around and injecting her radical, beautiful energy into the people that she met. The rehearsal process for the show included scenes from past Living productions such as The Brig, Antigone, Artaud's The Plague, tributing Artaud's revolutionary influence on the Living's work. As Judith spoke about the inspiration and dedication to each piece, Silvia would throw herself completely into the mystery and the madness behind these legendary pieces of theatre.
The transmission of power and knowledge from an elder to the younger generation is something that tends to be overlooked, if not completely dismissed. The lightning rod of fervent wisdom gained by experience that Judith projects in her 86th year, finding its way into Silvia's young but capable body, is an ancient ritual in itself. It was good to see that the film captured the essence of what the performance provided to those who witnessed it live. It will continue to serve as an educational tool and an important part of archival history.
The film caused a stirring of emotions and the flashbacks of one of our greatest teachers ignited the people in the room. A panel immediately followed and we were elegantly translated from Italian to English and back by Thomas Walker. Discussions and questions of revolution, today's social media outlets, political parallels (a constitutional referendum had just been held the day before in Italy) the power of theatre, and the growth of a global movement were all brought up.
To sit there two years after Judith's death and be discussing these themes is one of the great gifts that the legacy of The Living Theatre has left behind. It has provided and still provides an arena for humans to communicate with one another about the world around us. The work always calls for participation from both artist and spectator, and it continues to do so before and after the performances as well as during.
We shared stories and answered all the questions as best as we could, being that we ourselves were constantly in pursuit of a deeper understanding of where the world is right now. We discussed the scene that ends the performance where Judith and Silvia invite the audience to enact Artaud's Scream, the scream existing within all of us that signifies all the pain in the world, how it lives inside us on a daily basis, and how we must confront it in order to make sense of it.
We decided to end the panel the same way by inviting the audience in Bologna to stand up and scream together. All of us as one. All of us as concerned human beings who wish to see a change in the world. We stood up and ended the event in a roar and there was a tension that broke in the room after that. We stayed to continue some personal conversations with students, exchanging contact information for future connections. We left feeling reminded and re-activated by the living, breathing radical passion that resides in all of us, but only if we seek to access it.
We gathered at a restaurant afterwards and spent the night talking and walking around the city, enveloped by Italy and its infectious energy. We knew we had to leave the next day and were able to catch up with Motus one more time, for a quick bite, before leaving to the airport. We were able to meet Lisa Gilardino, who is one of the co-curators of the Santarcangelo Dei Teatri (Santarcangelo Theatre Festival), and she coincidentally told us she would be in Athens at the same time we were next week for a theatre festival. We spoke of future collaborations and a revisiting of Santarcangelo.
We hugged tightly once it was time to leave, excited for what was coming up, past experiences, shared visions, reunions, and our collective love for the blackbird of the revolution, Judith Malina.
We left for Norway shortly after with smiles on our faces and activated hearts.