Am I very wrong in thinking that make-believe must be the most universal of all childhood games? We all traveled to far-away worlds, didn’t we? And made-believe to be this or that in castles, jungles, and star-ships? With or without dolls, toy soldiers or plush animals, alone or with other children, recreating stories heard, or making it up, rehearsing work, motherhood, war, fear, society – always halfway between a technical test of life and unbridled What If… Continue reading
The Bard, you know – and the present times, and all this uncertainty… it brought back to mind an old post, about something that happened a few years ago, when times felt uncertain as well – although in a very different manner.
Anyway, it’s a small story about the power of words in dark times – and you can find it here: Reciting Poetry in the Dark.
Apart from or the Erasmus Year in Cardiff, my University years were spent in one of the smaller colleges in Pavia, the good old Gandini, housed in a wonderful 15th century palace right in the town centre. It was a pleasant place to stay, and I made a number of good friends there – and I played cards more than I ever had before or have since.
Now please don’t go imagining things: we didn’t gamble or anything… the place was, after all, run by nuns. The College’s game of choice was, for some reason, Pinochle, and we could spend whole evenings at it, playing in two, three or two pairs… Continue reading
Giorgio was our Lighting Man. Ah well, he was much more than that. He was a pillar of the Company – had been for five decades. Head Electrician, administrator, Council member, computer wizard, box-office man, prop supervisor… there was little in the day-to-day running of the Company and the Tiny Theatre where Giorgio didn’t have a hand… Continue reading
We may all have somehow hoped, at least at the very beginning, that the skeptics would end up being right, when they said that in a couple of weeks all would peter out into awkward silence and the next Big Thing…
But they weren’t – and now the whole of Italy is tightly quarantined. To be out and about without documented necessity is a criminal offence, these days, and even to go to the grocer’s you need a written and signed statement to that effect. I’m not complaining, mind – not in the least. It has to be done – and, if it must work, it has to be done thoroughly. Continue reading
Once upon a time, years ago, I was stuck on a scene for a play. It was supposed to be a snappy exchange between two characters, one fearing for his life, and quite mad at the other for not getting the full import of the situation… As we are constantly told that good theatre (or narrative) dialogue must do, it was supposed to advance the plot and add to each character…
Except, it didn’t. No matter how I rewrote, and rewrote again, as soon as I tried to read it aloud it sounded stiff, off-key, downright wrong. I was fit to tear my hair out when my friend Flavia called to ask about something entirely unrelated. But Flavia knew me well enough that, by that small conversation about, say, rubber ducks, she could tell I wasn’t at my happiest. She asked what was wrong, and I said nothing – oh, nothing much. She pressed, and I spilled it all out. Continue reading
That’s where I am as you read. On my way to London with a bunch of theatre friends for three days (and a half) of… oh, the usual, I guess.
Mary Poppins and the Phantom of the opera, the Sky Garden, Greenwich, the exhibition on stage costumes at the National Theatre… did I say we are a bunch of theatre folk?
I’m sure it will be great fun, and I’m curious about how I function in this kind of group. I am used to travel alone or – not so frequently – with one or two close friends… I don’t think I’ve travelled with a group in… twenty years? Likely longer than that. Then again, with most of these particular people I’m used to work on an almost daily basis, so…
I can’t wait. It’s been too long since I’ve been in London. It will be fun. I’ll let you know.
More empires, then…
Vienna is, on many levels, a lovely city – but after reading Joseph Roth I was never able to see it in the same way again. Roth’s Empire, the one of the Hapsburgs, of the many ethnic groups, of my Dreiländer grandmother who gave her son an Emperor’s name, that elephantine, multilingual Empire, orderly in it chaos, austere, slow and immutable – that Empire died with Franz Josef, and decomposed with World War One. Most surely it is not to be found in the quaint patisseries in the form of the Sachertorten fed to endless tourists, nor in the ubiquitous Mozartkügeln, the girls dressed up as Sisi, the maudlin songs played in garden restaurants… Vienna has chosen a sugary image of the Empire, flattering for the national character and good for tourism – betraying the ancient, supranational and hallowed idea. Because while kingdoms are places, empires are ideas… Now a shadow of that idea only remains, perhaps, in the Kapuzinergruft in the Neue Markt. Continue reading
Now this was sparked by an exchange of mails with an archeologist friend. We came to discuss empires – falling and fallen, lost and surviving in shadows… which brought me to muse on my personal collection of Lost Empires – or, at least, of shadows I found, sometimes in strange places or in the pages of a book.
Lisbon, for instance, I found to be a strange place: melancholy, grand, and neglected, still dotted with ruins from the 1746 earthquake, with its tower overlooking the Tago, the cramped, untidy Alfama clinging around the crumbling castle, and caravels everywhere. Caravels are exhibited in museums, double as ex-votos in churches or children’s swings in parks, recur in trademarks and symbols everywhere… There is a sense of proud decay – as though the whole city whispered “let it all go to ruin, what matters now that the Empire is lost? Continue reading