Laura Caparrotti (Founder of In scena! Italian Theater festival NY)

Da Roma a New York In Scena: incontriamo Laura Caparrotti

Jun 02, 2014 3464 ITA ENG

New York is not just Manhattan, and one who understood very well this is Laura Caparrotti, Roman by birth and New Yorker by adoption, who last year created "In scena! Italian Theater festival NY" that brings the Italian theater in all 5 boroughs of New York City: Manhattan as well as also the Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

The 2014 edition of the festival of the Italian theater starts in a few days and we, also Romans with a New Yorker heart just like Laura, are thankful to her for this interview. We wish her good luck, because we cannot write here the formula that to wish luck is used in the theater entourage. But she knows what we mean.

Laura, is not very common to find someone born in Rome who has left Italy. On behalf of all the Romans like you and me: what are you doing in New York, and how did you end up there?

I have been asked this question several times. I came initially to make a three-week course in English and dance, and I fell in love with New York. Then I went back again for a 9 months internship in a theater in 1996. So I ended up here just by chance: I love the City, its energy and vitality, or maybe I just felt more free to be myself, while in Rome I felt in some way linked to all the fears I had as a girl. And then in '96 I decided to do a longer experience because I was quite disappointed by the theater system and I needed a change of scenery: that was my first experience away from home, so I did it and it was beautiful! All started from there, I discovered a new world and a new Laura who I do not know if and how would have blossomed in Rome. I have never seen Rome as a metropolis: THIS, New York, is a metropolis.

Tell us about KIT-Kairos Italy Theater

KIT was actually born long before 1996 ... in 1993/94 me and my friends organized events because we were not happy to be actors in other companies. We started to do thingson our own: the company that I founded together with others was called " Le gramaglie ", but then one day at Palazzo delle Esposizioni at an exhibition dedicated to Lysippos I saw a picture of this Greek demigod called Kairos, that symbolized the concept of seizing the moment, something that will disappear if you don't grab it when you can.

I decided to give that name to my company, calling it Kairos Theater: "Italy" was added because many were asking me if the company was Egyptian. Then one day my friend Susana Culia told me: "When do we rehearse for KIT"? And since then it has become Kairos Italy Theater KIT. It was the end of 1996, and we began to do shows at Mario Fratti's Miranda Theatre - he then used to give the theater to Italian companies on Sundays and Mondays to promote the Italian theater.

We started to make sketches from the '50s and '60s, in my possession because I had done a thesis on comedy and cabaret, in particular the monologues of Franca Valeri. Having had a good success, we did them again at Casa Italian Zerilli Marimò that in 1997 had just opened, and we had a big success there too: it was all in Italian! Slowly, very timidly and with small steps we arrived to Flaiano, Pasolini, Franca Valeri, Buzzati and much more.

In 2013 with our young company - the Young KIT - we staged "La Mandragola" and three novels from the Decameron, the ones La Mandragola relies on.

Let's say that we have grown a lot and we hope to do more and more, to give continuity to the Italian theater - bilingual, but Italian - in the USA!

This june all 5 boroughs of the Big Apple will be home to the second edition of "In scena! Italian Theater Festival NY", which you have conceived and realized. I really like the idea of touching all 5 districts: but I guess it's a very hard work. What's on the calendar this year?

You imagine very well, it is very tiring but also very rewarding. This was an idea I have been having for many years - one of many ideas, perhaps too many, that I have. 2013 was the year of the Italian culture in the U.S. and when I found out this thing I thought it was the right time, and so it was. We organized a ten-day festival in which there were 3 groups from Italy and 4 theatrical readings of Italian texts in translation. This year we have a 16-days festival June 9 to 24, and then we have as many as six groups, 6 different shows and 4 theatrical readings.

Specifically, we will have:
- Iaia Forte doing a show on a text by Paolo Sorrentino. Iaia is one of the actresses of "The Great Beauty", the movie directed by Paolo Sorrentino. The text is called "Everybody is right", based on the book of the same name which has already been translated.
- a show from Sicily called "Mutu" (Silence!), which won the prize for as best foreign show at the Avignon Festival;
- a show from Calabria called "L'Italia s'è desta" (Italy has awakened);
- a show from Puglia, "I corteggiatori (The suitors)";
- a show called "Raep" about the white deaths on the job.

And finally, we also have a representation of Italians in New York with "Neighbors", which was born from the minds of two young actors who are part of Kairos Italy Theater. It's about the adventures of two young Italians who go to New York; and since last year we had a company of Italians living here who proposed a show, so this year we decided to invite another group that has already debuted with great success in Italy and now brings here the show as a tribute to this city.

As theatrical readings we'll have:
- A reading on Oriana Fallaci written by Emilia Costantini;
- "Santos", based on "Super Santos", a text written by Roberto Saviano;
- "Stories of Love and Football", dedicated to the soccer world cup. I am a superfan and I almost dictated that there had to be a celebration of the world cup!
- Then we also have a reading about the Premio Mario Fratti: last year we celebrated Mario, who is our pillar here in New York, and this year we decided to create an award in his honor to celebrate him every year.

Then we have workshops, various meetings, a tribute to Edoardo De Filippo, and a beautiful opening night in the Bronx: this is to say that we are very happy to bring the Festival in all 5 districts and not to stop in Manhattan as everyone else. I strongly wanted this, even though I live in Manhattan, because it is fascinating and important to get in the other districts with our culture with the same events that are offered in Manhattan, bringing together all these districts in one place called New York City.

So some groups will be in this mini tour, and we specifically wanted to start with the big opening night in the Bronx, Arthur Avenue on June 9, with David Greco who is a great and very famous chef (you can see it very often on the food network) along with Iaia Forte, and with the whole community that is united to celebrate the Italian theater: it seems almost a miracle to have succeeded in doing that!

How is the situation of the Italian theater in America, even outside New York? We interviewed the great Mario Fratti ... but after him (and besides you!) is there something else?

I actually do not know exactly how to answer. There are many groups that come from Italy, I know there are other people who propose other content, but for the moment I have never met anyone who has done or is doing continuously texts of the Italian tradition, as if it were a kind of stable Italian theater here. It does not mean that there is not, but at the moment I do not have a trace.

There are many Italian artists, but of course they do the right thing pursuing a career that should not be linked to their origins but to America, and speaking English, because obviously you do what you have to do to get the job. Still, many of them want to show our culture, because we still live a stereotype of images that when it comes to Italy are always the same: Italians are mama's boy, pizza and mandolin and the mafia. So Italian texts are not really shown, if not something from Edoardo De Filippo, but rarely: we've just made two masterpieces as "La Mandragola" and the "Decameron" and, contrary to what one might think, they had been very rarely done, here.

I hope that the people who work with me, especially the boys of Young KIT, who are young Italian actors and actresses of great talent, continue to carry on the Italian theater, because we have a culture too good to be abandoned, which reminds us of who we are and who we have been, and by enhancing our culture perhaps one day we will even do the same for our country.

You are also the representative in America of the great Totò ... do the Americans know him, do they understood his greatness?

Totò and his family officially came into my life in 2000, and since then I carry it around when I can: it's actually a great character that we should work on an exclusive basis 24 hours a day, to give justice to his talent. The Americans know little about him: who knows about cinema knows him; some Italian Americans do know him and some others don't, depends on the generation; insiders know him very well. I had the good fortune to meet Arthur Miller, who loved him very much; F. Murray Abraham who loves him, and others who have a passion for Totò and have something from him in their library: even ifin the American NTSC system, differently from the European PAL, the only two available DVDs of his films are "I soliti ignoti" (Big Deal on Madonna Street) and "Uccellacci e uccellini" (The Hawks and the Sparrows). It's a long story, the one about the American rights of his works: Totò is still very popular in Italy and I'm afraid that who has the rights - not the family, others - have no interest in using or giving the rights for abroad.

Every time I did an exhibition about Totò, people adored it: I believe that somehow people identify themselves with Totò: his films are loved, and his songs too. Malafemmina is sung in any manner and language, his poems are loved: I would like to publish his poems in a bilingual edition, and maybe it's a thing that sooner or later I will be able to do. So the answer is yes, he is loved and followed, but the best thing for me is when I show it to people who do not know him: seeing their reactions, especially as they follow his movements, gestures, the changings of his face... it's amazing, really great and I hope to carry around Totò for much longer, not only in America but also in Argentina, Japan, Brazil: I really hope to succeed.

With the last question we return to where we started: tell us about the differences and similarities you see between Rome and New York, and about the one thing you miss when you're in the other city ...

As for the differences: New York is a metropolis, Rome is a beautiful city but it is a large village, as far as I'm concerned, not a metropolis. In New York you can do and be anything, no one judges you, there are so many people and religions and cultures and languages and aspects that you really feel a part of the world. In Rome you feel Italian, but especially you feel Roman. Here it really seems that you can potentially do everything; Rome is eternal, and eternal and in this being eternal it is also very still, and contrary to New York it seems that nothing new will never happen, imprisoned in her ruins – which, among other things, are deteriorating more and more.

They are definitely two capitals, but Rome is a capital city of the past. I think Rome is the most beautiful city in the world, speaking of beauty, charm, there really are glimpses of Rome that are unattainable: but it must be lived almost as a tourist. New York also has beautiful views, not unattainable, there are wonderful lights, but above all there is a life that is exciting, it's alive ... it's just life! And I think that for those who love a life full of both large and small challenges it's impossible not to love New York, which is a city that challenges you, yes, but also welcomes you.

When I am far from Rome I certainly miss my mother, I think it is by far the thing I miss the most: and then also my friends of course ... it would be wonderful being able to meet more and exchange ideas and smiles and laughter, of course! For the rest, I go back and forth enough times, so that even if I miss someone I know that soon I will be in Italy and then I will be able to see him or her again. But not with my mother: especially in some moments I miss my mother so much.

When I'm far away from New York I miss my dance lessons and my Pilates classes, my teachers do a dance that I do not know where to find, if not here. But by far I miss the vitality of New York ... maybe it's almost like a drug, who knows, because Rome in the end is slow and tiring and it takes way too long to do things; but here in a day you can do so many things, and then the more you do, the more you are active and you want to do other things, and I really like this!

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