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Alessandro Fersen Alessandro Fersen has had a long distinguished career in the theatre. He headed the Teatro Stabile in Genoa (1951-54) at the time one of Italy's major theatres, presenting world classics. In 1957 he founded his own Studio Fersen and began to pursue research linking theatre and anthropology. Since then he has lectured extensively on his work and toured with his company to introduce ideas on "mnemodrama." Fersen, who resides in Rome, is the author ofThe Theatre and After and The Universe as a Game. This interview was taped by Bonnie Marranca in New York City in April 1984. What made you give up your work as head of Italy's distinguished Teatro Stabile to begin research in a workshop situation? I began to do theatre in 1947, as a director, actor and playwright. Already in 1957 when I headed theTeatro Stabile, I felt that the theatre was not a clear goal. It was not clear what the theatre must be in society and in the life of one person who was completely occupied with theatre as a life choice. I felt that aesthetic values were not sufficient to consider the theatre an important activity in our culture. It was at this time I started my workshop. It was a school. What was your earliest program of study at the studio, and how did you find your way to anthropology research? 19 I have a great respect for my theatrical past. The first stage was to explore Stanislavsky in order to understand the mechanism of the actor. I was interested in this phenomenon: that a man at a certain moment becomes somebody else. That is a very strong psychological event which I began to study. I was still heading the Teatro Stabile. During a tour in South America I decided to leave the company and go to Brazil. I flew to Bahia where I had some contact with a tribe living in the north. This was in 1958. But my interest in anthropology dates from earlier in my past. After I obtained a doctorate I left Italy-this was the period of Fascism. I went to Paris where I followed the lectures of Levy-Bruhl at the College de France from 1936 to 1939. It was in Brazil in 1958 that I made my first field observation. Here I began to observe and study the behavior of participants in a ritual. It was clear that they reached the state of identification with their gods-it was a polytheistic religion-through two things: the technique of abandonment, coupled with the technique of control. In a codified rite you can see that there is the possibility of the abandonment of the participant in the rite to god, to the shamanic journey. At the same time there is a great control of this abandonment. When I returned to Italy I created a series of exercises to teach abandonment and real sponteneity. What relationship do abandonment and spontaneity have in your view of acting ? In theatre, actors talk about living a role and not living a role. There is a jargon about this. But the condition of the actor is an oneiric condition -one of non-ego. You speak of it as a somewhat Pirandellian idea. How did you combine Stanislavsky, Pirandello, and anthropology to arrive at the idea of the theatrical non-ego? Stanislavsky belongs to naturalism so he speaks always of living a role. All his work is constructed in order to create the condition in which actors can live another life from their own. In anthropology this point is not clear, but I think that in all ritual the identity with primitive gods and the shamanic journey are not a form of living the life of the gods. It is something different. We can understand this by adopting the language of aboriginal Australian people. They speak of the age of the dream: an era in which there was no life as we conceive it. It was a strange state in which the condition of being was in the sphere of the dream. They speak of the creation of the world that took place in the age of the...


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