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Italian Theatre Troupe Begins Residency

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May 10, 2005

An audacious, multi-racial, one-of-a-kind theatre company combining actors from Africa and Italy will be at Northwestern University for a month-long residency from May 9 to June 10 culminating in performances June 9 and 10 of “I Polacchi” (“The Poles”) at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The troupe, which will work with Northwestern undergraduates, also will present three free, public events May 16, 17 and 27on the Evanston campus.

Teatro delle Albe has won international awards for its performance pieces re-examining Western theatre classics in light of the massive immigration of people to Europe who, to many Europeans, only yesterday seemed impossibly foreign.

At 4 p.m., Monday, May 16, Senegalese actor Mandiaye N’Diaye and Albe theatre director Marco Martinelli will discuss the impact of African immigration on the Italian cultural scene, and the theatre group’s efforts to fight the stereotyping of immigrant groups common in Italian media. Titled “Representing: African Cultural Work in the New Europe” and sponsored by Northwestern’s world renowned Program of African Studies, the 4 p.m. lecture will take place in the Seminar Room of the Program of African Studies. A reception follows at 6 p.m.

Teatro delle Albe actors will give a lecture/demonstration of their vocal and physical techniques and discuss their artistic goals from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 17, in the Theatre and Interpretation Center’s Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theatre.

From 5 to 7 p.m. in Friday, May 27, the theatre company’s director and actors will discuss their work in an evening dedicated to the Friends of Italian Culture. Established by Edward Muir, professor of history at Northwestern, the group focuses on matters of Italian interest. The event will take place in Room 108 of Harris Hall.

Five members of the theatre company will be in residence at Northwestern University to teach, lecture, and stage a new version of a piece based on Alfred Jarry’s early avant-garde Ubu Roi, renamed “I Polacchi.”

Albe’s work combines traditions (the African “griot” or storyteller, Italian Commedia dell’arte, European avant-garde) and languages (Italian, Wolof, French, English and more) into a festival in which everything stolid and static becomes a plaything in the hands of change. Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” for example, becomes a sensual nightmare; the group’s “Moor Arlecchino” – which won Italy’s most prestigious theatre prize -- transforms one of Italy’s national symbols (Harlequin) into a confused immigrant newly arrived from Senegal.

At Northwestern, director Marco Martinelli will teach undergraduate students the great Italian theatre tradition of the Commedia dell’arte, a form of masked improvisational performance born in the Renaissance. Students will not only study the form, they also will invent and perform original scenes based on the traditional characters of the Commedia.

Members of the Albe theatre also will conduct an acting workshop for undergraduate actors in a unique training method combining European avant-garde techniques with the African tradition of griot, a storytelling musician and entertainer.

For further information about the Teatro delle Albe’s residence program at Northwestern or their Northwestern events, call (847) 467-1987 or e-mail ths907@northwestern.edu.