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How a performance is born by Natasha Czertok

Thoughts around Private Bestiary , Frauen Festival and Women Performing Europe

Direction Notes

A year ago a dear friend and collegue Brazilian actress, Barbara Luci Carvalho called me from Germany, where she lives and works, to talk to me about a European project in which she intended to involve me, the theme was women and theater, in continuity with an international project already existing since the 1980s, the Magdalena Project, which defines itself as a "dynamic intercultural network of theater and female performances, which intends to facilitate critical discussion, support and training". Some points immediately started connecting in my mind. First of all, while I was talking to Barbara, I was holding Noemi, my second daughter, who was three months old, in my arms. For some time now I had been asking myself several questions about the real possibility of reconciling my work and being a mother, not of one, but of two little girls (one of whom was twelve years old) . The second point concerned the Magdalena Project, of which I had known the beginnings, having participated with my mother in the first meetings organized by the women of the group theaters who were giving life to that movement, I was a child then but old enough to understand that there was happening something important. And all the other points that began to connect during the phone call were given by the numerous reflections that arose in me as a woman in twenty years of work in theater.

I started researching, reading things I already knew but never know enough. For example, in Italy there is an impressive number of female prison directors: why? Is simple. Prison directors followed the same curriculum as a magistrate, but the career in the judiciary is entirely reserved for men. So the women go to run the prisons.

And how many women direct a theater in Italy? I don't think an estimate has ever been made, but surely you can count them on the fingers of one hand. So theatrical seasons are directed by men, which explains a lot of how female directors are viewed. In most cases there are "pink reviews" or "dedicated spaces" on symbolic days such as March 8th or November 25th. It doesn't do much better in independent theater companies: even here, if a woman wants to direct, she has to create her own space.

I read, I wrote, but something was missing. I felt the need to process all this information with a language that was closer to me, and decided to bring these reflections into a new theatrical research. Without knowing yet where I was going, I started from the body. I already had some elements in mind. The lion mask, the boxes, the desire to play, tease me on the stage, avoid victimhood. But I needed more voices, more elements. I wrote a letter to friends and colleagues, people of different ages, sexes, ethnic and social backgrounds and I started a choreographic research "in the field", filtering through my study on movement the images that began to arrive in the most diverse forms: self-portraits, paintings, poems, songs. A sort of virtual laboratory through which I intended to obtain a broader spectrum on the themes at the center of the investigation. I didn't want to focus so much - or only - on the concept of "feminine", or woman as a sexual being, but rather investigate the stereotypes in which we recognize ourselves / which we reject / in which we feel constrained. The "putting into shape" of the world that the human being puts in place to be effective in its tendency towards universality necessarily uses a symbolic modality, and it is to these symbols that I refer in the performance Private Bestiary, born from this study .

The responses to my letter have been many and varied. Hasty, deep, precise, doubtful, critical, amused, unexpected. A whirlwind of images of different shapes and nature. I felt in most of the people to whom I sent my request a strong commitment, a drive to get involved, a desire to be there. I was very touched by the contribution of a homosexual friend who sent me some images of the Stonewall protests in 1969 that led to the first Gay Pride, for example. the song by Anthony and the Johnsons "You are my sister" is dedicated to him and accompanies one of the last scenes of the performance, in which lipstick paints a disturbing grin on my face which then becomes a clown.

Working alone is not easy. Give yourself clear goals, deadlines, understand what you are doing. You always need someone on the other side, at least in the beginning. It may seem strange, considering that I have many smart and close colleagues, but in this case the synergy was born with Marcos Rossi, a very dear Argentine friend who lives in Mexico where he runs a dance company. We got closer during the lockdown, in that strange period when we were all at the PC and participated in festivals, aperitifs, inaugurations and celebrations of all kinds. We started training together, discussing the materials that were starting to come from my work on rehearsal room.. I started shooting short videos of the pieces I was creating, organizing myself day by day, fitting the times of creation with those of the child, and making this experience a sort of “practical workshop”. Nothing was accidental: creation and motherhood, my changed body returning to dance, the new contact with Marcos ( known more than twenty years ago in the period spent at the Ballet Teatro del Espacio in Mexico City) , the visual and audio contributions and videos that arrived every day, like parts of a whole that was taking shape in a harmonious way, pieces of a self-made puzzle.

I saw clearly the image of a feminine whose substance is made of listening, of perception of Life in its entirety: following intuition, chances, small daily signals. With a good dose of self-irony, indispensable when approaching a work on stereotypes.

I started keeping a diary and writing down the images that appeared before my eyes without being called, transcribing texts from the books that came into my hands, and creating links between the contributions that came in response to my letter. The connections and images have become gestures and signs that I have begun to integrate into a choreography, and in parallel the search for music was born. I soon came across the sound environments created by Vincenzo Scorza, an attentive "sound sculptor" who knows how to introduce very different elements into his patterns, sometimes discordant, with strange and refined results that seemed to me to fit perfectly with the actions that I was outlining and I asked him to insert some audio contributions in one of the tracks, as they had been sent to me, and after a few attempts we opted to keep only some elements, such as segments, fragments of a speech, which created an environment rather than a set of texts, and I added some contributions in English since one of the presentation dates of the study was planned in Germany.

We closed the first draft close to the first presentation of the study which took place on September 13th (at the Altre Visioni festival in Coltano in the province of Pisa). Of course, having a date was essential for me to start pulling the strings, understand where I was going , and to get as much feedback as possible from my colleagues and from spectators. And when I started pulling those strings “the boxes” arrived.

There is nothing to do, at some point they always arrive, I just can't help it. In Domino, the street theater show I directed, “the box” is a metal cube measuring 3 meters per side, here in Private Bestiary are cardboard boxes that I bring to the stage all stacked and that I arrange in space as the first action . Each box contains a stereotype, a creature, a strange beast that then becomes a character, but also an aspect of a woman's personality. Of all women, who are many women in one, every day, every moment of their life.

poetic, philosophical and visual contributions: Stefania Bruno, Mara Guidi, Sara Draghi, Hassan Al Aouni, Massimiliano Piva, Elisa Bottoni, Elisa Galeati, Barbara Chinaglia, Valentina Caggio, Martina Pagliucoli, Andrea Amaducci, Marco Pasquale, Anidia Villani, Marcela Grassi, Marcella Formenti, Emanuele Piva, Alvise De Fraja, Marcos Ariel Rossi

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