African-American Larry White receives the International Gramsci Prize for Theatre in Prison
Urbania (Italy) hosted the XVIII International Conference of “University Scenes for Theatre in Prison”.
The 18th edition of the Theatres of Diversities International Conference, titled “University Scenes for Theatre in Prison”, attracted presenters from all over the world.
A closed door meeting of the members of the Executive Committee of AITU-IUTA (International University Theatre Association) preceded the Conference. The event was organised by Vito Minoia, the Director of Aenigma University Theatre, under the patronage of the Carlo Bo University of Urbino and by the Municipality of Urbania, with the support of the Italian Ministry of Heritage, Culture and Tourism (MIBACT), and of the Marche Region, with the participation of the Ministry of Justice and with the Italian Representation of ITI-UNESCO, the International Theatre Institute as well as the Italian National Association of Theatre Critics (ANCT). This edition was characterised by an intensive two-day conference. Mayor of Urbania Marco Ciccolini opened the Conference on November 4 with his speech, followed by the message of the AITU-IUTA President, the Canadian Jean-Marc Larrue. The Conference got to the heart of the matter thanks to the contributions of American researchers Maria S. Horne of the University at Buffalo - New York and Chelsea L. Horne of American University - Washington DC, of the South Korean professor Chi Woon Ahn of the Hoseo University in Seoul, of the researcher Elka Fediuk of the University of Veracruz in Mexico, of Isabel Cristina Flores Hernandez of the University of Puebla in Mexico as well as of Graciela Muñoz of the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Lo Spacco Theatre Company (from the Villa Fastiggi Prison theatre group) performed together with the students of the Galilei middle school of Pesaro in a crowded Bramante Theatre. They presented ESODO (Exodus), a performance directed by Francesco Gigliotti, assisted by Romina Mascioli and accompanied by the live music performance of Giovanni Scaramuzzino. The evening ended with a concert by the Scaramuzzino Family with classic Repertoire as well as ethnic mandolin music.
On Sunday, November 5th, the packed conference schedule included several contributions. First, a video interview between Mariano Dolci, puppet master, and Mimmo Cuticchio, marionette master, on the origins and evolution of this ancient theatre art. Nicola Savarese and his presentation of the book written with Eugenio Barba was followed by an interview of Zeina Daccache, Lebanese director and pioneer of drama-therapy for prisoners with psychiatric disorders in Beirut, and Fra Stefano Luca reporting on his social theatre experience in developing countries. Michalis Traitsis, director and pedagogue, reported on the artistic focus of his work at the University of Ferrara and at the Giudecca female prison in Venice. Ron Jenkins, theatre professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown - Connecticut made an interesting video and audio contribution on his prison theatre project on Dante’s Divine Comedy. The final day was marked by the International Gramsci Prize for Theatre in Prison, which was awarded to the 82-year-old African-American Larry White. He spent 32 years in a prison in the United States and wrote a survival manual for men and women condemned to life sentences. The manual, “Hope Lives for Lifers”, is based on the principles described by Paolo Freire in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, which inspired Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed”. Larry White is considered a hero by every US prisoner thanks to his commitment for a prison reform. He spent his time advocating for other people’s freedom, and even though he is now a free man, he often goes back to prison to give inmates hope.
The XVIII edition of the Conference ended with the moving performance testimony by Annet Henneman. Engaged in the war zones of Iraq and Palestine, she wants to let the world know about the tragedy experienced by young women in those countries.