- FEBRUARY 2018 -
HOME - Bridge Italy - Books - Eugenio Barba On Life and Theatrical Thought and Practice
Eugenio Barba
On Life and Theatrical Thought and Practice
The experience of Barba’s Odin Teatret is at the center of two recently published volumes.
Franco Ungaro, fine connoisseur of the great maestro’s thought and theater, traces a lucid analysis of what remains of an extraordinary and unique cultural experience
by Franco Ungaro
SHARE Facebook Twitter

Eugenio Barba

We all know that Salento gave the origins to two of the most important protagonists of contemporary theater, Carmelo Bene from Campi Salentina and Eugenio Barba from Gallipoli, or from Brindisi if we go by the city hall registrar. Their essays and literary production is on a level with their activity in the production of artistic performances; I’ve seen many of these but I’ve also read and studied many of their books, which open up enlightening glimpses so as to understand and interpret the performances and their vision of the world.

Bene and Barba are two essential points of reference for the international theater culture, absolutely unique in their ability to conjugate theatrical thought and practice, to make life and art an uninterrupted whole, the former fuelled by contemporary philosophical thought, from Nietzsche to Derrida, the latter going so far as to found a new theoretical discipline, Theatrical Anthropology. Their intellectual standing and the widespread and undisputed international recognition means that their critical writings, biographies and works crowd the library shelves and video collections both public and private, often translated into numerous foreign languages.

I cinque continenti del teatro (Edizioni di Pagina, Bari, 2017), written in tandem by Nicola Savarese and Eugenio Barba, and Odino nelle terre del rimorso. Eugenio Barba e l’Odin Teatret in Salento e Sardegna 1973-1975 (Squilibri, Roma, 2017), by Vincenzo Santoro, are the most recent volumes published about Barba. Precious works above all because they help us to delve deeper into the great director’s language innovations that are also ethical, social and political innovations, in an inextricable tangle of theatrical thought and practice. Trying to list and analyze the points of contact between these two poles means telling a unique and original story, whose beginning is the founding, first in Norway and then in Holstebro, in Denmark, of a solid “theatrical community”, that still enjoys the active participation of some of its original protagonists, from Jan Fervslev to Iben Nagel Rasmussen, from Else Marie Laukvik to Tage Larsen. It’s neither useless nor irrelevant to underline the community dimension of Odin Teatret, not only because we all know that the theater at its birth was a way for the citizens to meet in the agorà and thus a specific form of relating between people, but also because in the 60s and 70s, or even before and after that, every model and example of social change had to take the need for community, utopia and future into account. Vincenzo Santoro gives us a detailed description, full of historical and theoretical references, of the experience/experiment of the cultural barter carried out in Carpignano Salentino and shines an emblematic light on the way in which a theatrical community, that of Odin Teatret, related to another community.

For five months, in 1974, Eugenio Barba and his actors moved to the little town in Salento to prepare their new performance and started up a dialogue with the townspeople based on exchange and reciprocal gifts that each party cared most about. The people of Carpignano were very familiar with the repertoire of folksongs, dances, and traditional music of Salento, while the Odin actors knew the technical art of using the voice, song, the body, music, acrobatics, and clowning, and employed their acting skills outside the confines of the theater, often performing in unusual urban spaces. Each side bartered culture and identity outdoors, in the streets, the alleyways, the public gardens and the squares of Carpignano.

Vincenzo Santoro’s book documents all this with the splendid photos taken by Tony D’Urso, the memories of the participants and the images contained in the attached video entitled In cerca del teatro.

Barba had launched a theoretical path that was to lead him to study the diverse techniques and traditions of the actor in varying cultural and social contexts, to bring the study of actors and their traditions nearer to the study of people and their cultural traditions. Theatrical anthropology, Barba would say, is the study of the pre-expressive scenic behavior that lies at the base of the different genres, styles, roles and of personal and collective traditions.

So it was that he founded ISTA (Scuola Internazionale di Antropologia Teatrale) in 1980, and in 1982, together with Nicola Savarese, published L’arte segreta dell’attore, of which I cinque continenti del teatro (Edizioni di pagina, Bari, 2017) is, after another thirty-five years of study and research, the sequel, this time even more richly illustrated with photos and images (from 700 to 1400), and unusual for its extra-large, atlas-like dimensions, for the original mingling of texts and images, intriguing in its accumulation of material (photos of scenes and theatrical sets, but also commemorative stamps, posters, book covers), quotations, memoirs and anecdotes. A passionate voyage inside the stories and culture of actors, theaters, playwrights, directors, producers and all those whose activity has built the ever-changing tradition of the theater.

(1 – to be continued)

More articles
Culture   Mark Bradford and Wade Guyton Million dollar American art that’s taking Italy by storm Culture   “Poverty is sexist” The young ambassadors of ONE in Paris against extreme poverty Culture   The middle-eastern origin of blown glass, the pride of Venice Culture   “You don’t know the South” 
The culture of the South relaunched in Otranto Culture   Those Southern women who express the world Culture   Andy Warhol The immortal guru of Pop Art Culture   “Angels and saints in Chicago and Baltimora” Cultural exchanges between the University of Bari and the US Culture   Those farm women, thrilled at their first sight of the sea… Culture   My Puglia as seen from the UN Culture   Forty young Italians with ONE for the fight against world hunger Culture   “American Dreamers” The new dream of eleven American artists on show in Florence Culture   The Fulbright Project? An extraordinary opportunity for a cultural exchange
Books   Not even love transforms the Stock Exchange of destinies Books   And the dream of conquest turned into a mirage of the desert Books   Joseph’s Gargano Books   The tragedy of Mattmark A book so as not to forget Books   Journey through the gardens of Italy Books   When poetry investigates “time” Books   Amidst the storms of life it’s the strength of a loving heart that wins Books   That valley in the Gargano so rich in history that must not be forgotten Books   Grottaglie and its pottery through the life of the benefactor Vincenzo Calò Books   Eighty years of joyful culture Books   Sergeant Romano’s siege like in a movie Books   The magnificent eighty Books   San Marco in Lamis seen from its bell-tower Books   A great love for splendid Castro Books   Better not come home... Letters between Italy and America during the first World War Books   Story of a poet between Puglia and America Books   Worked to death under the sun of Puglia Books   When forgotten objects tell a life story Books   Masserie of Puglia Journey amidst Beauty Books   An excursion into the Salentine dialect … Mai pe iabbu Books   The moral revival of the South can start from its “best” Books   Life, anyway! Books   Rainbow of women Books   Amidst the mountains of Val d’Aosta …in pursuit of the culprit Books   …Once upon a time there was the past Writing about it to preserve the memory Books   Disorder and experimentation in the museum-houses of Ignazio Apolloni Books   Salento stories …in search of lost time Books   Pietro Marti, the great standard-bearer of Salento culture Books   Even tycoons cry Books   If a “whale” island appears one night out of nowhere… Books   From his ancestral Calabria to Roma Precious memories of a lifetime Books   The importance of rediscovering “fraternity” Books   In the wax museum to seek the dream of a better world Books   Naples “Kissed by God and raped by Man” Books   Once upon a time there was the padre-padrone Books   Second World War The drama of the fallen Books   On the Savannah lagoons …to heal Books   The meaning of the 20th century in the saga of the Stille family Books   In Fellini’s La dolce vita the germs of today’s Italy Basilicata   Craco The “second life” of a ghost town Po Delta   The Po Delta park Natural beauty and history Bari   “Cieli americani” in Bari Verona   Verona Shakespeare celebrated its beauty without ever having seen it Courmayeur   Courmayeur All the charm of the low season Ferrara   You can still dream in Ferrara Ferrara   “Action!” Amongst Ferrara’s myriad sets Music   Porretta Soul Festival The Italian Woodstock of black American music Matera   Pasolini-Matera Fifty years ago the first Gospel in the Sassi Naples   “Wood Stone and Friends” Jimmie Durham’s magic vitalism at the MADRE Naples   Art miracles at Vigna San Martino Naples   The Hermann Nitsch Museum From horror to awareness Bologna   Do you want to be FICO? In Bologna you can Bologna   Bologna “The Learned”, “The Fat”, “The Red” Bologna   At the MAMbo Arte Povera on display Polignano   From Brooklyn to Polignano Twelve artists out to conquer Europe Movies   With The Revenant DiCaprio rises again and aims for the Oscar Movies   Quo Vado? When the southern redneck turns politically correct Movies   When the cinema returns to the future Best of Italy   Andria Pietro Zito’s vegetable garden This is where his prize-winning dishes originate Best of Italy   The best Milanese panettone is… Salentine San Marino   “From Hopper to Warhol” on the gentle hills of San Marino San Marino   San Marino Historic appeal amidst breathtaking panoramas Turin   Reggia di Venaria Reale A treasure rediscovered Turin   The Egyptian Museum of Turin The immortal appeal of the Pharaohs Turin   “For President” Photogenic qualities will win the elections Padua   So much… In the city of the three “withouts” Milan   EXPO 2015 Not just food Milan   The oneiric inspirations of Joan Jonas Milan   “Autunno americano” Milan celebrates the States Milan   MILAN The metropolis is still “to drink” (…and “to eat”) Rome   “Empire State” New York is still the epicenter of art Venice   The immortal charm of the 
“Queen of the Sea” Venice   So many “Illumi/nations” with the Biennale d’Arte Rovigo   History and Art In the capital of the Polesine Rovigo   “Divisionism, the light of what is modern” 200 works on show in Rovigo