«Istrioni che si beffano di noi». Chronicles of Italian Theater from the Age of the Great Actor to the Era of the Director
19th century Italian theatre is chiefly related to its interpreters’ vicissitudes. Actors are professional performers, the heirs of the commedia dell’arte artists. They still conceive acting as a job handed down from father to son. Yet the roles related to masks and stock characters are abandoned, and are replaced by characters whose parts has been written in full by the playwright. The large number of acting companies that are formed and disbanded over a few seasons, fit in a wide network of personal relationships, irrespective of the audience’s support. The desire to uphold the best performances, so that they are not just ephemeral events, is often hindered by everyday life problems. This is confirmed by autobiographical books, actors’ memories, stage chronicles and anecdotes and advertisements. A useful support to theatrics comes from literature and from pictures; these challenge the idea that the fate of this art is to die away night after night, with the final curtain. Over half a century the rise and fall of ‘the great actor’ as a pivotal drama category takes place, with the contribution of prestigious writers, playwrights and critics, but only in the 1930’s the situation will dramatically change, when the function of the theatre director starts gaining new status in Italy as well.