Today is Theater Day, but theaters are closed. And the lockdown may continue

A sad World Theater Day, which for the second year in a row is celebrated with closed theaters. And perhaps the lockdown will go on until April 30. But is it possible to find solutions to open safely? Some are trying to suggest something.

Today we celebrate World Theater Day, an anniversary born in 1962, which for the second year in a row, however, has to do without theaters, at least in Italy and other countries where, as in ours, more or less extensive lockdown regimes are in force. And this in spite of the illusions that the public had after the openings of politics: the minister of culture, Dario Franceschini, had in fact opened up the possibility of reopening theaters, at least in the regions in the yellow zone, precisely on the occasion of World Day. Result? Today, no region is in the yellow zone, and not only that: in fact, it seems that the anti-Covid steering committee is considering a decree-law that will effectively abolish the yellow zones until April 30. Thus, a continuation of the lockdown is looming: until May, no theaters, but also no cinemas, museums, archaeological sites (despite the fact that they are safe places, where it is extremely difficult to get infected).

What has been the response of the Ministry of Culture so far? The trend toward welfarism. With the support decree, emergency funds were refinanced: 200 million euros that will be used for special allowances reserved for cultural workers. And then again 35.9 million for artists and workers, 25 for traveling shows, 10 to compensate cancelled shows, and 5 for suppliers of goods and services. And then funds to support performing arts entities, as well as for exhibitions and museums. But the problem is that there does not seem to be the possibility of a dialogue aimed at finding ways to open limited and safe. “In Italy,” said Minister Franceschini referring to World Theater Day, “it was supposed to be a day of celebration, a date of a first restart. Unfortunately, this is not the case: the serious health emergency did not allow for the reopening of theaters and cinemas, which was already planned in the yellow zones, as unfortunately all of Italy is in the red or orange zones.” According to the owner of the Roman College, “the time will come soon when they will reopen, and until then we will continue to help artists, workers and all those involved in the performing arts and support them with extraordinary measures.” However, at the moment it is not possible to know when the time will come to reopen, and it is especially unclear what the conditions should be to allow reopenings. Is it possible that in orange or red zones theaters (as well as museums or archaeological sites) are such high-risk places?

Reactions on World Theater Day

The world of culture, however, now seems less willing to accept impositions. The occupation of the Piccolo Teatro Grassi in Milan, which took place this morning by about 50 workers of the Coordinamento Spettacolo of Lombardy, takes on special significance in this context. Italy is thus timidly following the wave of what happened in France, where several theaters have been occupied since the beginning of March (at the moment there are more than seventy institutions in which the protest continues, which in several cases is also supported by theater directors, and local administrations).

Also taking to the streets today are the precarious workers in the performing arts: in squares throughout Italy, workers who will join the mobilization called by CLAP - Chambers of Autonomous and Precarious Labor - are meeting to reiterate the need for income and a structural reform of the sector that goes beyond the emergency and addresses the problems that have plagued the sector since long before the outbreak of the pandemic. CLAP heralds and looks forward to “a long spring made of struggles, to restore voice and prominence to all the workers who are paying the highest price of the crisis, who do not intend to resign themselves, who demand dignity.”

In Macerata, the popular and singer-songwriter song festival Musicultura has chosen the week of March 21 to 28 for the festival’s live auditions, which are being held at the Lauro Rossi Theater. Since the 21st, the artists have been taking turns on stage at the theater, every night, behind closed doors and therefore without an audience, but with the theater’s staff working, since for this edition the auditions are being broadcast on live TV and streaming. “It is good to see again at work so many of the workers who unfortunately have not been able to work this year,” said festival director Ezio Nannipieri. “We do not provide solutions; we wanted to keep a light alive with the hope that, after this past year, we can finally arrive at a legal framework that, on the one hand, recognizes the intrinsic value of artistic creation and, on the other hand, guarantees entertainment workers protections for those periods of inactivity that are inherent in their profession.”

Among the most influential voices from the theater world to rise today is that of actor Giancarlo Giannini, fresh from a drama with Rai’s Leonardo, where he plays Verrocchio. For Giannini, there is nothing to celebrate today. “World Theater Day? And what is there to celebrate? It’s a disaster,” he declares to Adn Kronos. “Long live the theater, yes, but the theater is closed, they never think about us, and there are so many people who haven’t worked for a year. Keeping theaters open would be possible, doing it safely, because the best vaccine is to keep the distance and that can be done. But of course, if you then decrease attendance too much at a movie theater or a theater they can’t even pay their expenses.” However, Giannini does not underestimate the risks of the virus: “it is a nasty beast, going through it is no fun and you have to be very careful not to catch it and take every necessary measure. The Italians, during the last lockdown, behaved very well, because we are like that, we are very good.” And as a result, according to the actor, “if they kept it open, as they do in many northern countries, and said you can go anywhere but keeping your distance and taking security measures, we would be very good, the best of all.”

What to do?

What to do then? Is there any waiting to be done, or can points of balance be found? The Pd’s new group leader in the Senate, Simona Malpezzi, is leaning toward the wait-and-see tactic, which means waiting for vaccines to allow for a return to normalcy. “On World Theater Day,” she says, “my thoughts go out to the world of live entertainment, to the many artists, technicians, and workers. It hurts to know they are standing still. I am convinced that by accelerating on vaccines we will soon return to breathing art and culture in our wonderful theaters.” La Scala theater superintendent Dominique Meyer suggests vaccinating the artists, “I understand the very difficult political situation, everyone wants to be prioritized, but if you want to reopen the theaters you can by getting them vaccinated. I can wait, those who work in administration can wait, but these artists who cannot wear masks, if you want to reopen, you will have to vaccinate them. We don’t want to be treated better than the rest of society, but we are simply saying that if we want to reopen the theaters, we have to do it.” However, this is an impractical course of action, since vaccines are meant to protect the fragile population (i.e., the elderly and the weak) and it is to them that precedence must unconditionally go.

A balanced solution might be the one suggested by actor Moni Ovadia, director of the Municipal Theater of Ferrara, who from the columns of the Resto del Carlino does not spare himself from thundering “an inadequate and ignorant political class,” because with the closure of culture “the nourishment of the soul has totally failed. It is time to reopen.” Ovadia to suggest a possible solution to safely reopen: “A guaranteed return to 40 percent of the total capacity of the halls would be desirable. With this percentage of audience and related ticket sales, along with public subsidies, the theater can hold. Alternatively, one could think (similar to what has happened in clubs and restaurants) of installing a Plexiglas barrier between seats. Obviously, the entire audience would be obliged to keep their masks on throughout their stay in the theater. This would reduce the risk even further, especially since even for entrances and exits there would be no major problems since they are generally orderly audiences.” Will there be a willingness to engage in a discussion with the parties (not just the theater, but all of culture) to find forms of openness that can ensure both the needs of containing contagion and those of the sector, which is among the hardest hit?

In the photo: Parma, Teatro Regio

Today is Theater Day, but theaters are closed. And the lockdown may continue
Today is Theater Day, but theaters are closed. And the lockdown may continue

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.