Abraxa Teatro (Italy)

Abraxa Teatro


A long time ago, in September 1976, driven by a deep sense of internal dissatisfaction, I asked myself if I should continue my studies, which I had almost completed, and my daily political activities, which were intensely active, or try to look for something different that I couldn’t exactly define. Back then I was attracted by theatre but I hadn’t any true knowledge of it. Suddenly, simply after watching some traditional theater performances, the idea of being part of that world began to sneak inside of me, that world that so strongly used to draw me inwardly. The truth is, as a human being, I was looking for a way to evolve and I realized that politics wouldn’t give me the chance to do it. It was a time when it was much easier to feel like creating something from nothing. So I decided to use all my desire, resolution and enterprise and started calling on friends and anybody that might be interested in theatre: my group, Abraxa Teatro, was thus founded in 1981, a professional company, and I became its coordinator and Artistic Director.

In 1986, a French scholar, Jean Marie Pradier, who previously visited Abraxa Teatro to learn about our art and techniques in training and scenic composition; asked me what was it that “burned inside ourselves”. I had already explained to him our aims and the practice we had developed to reach them but he carried on insisting, and I continued to answer in the same way, without understanding the hidden meaning behind his words. Eventually I figured this out, and became aware that everything I did with and because of theatre was the outcome of a fever that flooded me and led me to choose theatre over and above anything else. A constant frenzy connected to the deep necessity to explore, the desire to discover and the will to communicate. From then on I have always thought that what connects my vision with that of my fellow group members and other partners, was the fever which embodies the very soul of Abraxa Teatro.

As Heraclitus wrote in ‘fragment 91’ about the nature of things: “You cannot step twice into the same river…”. The rudiments on which the work of my group was founded were absolutely simple because they consisted in recognizing the dynamism inherent to human beings, the shift from microsecond to microsecond, the chance to identify yourself and then be what you feel like being in that particular moment. Nowadays Abraxa Teatro has its path and its own theories and practices but we never forget the masters that have contributed to creating this path of knowledge: Jerzy Grotowski, whose work we learned about through meetings, writings and videos and whose last performance, Apocalypsis cum figuris, we watched in Rome, left an indelible trace in our young imaginations. These connections established the very first ideal, the earliest mysterious hints of a possible destination for our group, dedicated to the consciousness of the human being-actor and his individual and shared way of evolving; Eugenio Barba, director of Odin Teatret, who I met during a session of ISTA in 1981 in Volterra, has been for me (and for all of us) illuminating, literally speaking, because he allowed me to glimpse, like lightning in the sky, the path I was travelling and what I was looking for without finding it. Our connection based on respect and affection has always been essential: knowing him has been an invaluable opportunity; Sergej Michajlovič Ėjzenštejn, studying his lessons of direction and watching his movies became my true theoretical guide along with all the countless artistic decisions I have made as a theater director.

Over the years, Abraxa hasn’t contented itself with just being a theater company with a history, research profile and development line; rather we have always looked for “life” on stage and beyond, making ourselves proponents of a performing culture, by which we mean a dynamic expression of innovation and a means of connecting with audiences and redefining spaces. By the end of the 1980s, Abraxa had started a brand new genre of theatre in Italy: Urban Theatre (not to be mistaken with Street Theatre) through its first performance situated in Rome’s underground. We went on to establish two organisations in order to carry on and develop this particular field of action: the University of Urban Theatre (dedicated to the scholar Fabrizio Cruciani), which is currently celebrating its 27th year of activities, and the International Festival of Urban Theater, which has just concluded its 22nd season. The scholarly book, The Adventure of Urban Theater: the Research and Experimentation Of Abraxa Teatro, edited by Professor Clelia Falletti, served to define this unique path. These are but a few of the projects that are still kept alive by the core members of the company, composed of Emilio Genazzini, Massimo Grippa and Francesca Tranfo, who all focus on the ways in which theatrical research can be integrated and interact with the current social fabric. Our “fever” is looking for contemporary outlets and we incessantly promote theater as a means of artistic expression for our deepest needs and feelings.