Spaces, Lights and Colors on Fabiana’s Stage

The journey of ‘Fatto a Mano’ in the artisanship world continues. This week, in the postcard, we want to explore that ‘Middle Reality’, between truth and appearance, that involves all the crafters of theatre.
Our interviewee is, in fact, a roman scenographer, who in these last years has designed and realized some of the most appreciated sets for theatrical productions in Rome and all over Italy.
Her name is Fabiana Di Marco, her story has to be known!

Hi Fabiana, let’s start from the very beginning. Do you have always aspired to become a stage designer? I just imagine that it’s imperative a personal talent, but not only, also professional technique training.

In Middle School, one of my classmate’s grandmother used to bring us to the Giulio Cesare Theatre (now a movie theatre), and in that place, everything started. In Art School, I had a grumpy teacher of Figure and Ornato, who dedicated his time to teach me how to ‘read’ a script and design a scenery. At that very moment, I’ve understood I wanted to be a scenographer, but how to do it… I didn’t know. I have to thank my sister who believed in me and supported me. She enrolled me in a scenography private course, where I had the great luck to have exceptional teachers, still working on stage. They made me breathe dramas, live the sets, they allowed me to make apprenticeship and commit mistakes. Among them, there was Lisa Ferlazzo Natoli, an inspiring teacher, and director. How lucky I was!

Your first working experience has been as a stage designer assistant.

As soon as I finished my first year at the Academy, I found a job as stage designer assistant for Cristina Gaetano, Francesco Scandale, and Francesco Zito, and after a while, I started working as an assistant for Alessandro Chiti, with whom I have collaborated and learned a lot for around twelve years.

Who would you consider your mentor among the directors and the scenographers with whom you have worked?

The Years spent with Alessandro Chiti are the right answer. It would not have been possible to work for such a long time with a person that you don’t admire or consider a genius. Among the first sets I’ve signed, none of them lacked his supervision.

However, all the directors with whom I’ve worked have been mentors to me. For some of them it has been easy to fall in love with their project and their visions of the text, with others the love for theatre has grown during the staging, whilst with a few only at the end of the work. Each of them has his inner world to be brought on the stage and my commitment is to believe, comprehend and render their visions physically possible. And in them, in their intuition, I believe. Giancarlo Sepe is like a river in a flood of visions and images. Massimiliano Farau brings his elegance and knowledge of the script. Daniele Salvo has a noir vision that attracts me. I love Marco Carniti for his unprejudiced courage and aesthetic taste.

Francesco Giuffrè is poetic. Lisa Ferlazzo Natoli is wonderfully “drama”… And more: Giancarlo Fares, Giancarlo Ferro and Melania Giglio, that is not only an all-around actress, but she also writes intense, concise dramas and directs them with great strength and passion.

Among the different forms of theatre, your preference goes to drama.

Maybe because it has been my first true love. It has a thousand faces, aspects, spaces, and places. The scripts fascinate me, the actors turning into characters, the lights whispering, talking, or screaming and become roles, too. I like it because in Drama theatre we all know each other, During the staging you can discuss with the stagehand, the light designer, the sound technician, the dressmaking department… You know everybody by their names. And, for a while, you live under the same roof, at least until the opening night. In short, you are part of a team that has faces and names.

If well balanced, the cooperation among scenographer, costume designer, and director can bring amazing results, even when the subjects are a bit “borderline” (just think about dancing heads and blood buckets).

A theatre is a machine that involves everybody. And if the project is clear, the idea has fundaments and the craftsmen are competent, it will be a success for all. If it doesn’t occur (and it could depend on many factors) you will try again with more experience, more skill. Theatre is a hierarchy. The director is at the top of the pyramid, but below there are all the others, and everybody works with the same target, adding their professionalism, in order to create the magic. I often remember to my students not to think of the scenery as the show itself. Our job is well done only if it coexists with the other sectors and does not betray the initial intentions. It should give, not deprive.

You had the opportunity to meet and work for quite a long time with Gigi Proietti in his Globe Theatre. Up to you talking of him, a memory, a part of him you carry with you…

With me, I carry all I’ve been able to take from the most generous and gifted person. And still, I’d like to have. I’ve worked for his production, Politeama S.r.l., for several years. I’ve had the chance to work in a unique, marvelous theatrical space located inside the Villa Borghese park. A very special place, because so it was for him. He has loved, protected, supported it. He couldn’t get enough to look at the space where the dark walnut wood and the white reign, where the sign is there, without exclaiming “Indeed, it is strong!”. For the directors that have worked at the Globe things were not always coming easy. How can you bring on stage the Shakespearean scripts without covering the Globe structure? Each of them, had, at least once, the thought of “changing” it. My job as a stage designer at the Globe, has always been to me like a “ghost”. I have made some alterations and have tried to meet the needs of the directors without disowning it. I’ve tried using iron, or small marking interventions. For example, the scenery for Gigi’s “Romeo &Giulietta” was invisible, but it was there. Some little alterations that were then resulted as functional and have become fixed parts for all the following shows. At that time I was disappointed. I was still young and I’d like to show what I was able to create. Gigi taught me to love the Globe and to see it as he was seeing it, to respect it. And I hope I have not failed.

To Gigi, to your father, a valuable blacksmith, to all the people that you ‘missed’ during 2020, you have dedicated some hearts sewed with colored fabrics…

They are not dedicated to them; I’ve dedicated them to me. Facing the difficulties to grieve in this very complicated year when sharing, hug, the other’s help is “blocked”, I’ve tried to find some alternative paths that allow me in primis to remember, to laugh, and cry in the memory. They let me give open space to my creativity and to offer a heart to whom like me want to bring it and talk. It’s not intended as a sad sign, absolutely not! In the hearts that I’m sewing there can be a sentence, a memory, names, emotions. The idea is to customize them. At the moment I’m customizing mines.

Thanks to your precious co-worker Giovanna Stinga, who helps you even when in a scenery some fabrics interventions are needed, you have created son artistic masks that can be customized: they will protect from pandemic without renouncing to our won individuality.

When I understood that, quite for a while, we would have needed the masks, I’ve thought to render them unique. I’ve learned to sew thanks to the online lesson by Giovanna last March. I have emptied drawers and linen baskets to get fabrics. My aunt gave me precious linen decorated by Enzo Russo, a stylist active in the ‘70s, for whom she worked. I’ve learned how to sew and embroider, and at last, I depicted them. The last one I’ve made, in the word of my psychologist Sara Eba di Vaio, is the “Masks of Emotions”. Each of us is having trouble getting us known. The masks can be a tool in order to communicate what the eyes, only, cannot do. They can also help in making a laugh, as the last one, dedicated to Giovanna and decorated with the word CNOFEUSD. (confused), after having forgotten the case on the sidewalk, and subsequently having come back, she didn’t find it anymore.

It seems that with the lockdown the world of theatre has stopped. Actually, there is great turmoil, waiting to reopen. Several theatres have been refurbished in order to host the public in a safe environment and many productions have kept on working…

Theatres have been stopped, but not theatrical people. We have tried to look for new expedients. We have demonstrated and plenty of people has invested money in order to render theatres safe, but we could not open, no way! We could have fascinated Italy if the government has let theatres, cinemas, and museums open after 6 pm. It would have been a dream:” Do you want to go out, go to the theatre!”

The Globe Theatre in Villa Borghese with the artistic direction of Gigi Proietti, thanks to the financial efforts of the Politeama Production, the stubborn will of Gigi, Carlotta, Susanna e Alessandro Fioroni and with our support and joy, has had a show schedule from July until October 2020, proposing new dramas and repertory, all conceived in order to respect the safety rules. And they had great success! They have given a lot to the public, which returns all the good to us because for him we are.

You in particular have been working until December…

I have worked until the ‘dress-rehearsal’ in the staging of the “Malato Immaginario” by Moliere, directed by Guglielmo Ferro, and with Emilio Solfrizzi in the main role. It was scheduled at the Teatro Quirino during the holiday season. Thanks to the producer, Rosario Coppolino, we have completed two weeks of rehearsals at the Teatro Quirino and the dress rehearsal on December 13th. The production has given us all the instruments useful to stay safe, even the quick swab. But… the ellipsis is dedicated to this strange staging that, after the last rehearsal with scenery, costumes, lights, sounds, actors’ memory, has been packed up waiting to be presented to the public.

For you one last question: have you got a wish? A new comedy on the stage, a director with whom work?

My greatest wish is that this marvelous world of the Italian theatre, that I’ve been breathing and living for 19 years, return to dazzle and make people dream again, and again, and again. Alive, with the last minute unforeseen. And I would have so much liked to stage the ‘Amleto’ directed by Gigi Proietti.