Italy is a theatrical nation, the home of grand opera and operatic politics, as well as a population who perform life as if every night was an opening night. It was therefore not surprising to read about a village near Siena called Monticchiello in which the inhabitants, every year, stage a theatrical performance in which they act out the dramas and anxieties of their own lives. The script is put together by the community during the winter and then staged in summer with villagers playing themselves.
What a wonderful tradition! Every community has its problems. Big cities have issues that are too vast to put on any stage, but a village could do it, or even a street. Here in the suburbs we have many villages left over from earlier times and still hanging on to part of their old identities. We are lucky enough to live in one, but we don’t come together as a community around our shared stories. An office or a school has its own everyday dramas, but out in the disconnected subdivisions many people are isolated, without a stage or an audience to appreciate the theater of their daily lives.
In the world of therapy it’s called psychodrama – the dramatic presentation of our own experiences as a kind of catharsis, to make us feel better about them. But we don’t need a therapist, we can do it all ourselves like the people of Monticchiello. Even in our one short street we have enough material for a whole season of theatrical events. All we need is a stage and some volunteer local actors and script writers. Citizens could step up to describe or celebrate or lament over the events of the past year so they would by the very fact of being staged take on dramatic significance. It would be the ultimate real reality show, everything local, and everything true.
The weather in March alone would provide plenty of material – the multiple nor’easters, chaos on the roads, railroads and at the airports, the winds, the crashing trees and power cuts, freezing inside our powerless houses, the states of emergency, traffic accidents, the irregular garbage collection, the reassuring rumble of snow plows in the night. Everyone has suffered, everyone has something to weep and wail about. On the community stage we could let it all out, perhaps with a musical accompaniment from one of the icy northern composers like Grieg or Sibelius, and even a few sad songs.
As the winter lament fades away, new scenes will unfold. The highways are free of snow at last, but full of potholes big enough to swallow a UPS truck. The skin irritations of winter give way to the allergies of spring, the deer ticks wake up, and the grass starts growing.
And so it goes and will go throughout the year: the first yard sales, which are theater in themselves, stray dogs, lost cats, deer invasions, traffic accidents, fires. It’s all happening here in the suburbs if only we choose to put it on stage: pantomime, melodrama, farce, tragedy, grand opera, kitchen-sink drama, and above all the theater of the absurd. One production a year might not be enough.
Copyright: David Bouchier