Theatre at auction! Making it live!


Rubrica: After

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July 2006. Some advertisements invite interested people to take part in the public auction announced to sell the for too long a time dismissed Teatro Sociale of Gualtieri, a village known for having been a property of the noble Bentivoglio family and located in Reggio Emilia discrict (Italy).


Built inside the original palace, realized by Giovanni Battista Aleotti, the theatre got through different cultural periods, restorations and kinds of art production. A rich history seems to have come to its own definitive end. The building and its furniture are been sold and doors closed forever.


Even if the theatre is quite no more considered, many people show to be interested and like having some bonds with it, as the auctioneer receives a number of phone calls coming from different districts during the days before the official sell is intended to take place. A really great affection for a sad event in the world of culture.


The day of the auction some hundreds people gather outside the entrance, in the beautiful place designed by the original architectures the same Aleotti did and including Bentivoglio Palace. The auctioneer leads people inside, as a kind of Virgilio, to let them visit the building one last time and consider what they could buy.


A sound breaks his words without notice, a piano appears on what had been the stalls area and a musician goes on playing with energy. Some people astonished let all and go. The most of them stay. After Music, other Muses keep on displaying, compelling the public to look for them with eyes in the most fascinating coins of the theatre, while complaining about their own being prisoners of coward money, one after one, insomuch Poetry comes telling her sorrow from inside a cage hung to the ceiling at more than ten meters high.


Not enough of shock, a Muse takes a gun and invites the public to use it, choosing who’s going to live and who’s going to die: coward money or the Muses of Arts. A last minute brave from the public grabs the gun and shoots the actor – auctioneer, who falls down while the Arts awaken and begin to live, talk and play all together inside the theatre.


At the end people, already completely astonished, are asked to grab a pick and pickaxe the minor entrance, closed from a wall, freeing the site completely from the chains of a sure end and taking responsibility of it and its new life.


No one forgot that crazy beginning, worthy of a drama by Eugène Ionesco.


Really it was only the beginning, as the public administration had already afforded some works to make the building safe and then considered there where no condition to go on. It was Maria Luisa Montanari, visual artist and designer at the Pecchini Studio, responsible for the architecture reliefs, to take to heart the all event. She dedicated some series of her artworks to the theatre to bring closer both people and the local administration. It was her to make the group of young actors fall in love with it and start a story that it’s still today a unique experience.


After the first amazing show, which had clearly a wide appeal, the group began to take care of the rooms, spending the spare time in cleaning and setting up the spaces, using also their competences of young architects and engineers, weekend by weekend for the next three years. After a new public but little fund was settled by the government and then refused, they came to an agreement with the municipality: a proper electrical system in return for a complete theatre season for 2009 summer. It was the second and successful kick for a new real life of the Teatro Sociale Gualtieri.


An hard work on shows’ selection, fund raising and further settling of the rooms was undertaken from the new born association to give a very peculiar offer, conceived on cultural basis and strong personality.


When in 2011 the team realized the work to be done was growing fast, then a new surprise waited for the public. On the autumn section Giancarlo Ilari, celebrate and versatile artist who counts a life of projects and collaborations, gave some sailor’s readings on the stall area – normally used for the performances as well as the stage, letting the choice to the players – with a scenography changing show after show, as during them the old planks to be restored were really taken out by the other actors, one by one, letting at the end the courageous Ilari alone with the only necessary room for him and an harpsichord. It finally was the way to recruit a number of other volunteers who, all in a secure way, founded the team who worked to carry on with the setting up of the theatre as it were a ship in the harbour during the winter, a season when no show can be played, because heating is missing yet.


On springtime 2012 the earthquake which surprinsingly stuck the Emilia Romagna district caused naturally some problems also to the ancient Bentivoglio Palace. Much of the work already done seemed to be seriously and sadly ruined and to have become useless.


But not too much despair, the season was carried on out in the place, with no less than more success of public than before. The autumn season section found the theatre livable again and this original adventure has gone on regularly till today, with the same passion and even more ambitious aims (


The first show evoking the Muses of Art has finally become a truth, by the choice of different kinds of sections in the offer: prose, music, a festival of poetry, a show path trought the art of the famous painter Antonio Ligabue (Zurich 1899 – Gualtieri 1965), that already led Mario Perrotta, the actor leading the project, to win the Ubu Prize in 2013 as the best actor (


The fascinating site also attracted artists as Alessandro Rizzi, whose project Theatre Translation was selected by Fotografia Europea in 2013 (, Alessandro Bonvini, who won the second Prize of 2013 edition of Short on Work, organized by the Foundation Marco Biagi in Modena, with his video on the project “Cantiere Aperto” (, and Filippo Chiesa with his video Draw Breath (, with a title and soundtrack chosen among the pieces by Ezio Bosso – also present in the one by Bonvini – the celebrated composer and musician who’s one of the most important supporters of Teatro Sociale Gualtieri, where he returns with pleasure to give his music also together with other special guests.


After the first curiosity, Theatre of Gualtieri is now becoming a benchmark in the domain, for the quality and the method, as much as the press referee Rita Conti was invited to the annual conference on the Best Practices of Theatre in Milan, March 2014. An edition that also signed the release of an interesting volume on a ten years path, wanted by Mimma Gallina, Oliviero Ponte di Pino and Franco D’Ippolito, spent in putting attention on what working in the world of theatre means, compare cases, finding and sharing better working solutions (

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