One of my favorite Shakespearean plays, “Winter’s Tale,” already opens with the crisis which will determine the next years of suffering. For no comprehensible reason, King Leontes of Sicily decides that his wife Hermione is unfaithful, inhabiting the bed of his best friend. This insanity immediately destroys his world. He orders that their daughter Perdita is taken to the countryside to be killed, causing his beloved wife to die of a broken heart. His best friend, Polixenes, abandons him, disgusted by his madness, and Leontes lives the next 15 years sequestered in his home, a broken soul.
We theater people have many stories to tell, but we’ve lost our public. We find ourselves likewise at home, haunted by our personal ghosts.
“What is theater, without a theater?” many theater people ask themselves today, and the question cannot but resonate with Hamlet’s more famous question.
On an undertow of anxiety and depression, with gusts of anger, many theatrical responses to that question are nevertheless being born: Improvisation, with a capital “I”, has become an existential skill. They are still perhaps quite hidden, these responses, like the tadpoles in our last audioVideo: still small, still disorganized, but seen from above, not without a singular vitality.
Just today, we’ve finished writing a piece on Helen Keller. It was to be interactive theater, with massages, food, and many tactile stimuli. Covid changed all that: now we are exploring radio theater. We do our honest best with the material at hand: improvisation.
Like many other theater people, we utilize digital media to communicate. The big brother at Zoom already knows everything we have to show.
But big brother will never know us at la Luna, not really, because the “being” of our “To be or not to be” doesn’t pass through so-called “social media.” Our “social” doesn’t know “distancing”, only “nearing.”
La Luna’s response to today’s crisis is sculpted, fully and finally, by the natural place which we inhabit:
Alessandro has created a magnificent kingdom of chickens, donkeys and grapes— beside the expanding herb and flower gardens— medicinal, olfactory, visual— which Natascia has generated in these months, with the help of Pia and Michael, who is also assisting Angel in inventing a new cuisine, largely influenced by our own produce.
All of this is newborn research, already ready for the first visits of adults and children, also in little groups, also at the necessary safe distances.
As was the case in May, we are obliged to cancel our public June events. But at the same time, we are organizing small groups of our differently-abled friends, to visit the sensory park in the forest grove we already planted a dozen years ago (in unconscious preparation).
As soon as it is allowed, we will open this park up to the public, in particular to the children, who have perhaps suffered more than others the effects of sedentary isolation.
A propos isolation, whatever happened to the solitary king, abandoned to his madness?
I won’t tell, you’ll have to see for yourself. (In Internet? Can theater live in internet? Or, dare I say it, in that dusty book on your shelf?) I will only say that, as in Shakespeare’s other “romances,” the story brings many surprises (including the difficult stage direction “exit, chased by bear.”), and all ends well, better even, then the king deserves. (But forgiveness is fundamental to Shakespearean comedy.)
Here at la Luna we are convinced we will find the way to finish well, beyond whatever we actually deserve.
Also our XVIII summer theater festival will find its voice in this new world, although we can’t yet say exactly what melody. As in Shakespeare’s romances, something must die, to make way for new birth.
‘The Winter’s Tale”, by nature’s nature, generates a “Spring’s Tale.