Laura Caparrotti: When Doing Italian Theatre Becomes a Mission

007-COR54141I fell in love with New York at first sight, July 4, 1993. Then I returned in 1996 for work, telling everyone that said I would stay there, that I’d be back, but I was wrong.

Laura Caparrotti tells her story seated on a rooftop between Broadway and 5th Avenue with the enchanting, flawless voice that could only belong to a theatre actress. Born in Rome, she got her degree in Theatre History before going on to work with artists such Dario Fo, Annie Girardot, Elsa Wolliaston. Then, after about ten years, she decided that Italia couldn’t provide all the things (enormous and delicate) that were tugging at her inside. So she moved to New York and soon understood that her own country, once too tight a fit for her, could instead be an enormous resource for her, something she could bring to the pubic as something precious, something that, to paraphrase Dario Fo, could create a crack to drive certainty into a crisis. Today, she directs KIT-Kairos Itay Theatre Inc. (founded in 2000), a company dedicated to bringing italian culture to the world at large.

What were your first jobs in New York?

I started working at The Kitchen, an authentic New York theatre, where you can still feel the influence of the Beat Generation of the seventies. And I also worked the Italian Cultural Institute, where they asked me, almost immediately, to do performances in italian. Then, little by little, I started to do things, get around, see things, understand. I didn’t think about doing it, I didn’t think about doing what I do. Many italian actors that were here, it was like they didn’t want to be associated with italian theatre, they wanted to be one-hundred percent american, and I understand that, my choice was a pretty decisive one. Even today, I don’t audition, I dedicate my mind, body and soul to this; my mission is to do theatre and to do it well. And my taste, my interests, come from the italian theatre. Today, I feel like a granny, the first that started to do italian theatre here, and when I see how things have evolved, it really moves me.

How have things changed?

First of all, today, you travel more. It’s just as normal to spend a year out of town somewhere, or travel the world as it is to arrive in New York. This might be because of a greater necessity to get away, to have the possibility to express yourself in a Country that knows how to open up to you. Many actors, today, a lot of artists, come here to do everything, and, often, they aim at doing cinema because they see that in Italy they won’t get that chance.

How do you put up a show, here in New York? How does it differ from Italy?

It’s easier to compare with regards to the theatre of today, because, strangely, it used to be easier. In America, a lot of things are different and better; first of all, there’s nothing like the S.I.A.E. [the italian organisation that protects authors rights], you deal with the author directly. And there are less bureaucratic hoops to jump through, for any play you can deal with things like insurance based on the size of the theatre, things are made to fit specific needs and situations. Here, in the U.S., theatre is considered a business and not a pastime: people go to the theatre. There’s a need for art, theatre is important. We started from nothing, with nothing, and we were able to make a name and have an audience.

b060fa1e-033b-4202-abe2-6917616376faIs your public made up more of Italians or americans?

Surely a big slice of our public is made up of Italian-americans or Italians, but there’s a little bit of everyone really. I never intended to do anything clever. Actually, I’m often told that I do very sophisticated work, but I just do what interests me.

What’s the best way to promote a show in New York?

The social networks are important, any and all of them. And good old word-of-mouth, and, undoubtedly, if you get a good review in the New York Times, it’s a grand slam.

Is it difficult to get a writer from the New York Times?

Very difficult.

What does that depend on?

It depends on the theatre you’re in, how long the show has been going, the PR you have, the subject matter. If I do a show on the mafia, the day after, I’ll have the writer I want. That’s how it was when we read some passages from “Gomorra”.

Love Like Cancer production – Greece 2015

Tell us about “In Scena”, the festival you put on every year… 

In Scena” was started in 2013, the year dedicated to italian culture in New York. I liked the idea of bringing theatre made in Italy on tour throughout the five boroughs, which was an overwhelming task, and sometimes the actors found themselves working in front of un-filled houses. It’s all done with very little money, because, fortunately, there are many organisations that give us spaces at rock-bottom prices or even for free. The goal, of course, is to get the New York Times to come. We’re planting the seeds, and to see entire schools come, and not just italians, it’s really satisfying.

What are you working on now?

We have a small tour of “The Decameron”, our 2104/2015 season. In November, we’re going to do the staging of a text we did a reading of in the first edition of the festival, and then we have the entire 2016 season of “In Scena”, of course.

What’s the most beautiful thing about New York?

The fact that it’s everyone’s city, where you can make your plans happen or even just have the liberty to think them up.

Are you happy?

I’m very happy! Sometimes it seems unreal and I’m glad I’ve done what I do and to have had a family that always supported me. That’s the most important thing.

by Alessandro Parrello



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