Going through stages

by Guest Blogger

A concentrator in English and American Literature and Language, Megan O’Keefe ’11 was awarded an OFA Artist Development Fellowship to work with Dario D’Ambrosi, playwright, actor, director and founder of the Pathological Theater in Italy, a school for individuals with mental illnesses who study and practice dramatic arts as a means of expression and therapy. Megan was the director of The Glass Menagerie at the Loeb Ex last year, as well as a dramaturg for the Harvard productions Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom and Angels in America. She is trained in voice, directing, acting and dance, and plans to work in special education advocacy for arts and music programs.

I first saw Dario d’Ambrosi’s work at La Mama Experimental Theatre in New York City, as part of a puppet series. In his piece Bong Bong Bong Against the Wall, Ting Ting Ting in Our Heads, each character appeared with a full-sized puppet affixed to his or her front, and each became increasingly dependent on this "puppet barrier."

Dario was inspired to create the piece by a student in the school he recently developed as part of his Pathological Theater. This student, a 42-year-old woman with schizophrenia, used a puppet she carried with her at all times as an extension of herself and the often contradictory emotions she experienced as part of her disorder.

The experience at La Mama in turn inspired Dario to focus on puppetry for the Pathological Theater’s first international theater festival. After an American production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Australian group Aphids performed two productions: a trio of works including and based on A Quarrelling Pair, featuring marionettes and hand-held puppets; and a new work with original music composed by the Tiger Lillies featuring only puppet movement, without any dialogue.

Following the week-long residency was an Italian production of Nella Foresta, which, like Bong Bong, featured interaction with life-sized puppets. The festival concluded with In Retrospect, an original dance/theater piece by the U.S. and Colombian group LOCO7, also a resident company of La Mama. This final production featured various types of puppets: marionettes, life-sized wire figures, body puppets, and a beautiful conclusion featuring giant papier mache feet!

[Caption: A scene from In Retrospect, a dance/theater piece by the U.S. and Colombian ensemble LOCO7, a resident company of La Mama Experimental Theatre, New York City.]