PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 26.2 (2004) 16-25
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The Universal the Simplest Place Possible
Romeo Castellucci, Societas Raffaello Sanzio interviewed by Valentina Valentini and Bonnie Marranca Translated by Jane House
Romeo Castellucci, with Claudia Castellucci and Chiara Guidi, founded Societas Raffaello Sanzio, one of Italy's most radical-thinking contemporary theatres, in 1981. Since that time the group has created many productions, including provocative stagings of the classics of Shakespeare and the Greeks, including Hamlet, Julius Caesar, the Oresteia, as well as mythic texts, such as Gilgamesh. Societas Raffaello Sanzio also sustains a unique children's theatre, a school, and produces books and conferences on their work. Based in the Adriatic city of Cesena, Italy, the company artists bring together theatre and the visual arts—and often, animals, children, actors, and non-actors—in productions that draw upon philosophical, literary, and visual ideas. Performed in nearly a dozen European cities, each as a singular creation, is the latest project, Tragedia Endogonidia, which unites art and science for a new reading of tragedy in the contemporary age. This interview was conducted in Italy, in June 2002.
Much of your theatre work has been the staging of classics by Shakespeare and the Greeks. What draws you to tragedy?
A spiritual connection exists between us and the classics; through them it's possible to reconnect with the individual and with the universality of the individual, it is also possible to find the familiar as well as real solitude. A kind of reverse action shot is involved. Work with the classics demands that we confront the traditional, but that is precisely why the work can surpass the traditional, but never in a literary way. Therefore one mustn't tackle these classical texts as a superstitious person who believes the classics to be safe; quite the opposite. One must make an effort to put them to the test of fire, in order to better determine their supportive structure, which leads exactly to the revelation that they speak to everyone, to the frail and private nature of every individual. And the book, as object, is no more. [End Page 16]
How does it relate to your work?
The new cycle of work, on the other hand, is dedicated—and it's the first time that this has happened—to a work outside the context of literature, outside the context of great books, books of the past; outside the "book," yet it's still work that is part of the discipline of tragedy. We could define the structure as classical, but the tragic form has so influenced individuals, society, and culture through the ages and has become so much a part of our psyches that it can appear in new aesthetic forms in our contemporary world. So, this new cycle of work has what I'll call a universal structure, and as such it presents more basic problems. The universal is the simplest place possible to free oneself from narrative structure, from the burden of narrative, and thus also from the burden of the written word, from its visibility: the word should go back to being invisible. My tragedy project is called Tragedia Endogonidia or Endogonidial Tragedy. "Endogonidial" is a word taken from microbiology; "gonidial" refers to simple living forms that have inside them two gonads, thus both sexes, and they consequently reproduce through an endocrine system. The price they have to pay for being able to reproduce themselves is not conjunction, union, but division, a perpetual division of themselves. These living things are immortal.
The interesting thing was to contrast these two words. Tragedia or tragedy is something that is part of our history (or at least the history of this side of the planet); its structure has a place at the origin of our consciousness and our culture. "Endogonidial." on the other hand, is a word that falls completely outside culture, in the sense that there is no culture in this process of reproduction and survival. So while tragedy is a mechanism to...