On the Anghiari stage, tradition and innovation.
An interview with Andrea Merendelli, manager and artistic director of the tuscan Theatre
by Marco Polchi
A live, open stage becomes a focal point for the community, how do they respond in Anghiari and the surrounding area?
The answer is very different and not always corresponding to the organizational efforts. A side event that captures the audience’s imagination, as it takes a massive effort to bring a great international artist to Anghiari and only for them to be ignored or passed up. There is no golden rule to filling a theatre in the provinces or in the metropolitan area but if you know “your people “ and most of your audience by name, you can’t be going wrong.
‘Learning to twist the truth ‘ is the slogan of the school of theatre… what does this mean?
«It is said that the theatre is the place of fiction. Many Italians think (increasingly) the place of fiction is the amphitheatre of Montecitorio, (The Italian Parliament). Here the line between truth and lies becomes ever thinner and then, partly for fun and partly to study, we try to understand the boundary between truth and lies and like a great, quick answer quiz, the participants will eventually find the answer».
If I say “Tovaglia a quadri” (checked tablecloth), do cooking and theatre go hand in hand?
«Forever, it has certainly not been discovered by us but the Tovaglia a quadri, 18 years ago, reinvented for sure this unique blend of gastro-theatrical, making it inseparable and closely linked to the site where it takes place and the lives of its inhabitants. “Tovaglia a quadri” is more than just a show with dinner, it is an experience».
One very original feature, of the Theatre of Anghiari I would say, are the Pulpit Nites. Where did the idea come from?
«The pulpit was itself created: between the 17th and 18th century, academics used to recite from this pulpit their academic oration and gave short performances or concerts at the top of the gallery. This is because in the winter the theatre was too cold to heat and the pulpit had a fireplace. That room was falling apart and triggered the idea of a pulpit for the artists, encompassing every race and colour, musical, theatrical and literary. The management agreed and made available some laborers. Michele Corgnoli put together the first program and we were off, there is a world behind the pulpit and every night was a surprise».
What does it mean to be the artistic director of a lively, theatrical reality?
«Everything that has been generated, this place is something unique and unrepeatable. The audience always gave us great satisfaction. All put together, the “machine” these days is very difficult. It seems that in Italy an open theatre, is considered more of a “luxury” that a “pressing social need “. Municipal governments limp along and we understand the difficulties ensuring basic services to citizens. However, we believe also that it is a place of physical and mental wellbeing, it always has a positive effect on the whole social fabric. It is never invisible».