Maybe one day, I will be able to talk about the time when in February 2020, overnight and suddenly, theaters became one of the most dangerous places with the highest contamination risk – as if theater shows had ever attracted great crowds… But not now, now I just cannot. It would almost feel like pornographic!
So says Valeria Cavalli, a theater director, playwright and the artistic manager, together with Antonio Syxty and Gaetano Callegaro, of MTM – Manifatture Teatrali Milanesi, one of the major production hubs of Milan’s theater system, which has been active locally and nationally for 40 years.
Since February, we have been organizing and reorganizing, planning and re-planning the season, sanitizing spaces in the (dashed) hope of reopening
she goes on.
Now, the only thing we can do is coming up with parallel initiatives, hosting meetings on web platforms. But this is not theater! Flat on a screen, theater is poor, emotions cannot come through! Displays flatten, we need a different grammar, we need to speak through close-ups as cinema does, but in theater you have a global vision. Theater cannot do without the pact that is made every night between the actors and the audience, a live, present audience! This is essential and irreplaceable for us. We miss our audience so much, we even miss the annoying unwrapping of candies, or the coughs in the highlights of the show!
Without our audience, we are completely stalled. Playwriting is, too. My writing draws inspiration from my everyday life, what I see in the streets, in shops, at the supermarkets, my colleagues’ work, watching movies at the cinema. Locked at home, without any of these stimuli, I just cannot write!
But all of this will end, so how will we be enjoying theater after the pandemic, in your opinion?
We still do not know what will happen. After the first lockdown, we were all cycling outdoors, in the open air. What about now? Theater meets needs, so for now, it is reacting and not acting; at the moment, we are standing by the window, waiting to see what to offer and how to offer it. Relying on technology is a possibility, but theater is theater!
We could have distant seats in the orchestra, but it is impossible on stage! Theater is bodies, breaths, movement, life! Life on stage and in the orchestra, with people giving back differently every night.
Today, the value of theater is that it is still a living art because of how it is crafted. A show is made during rehearsals with everyone’s collaboration.
The value of theater is its human value. A theater show cannot always stay the same, it needs to change and transform, although it will never lose its nature.
Speaking of transformations, how has MTMs artistic vision changed in relation to the experiences of the hubs it was born of – Cooperativa Quelli di Grock, which you are from, and the Fondazione Palazzo Litta?
MTM is an artistic project launched in 2015 that is important to all of us. After 40 years of history, a new youth. Integration has been its key word! Joining forces has meant joining poetics too, overcoming compartmentalized theater companies in order to evolve together, to grow through discussions. In order to do this, we left our own comfort areas in a profitable exchange.
It has not just been about creating an economic and political union, but an all-around one.
Today, MTM is an artistic and business union offering a more modern vision of theater.
Valeria, you started out as a dancer and a choreographer, then have become an actress, a director, and a playwright. Yours is an eclectic personality that has followed the perfect path inside theater.
There is no perfect path, everyone has got their own.
For what concerns me, I have always been a writer, even when I was a dancer.
I have always been curious about so many things, and my private life has partially influenced my choices. Deciding to have children and conciliating my job in theater with this decision has not been easy.
Our job is made of tours, of shows rehearsed until late at night.
When my children were little, they shared my life and adapted to me in many situations, then I decided to stop to be by their side.
Leaving the stage has not been a problem, because my job has also always been about participating in creating shows, too.
In my case, over the years, I have given more space to passions and desires that I already had inside of me, like writing, a passion I have been cultivating right since the first shows with Grock, and working on my body, which is still crucial to me. Dance has given me a discipline that will never leave me.
What is in Valeria’s future?
You see, there are no safety nets when you are on stage. Theater has taught me to find on-the-spot solutions with the maximum flexibility.
I do not know what my future will hold. What I know is that I have changed a lot in my life, and maybe theater will not be my only job. I would certainly like to write a book. There are characters born of my pen that have now their own lives, as my followers on social media know well. Through them I can express, maybe in a slightly ‘unfair’ way, that popular, little decorated wisdom that makes us smile, and in which we recognize ourselves.
As for theater, I do not what will happen, but I am sure it will not die.
I want to believe that after this horrible moment, people will feel like going out and discovering again.
On the other hand, if we are to believe astrology, with Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction in late December we entered the age of Aquarius, a long period that should take us to new realizations, a rebirth, a new golden age.
This is what I am wishing for!