Round three of our Spotlight Series showcases the Italian born Theater-Maker Orietta Crispino! TNEP chats with Orietta
TNEP: What inspired you to pursue a career in theatre as a Writer and Director? Even more specifically, to be such a strong advocate for women and female artists?
ORIETTA: I had my start in the theatre quite early in life though I come from Visual arts and I always perceived the theatre as the most integrated of the arts. I could have words, images and music all together. The live component of the form was the most fascinating aspect of it. I came of age at a time in Europe when experiments in ‘participation’ were political statements, they contained the seed of a dream of change in perception that could be delivered through the theatre. Being a director and a young woman at that time seemed nearly impossible. We were all inspired by the great directors at the time: Kantor, Grotowski, Ronconi, Streheler Stein, Brook. The only woman was Ariane Mnouchkine! And of course Judith Malina and Franca Rame, not yet considered separate from their spouses/partners. (Julian Beck & Dario Fo). Then Pina Baush appeared with unprecedented force, vision and poetry. We all thought It was possible for women to be creators capable of inspiring everyone and filling theatre houses. And it is. If we look at the bigger picture, it was necessary at first to affirm the existence of the “difference” of the genders because that reclaimed the space of being. Identifying femininity as difference, helped women to find their unique language, claiming a space to be and be listened to, affirming another ‘order of things’. Now, we have achieved some visibility and better positions. Not enough yet. Lots of work needs to be done. And we want to talk about everything that counts.
TNEP: You are the Artistic Director of TheaterLab in NYC and also a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women. How has what you’ve seen and worked on in this community inspired you as a female artist?
ORIETTA: Running Theaterlab for nine years now, has given me the opportunity to come in contact with some very talented artists. Theaterlab it’s all about supporting new visions, giving artists a unique and concentrated space to shape it. Over the years, also through my work as a director, Theaterlab has attracted a great number of women playwrights, directors, choreographers and producers. Their resilience and creativity has inspired me tremendously, giving me strength in my own path. Being part of The League of Professional Theatre Woman has been a real treasure for me. I came to New York in my forties and had no idea where to start in the “field”. So through the League I had the chance to meet a community of incredibly talented women and share the struggle of achieving more visibility, equal pay and equal opportunity. Even though we are all very different!
TNEP: What female artists are you inspired by and why?
ORIETTA: Oh, this is a difficult questions! How many can I name?
TNEP: What is your take on the state of women in theatre? There has been a lot of awareness brought to the need for female playwrights and stories about women being depicted on stage. Do you feel there is a lack of representation when it comes to female playwrights, actors and directors getting exposure or work? What has been your experience as a woman in the theatre?
ORIETTA: What I see is a lot of fervent activities and women taking chances more and more. Your company, for example, The Naked Expedition Project: intelligence and passion at the service of women creating opportunities for collaboration, visibility and new representation. You have so much energy and drive! It’s all good and more we have to do to affect the economy of the ‘industry’ (even though let’s not forget that we women account for the majority of the audience). Yes, still fewer roles, and we need more directors, more artistic directors and more producers investing in women’s work. To let the collective imaginations be inspired by difference at large.
Sure, coming from the seventies and eighties in Italy where the theatre was primarily a men’s affair, I can say that a lot of progress has been made and women are more and more present, active and taking important roles, shaping a new artistic and hopefully economic landscape.
TNEP: When it comes to stories about women, is there anything you are craving to see that is different from what has been portrayed in the past on stage?
ORIETTA: This is a very interesting question because it points to the profound issue of identity and ownership. I think the issue is not so much about characters per se but a whole new vocabulary that shows and shapes at once the feminine universe and its vast diversity.
TNEP: A lot of your work is inspired by the body in a performative aspect. What is it about telling stories about and with the body that sparks inspires you?
ORIETTA: I wish I could say this in simple words that everyone can relate to instead of sounding academic.
Since the beginning of myself that I can remember, the most intense experiences of the world were through the body. That’s what happen of course when you are a child and then you start reflecting on that experience, you give it a name and so on. I think I crafted my own artistic vocabulary on my passion for the language of the body articulating the gap between experience and representation, presence and absence, closeness and distance. All my works gravitates around those ideas. Theater, performance, writing.
TNEP: Why is theatre & performance art so important in our community and why, in your opinion, does it connect with people so deeply?
ORIETTA: We are made of the same fabric of the world. At a cellular level, there’s no difference between myself and this chair I am sitting on. So think about how profound is the experience of the other, being a participant witness, the eye that completes the image. Theatre, performance arts, live music are more significant than ever before exactly because they make us “present”. That is radical!
TNEP: What current projects are you working on? What should we keep an eye out for and support?
ORIETTA: “Snow in the Living Room” is my new piece and the first full production at Theaterlab’s new space. It’s a poetic retelling of the Grimm’s fairy tales Snow White imagined as the journey of the soul as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I wrote the piece in Italian in the late nineties and this is the first time it has been translated and will be performed. It is a challenging piece performed by myself and Liza Cassidy as a sensual and mysterious dialogue that exits in the interstitial space between body and self. I am so happy to be working again with my long time collaborator Marco Casazza, who has translated the piece & co-directs it and visual artist Vibeke Jensen who is creating the visual fabric of the piece. Sara Baldocchi, David Lawson and Haejin Han complete the team of this adventurous piece. It’s truly an international collaboration, as it is the spirit of Theaterlab, written, directed and performed by women. Hope you’ll come to see it!
To see more of what TheaterLab has to offer, go to www.theaterlabnyc.com