Dramatic Dissent: the Occupation of Rome's Teatro Valle 1 Favorite 



Jun 14 2011


Rome, Italy

In 2009, conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi demoted the publicly-funded Italian Theatre Insitute (or ETI) to "disposable" status, hacking funding for the arts considerably. ETI promoted Italian companies abroad, managed the Teatro della Pergola in Florence, the Duse theatre in Bologna, and Rome's Teatro Valle--the oldest theatre in Rome, located between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori and the Senate. The curtains of the theatre were closed, and the space was put up for sale.

But the artists and theater workers at Teatro Valle were not leaving without a fight.

On June 14th, 2011, protestors, activists, artists and arts workers seized the Teatro Valle, to take back the space, and "take back culture." They eat, sleep, and work here--by day holding assemblies and meetings about the future of the space, as well as other social concerns like welfare and education. In the evening the theatre continues to stay open, drawing large audiences to the space and its surrounding local businesses. The space is open 24 hours a day, and all productions, workshops, and rehearsal spaces are free.

From Teatro Valle Occupato's website: "What do they these people want? They want the theatre to be given back to the city, and with the theatre, culture itself as well. To find again the dignity of being workers. All right, but how do we put it into practice? Tonight “the show must go on”. What does that mean? It means this: the theatre is currently open to the audience, the stage to the artists. Entrance is free. Audience, curious people, workers, employees, frequent customers who would love to keep coming, people who have never had the money to come, tourists, critics…. On stage celebrities bring their solidarity, new talents, visible and invisible workers take turns quickly in front of the footlights, 10, 15 minutes, and then another act begins. Culture, burlesque, variety show, the audience takes part in what’s going on: this is the theatre where Six characters in search of an Author made its debut in 1921, the fourth wall gets thinner and thinner, almost permeable. There is music, dance, cabaret, drama, audience… Theatre.

"The artistic vocation of Valle is to create a Foundation For Italian and Contemporary Drama; to promote productions, hospitality and education according to an ethical credo which some call an ‘eco-friendly’ autonomous system: in particular, a place to encourage exchanges with its existing counterparts abroad. Least but not last, we are open to explore the possibility of inventing new languages.

"We do not keep the theatre hostage to demand something or give weight in a negotiation with someone. There is nothing to negotiate. Nothing to lose, only a better theatre to gain. We do this work from the inside of the Teatro Valle, because this work concerns the Teatro Valle. This place is not just a heap of bricks, plasters and velvet. It’s the place where people who do theatre meet the audience of the theatre. We look at each other face to face every day. The Theatre seems happy with this."

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