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Gianni Cicali

Dramaturgy, publishing and actors. From the net of actors to the Internet

Data di pubblicazione su web 17/06/2003
Mark Ravenhill

New European Drama does not mean a new European dramaturgy. It lacks of some necessary pre-conditions such as an homogenous and shareable dramaturgical structure. Looking back to the past we can find a dramaturgy with a wide European diffusion and distribution (almost the present new E.U.): the italian Opera Buffa (or Comic Opera) of the XVIIIth century. Opera buffa had a specific dramaturgical tipology (parts, convenienze, plots, variations, music etc.) which was repeated, duplicated, altered, tranformed to be adapted to the skills of the actors and to the taste of the public. It was an universe of actors-singers, impresari, poets and musicians totally dipped into a commercial competition. All theatres in Europe, except for the royal or aristocratic ones, were under a strict regime of economic liberalism. It was a complex net which swalled hundreds of new operas every year and which was dominated by frenetic, almost caotic, commercial production. Dramaturgy, comic roles, arias were elements juxtaposed in a formalized schema known by the European public of the time. And, last but not least, they shared the same language: Italian, the most diffuse software in 18th century opera market (together with music).

Not a small part of this kind of dramaturgy was 'borrowed' from the Commedia dell'Arte, the first Operative System of european theatre's hardware [see here in drammaturgia.it/saggi: Il meotodo compositivo dellla commedia dell'arte]. Commedia dell'Arte constructed and devoloped his dramaturgical texture basing it on different schemas (including different dialects and the lingua franca) that allowed dramaturgy to be variously composed to let the troupes move and play in etherogeneic situations and places (theatres, towns, nations, languages). This genoma, together with the birth of opera, contributed to create an European theatrical system made of impresari, theatres, actors-singers, playwrights which grew in different ways (of course) following a common platform that was mainly performed in theatres all'italiana (a hierarchical architecture with lateral boxes). A highly qualified category of actors-singers was the absolutely necessary human engine of this dramaturgical machine which travelled all around Europe. The XVIIIth century had the highest percentage of intersections between actors' performing skills and text's composition.

New European Drama does not have a shareable dramaturgical structure; does not speak "one" language. A new European drama can be a monologue, a choral pièce, a claustrophobic dialogue between two characters, a generational fresco inspired by a contemporary event like Noccioline (Peanuts) di Fausto Paravidino, performed in different countries in Europe

[> http://www.comune.riccione.rn.it/riccioneteatro/winner3.html the full-text of Due fratelli, another play by Paravidino; cfr. Interview with Fausto Paravidino on www.drammaturgia.it],

or a paradoxical military drama such as The Colonel Bird by Hristo Boytchev [see Quaderno 2001 di Drammaturgia ].

Dramaturgy of XXth and XXIst century lost shareable platforms and predictable plots. Today's plays are highly individual and have a strong authorial mark. It was not exactly the same for Rossini or Mozart, Goldoni or Da Ponte. We are all victims of Romanticism and of Wagner...

However New European Drama has something we can value as a common theme: contents. From a high or distant point of view we can recognize some gradient of homogeneity in themes that I would categorize as political, social, private themes: war, racism, suicide, madness, trouble and engagement of young metropolitan people, the European geopolitical revolution of the 90s etc.

Where this so called New European Drama is performed and by who? Even if one of the topic of this Symposium [Novi Sad, Symposium '03, International Association of Theatre Critics, may-june 2003: New European Drama] is to establish wether New European Drama is an art or a commercial product invented by critics and artistic directors (actually a fusion of art and commercial product is more realistic), however I feel that generally the pointer is unbalanced: the attention focuses more on the authors' than on the actors' side. Infact during this interesting Symposium almost everyone quoted Kane or Ravanhill, but we still do not know, except some speeches, anything about the skills that an actor needs to perform a 'new european drama'. Maybe this will be the topic for another Symposium about New European Actors.


In XVIIIth century an escalation of publishers' activity allowed an increased circulation of dramatic texts, theories, scores, letters. A formidable (for those times) widespread net of transports let the actors move freely (more or less) around all Europe. We can say that the explosion of performing arts as a mass phenomenon during the 18th Century is linked to the contemporary increasing of book sellings and connected to an already bribed critic on the periodical press.

Modern technological tools powered enourmously the diffusion of dramatic texts. The Internet and the possibility to publish hundreds of texts with low budget represents today an ideal tool. Of course the Internet offers many other possibilities, as the satellite broadcasting on wide band of various performances dealt with by the electronic media. However dramaturgy on the Internet does not consist in a new era of sterile media experimentation or avant-guarde with improbable web-actors. The Internet represents the best and most convenient publisher in the world, the best collector and deposit for texts, expecially the new ones. Everything can be delivered at the speed of light and at low cost - the importance of publishing costs was particularly evident during the XVIIIth century too: opera librettos are for the 90% low cost editions. All around the web there is a constellation of more or less evoluted or reliable websites with contemporary plays of known or unknown playwrights.

The theatre review "Drammaturgia", founded and directed by prof. Siro Ferrone, Chair of History of Theatre and Performing Arts of the University of Florence, spent for almost 10 years a paper life. Two years ago, more or less, it was decided to make an electronic version of the review. Since the beginning we also think also that we had to develop something different from an electronic translation of the 'paper' review. So, ideologically, we chose dramaturgy as the key to 'translate' contemporary performing arts events. In a few words: from theatre to sports, going through opera, dance, music, visual arts, television and cinema, but also great mass-political events that could be read using a dramturgical point of view: in everything a dramaturgical structure or aim can be discovered.

www.drammaturgia.it in less than one year and a half reached the satisfying target of more than 800.000 contacts per month. The informatic language is the simple and revolutionary html.

www.drammaturgia.it could look like many other websites concerning performing arts. But there are differences. Ctitics, criticism, history don't have a great echo on the Internet for many reasons: the interface is not yet good as the book's one; some people prefer the reliability of wellknown newspapers' critics; an overgrown offer which saturates the web (expecially for movies and TV shows) produces sometimes the effect of a crowded nothing.

www.drammaturgia.it born around a solid scientific board, or editorial board, which represents a prestigeous warrant of authority about the matter. Reviewers, critics and columnists are free from any kind of conditioning except their own ideas and methodologies.

The aim of the editorial board is not to review or talk about ''all'' the books and magazines or all the shows and festivals of the season. We select only the ones that for dramaturgical or historical or political reasons, we think must be published on web pages that must be easy to read according to some few rules of webpaging, like Nielsen's ones.

The freely distributed 'creation' of Tim Berners Lee improved exponentially the possibilities of publishing. The debate about electronic books is still open: many experiments were done, many standards and many proprietary sofwares were developed. But, up to now, the electronic book is not an advantageous commercial product. The open publishing on the Internet by high portable encoding languages is a tool that enable Enlightenment's uthopia on culture diffusion.

The Internet is and will be the international agora for communication and fast delivery of documents, images, multimedia and data. Together with the collateral effect of email it determined the ri-birth of writing as a mass phenomenon. As Opera Buffa of the XVIIIth century, it has a predominant, 'official' language which is english-american.

Websites like www.drammaturgia.it give a chance to a different level of critic. Up to now the contents of the site, apart of few ones, are in italian and are for the italian public. The event that the italian Prime Minister is at the same time one of the most important world media tycoon (and also publisher, owner of banks and insurance companies etc. etc. etc.) gives to the TV critics a spontaneous evidence of course.

The web publishing allowed to the editorial office of an academic theatre review to transform itself into a totally different thing that renewed in a certain sense the profession at low costs and without any external conditioning.

One of the problems of webpublishing is the relative evanescence of writings and websites. Projects and initiatives are taking care of this problem. The National Library of Florence partecipates to a great experimental project of webstorage (in terabytes) wich involves electronic reviews and websites. This is not a secondary problem from a legal point of view. The new Italian law about publishing is controversal and does not solve problems of publishing in the Internet era. In Italy, as in many other countries, webejournalists/critics are less guaranteed then the ones of newspapers or radio-televisions. This is a lobbystic absurdity which is going to be left behind, we hope.

www.drammaturgia.it is a website officially accredited at important festivals (Berlinale, Biennale Venezia, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino etc.) and has correspondents from many foreign countries. On www.drammaturgia.it we started a new section in which will be published dramatic texts: rare plays and opera librettos together with modern and unpublished plays. Academic essays are already published on our website: the first one is dedicated to Carmelo Bene, a real great European actor.

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