Friday, August 14, 2015

Spotlight On...Francesca Spedalieri

Name: Francesca Spedalieri

Hometown: Policoro (Basilicata, Italy)

Education: Current PhD in Theatre candidate at The Ohio State University (OSU); MA in Theatre,  (OSU); BA in Theatre, University of Florida

Favorite Credits: Student Ensemble in Anne Bogart and Ann Hamilton’s the theatre is a blank page (April 2015); directed the workshop production of After by Brett Beach and movement directed the workshop production of Southern Cross The Dog by Camille Bullock for Available Light Theatre’s Next Stage Initiative (January 2014, January 2015); AD for the Builders Association’s House/Divided (Sept 2011); directed Somewhere America by Kent Barrett for Florida Players’ New Works Festival (April 2008)

Why theater?: Why not? Seriously… Growing up in a small town in Southern Italy, everyone I knew always saw theatre as a hobby, as something to be done in your spare time. And so I studied math, and physics, and chemistry, and I was quite good at it, and I continued to do that “theatre on the side thing,” with the hope that, one day, those impure thoughts of stages and lights would finally detach themselves from my brain. I guess it did not work. I guess theatre is just the thing I cannot let go of.

Tell us about Dancers: It’s the first English translation of the play 2011 Ballarini created by Emma Dante e Compagnia Sud Costa Occidentale. Dancers tells the story of an elderly woman who rejoins her husband and re-lives their love story going backwards through time. It is a tale of nostalgia and memory told through movement and 1960s Italian pop music. A condensed, 45-minute physically virtuosic journey, Dancers uncovers a forgotten tale, the story of a grotesque character we may pass on the streets and never think about twice. In a world obsessed with youth and beauty, it re-contextualizes aging and love, questioning the human (or possibly inhuman) condition of those who, in their old age, are left alone with nothing but memories. The play is funny, and sweet, and sexy, and moving and gut wrenching. It is one of those pieces that just clings to your bones and does not let go. It makes you just a little bit more human. A little bit more aware.

What inspired you to create Dancers?: I’ve been concerned with the dismal amount of contemporary Italian scripts in English translation and obscurity of contemporary Italian women directors, devisers, and playwrights for a really long time (I’m writing my dissertation on this… I’ll spare you the details!). So imagine my joy, when I uncovered this little jewel of an Italian/Sicilian play created by a fantastic woman playwright/director who is still unknown in the US and who specializes in physical theatre. I fell in love with it instantly. The content spoke to me. The style of the actual script intrigued me -- there are about 20 lines in the whole script and it is an extremely physically demanding piece. I felt the urge to share it. It was actually one of our actors, Sarah Ware, who after the first workshop production of Dancers pushed us to share the play with a larger audience and then beyond Columbus. So we’ve been to London at The Courtyard Theatre and now we’re here at FringeNYC. And we’re staging a play in translation, originally created by a woman director, while overcoming the traditional 10-year translation gap! It’s my dream come true!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Devised physical theatre with a social slant. I find inspiration in a lot of dance-theater companies (Peeping Tom, DV8, Frantic Assembly) and in contemporary design and architecture. I like work that is precise, exact, and extremely visually stimulating.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I have a long, long list, but I will just pull three in no particular order: Diane Paulus, Sasha Waltz, Felix Barrett.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: A Season in the Congo that played at The Young Vic in summer 2013. I’ve never been moved by a theatre show as much as I have been by this production.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Oh, lord! Mmmm…maybe if it were a feature on an international, isolated boarding school in the middle of Wales with 90+ countries represented and I (and I mean Lena Dunham) would just waltz in and out a few time, I could get on board.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Kantor's Dead Class. It is fascinating how a piece of Theatre can re-shape the culture of many nations in a single night. That is power.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Listing countries I want to visit and researching what I’d see/do once I’m there. I have the travel bug.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:  A computational engineer. Equations and logic puzzle are fun. I blame my 8 years in boy scouts.

What’s up next?: Finishing off the PhD, bringing Dancers to other festivals, and finally going on a honeymoon!

For more on Dancers, visit