Over the years, I often found myself in the role of dramaturg, either as editor, researcher, or translator for my own shows or as part of my contributions as assistant director. Once I settled in NYC, I collaborated with a few artists to advise on dramaturgical structures of spoken or dance pieces or act as a sounding board for particular projects.
Starting in March 2021, with the theatres still mostly closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I began to more actively spur English-language playwrights to engage with specific writing challenges. The first of what I currently envision as a seven part project of rewriting/transforming classic plays was a Call for Pirandellian Dramaturgies, in collaboration with the Pirandello Society of America and in my role as Theatre and Performance Editor for the Society’s journal PSA. Published on the PSA’s website, Playbill and NYC Playwrights, the call received over 30 submissions from American and European dramatists. In consultation with the issue’s editors, Lisa Sarti, Michael Subialka, and Enza De Francisci, three short plays were selected for publication.
The multifaceted concept of dramaturgy is not always fully understood. Perhaps due to a rather close deadline for publication, several playwrights just sent something they had already written, seeing metatheatre alone as the quintessential Pirandellian trait. However, metathatre may well constitute a genre perfected by Pirandello, but does not necessarily produce a dramaturgy. Indeed, the call specifically required a more intense relation with actual plays by Pirandello. In a few instances, I asked playwrights to rethink what sounded like promising ideas, but – at least this time around – the rewrites were rather cosmetic and still did not fully engage with the task. On the other side of the spectrum, one proposal really showed an intimate familiarity with the works of Pirandello, and yet seemed to have limited stage potential.
In the end, the published works were selected because they creatively engaged with the Pirandellian canon, directly referenced Six Characters in Search of an Author (the main theme of the PSA special 2020/2021 issue), while offering compelling stage action for our times.
Unanimously, the editors’ top choice was Diane Rao Harman‘s The Eternal Moment #3RR, which envisions two female “eternal” characters from Six Characters battling by proxy, as they show up at the apartments of competing Wikipedia editors and coax them to edit and re-edit information about Madame Pace’s questionable fashion atelier. In times when our life has gone digital to an unprecedented extent, this play shows one of the main conflicts in Pirandello’s play shift to the internet and reflects on the difficulty of holding on to a particular truth among a multiplicity of digital opinions.
Of the two runners up, Peter Filichia‘s comical Restore Me, Please finds Jesse Berger – director of New York’s classical theatre company Red Bull Theatre – visited by an Angel/Agent who represents six characters expunged from classical plays but eager to be reintegrated. The characters stem from Ancient Greek, English, and Russian classics by Sophocles, Aristophanes, William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Samuel Beckett, and J.M. Barrie, and the Angel succeeds in his endeavor once he offers to produce the new shows to a director economically stranded because of the pandemic.
Finally, Catalina Florina Florescu‘s Rehearsing Lines (a short play for stage, screen, Zoom, or audio) proposes a dialogue between two strangers at a bus stop that resembles the situation of The Man with the Flower in His Mouth and the need for meaningful human contact, while meditating on people’s search for illusions/characters at the theatre.
While some other plays will be published in the following issue, I am planning to curate a festival of 5-7 staged works during the Fall. Stay tuned!