Meet Bottegavaga Theater of Venice, Italy – Fringe and Beyond

Meet Bottegavaga Theater Director Alberta Toninato and troupe member Vanni Carpenedo in their home

Meeting actor Vanni Carpenedo in his homey apartment living room does not in any way suggest the seeming nuclear energy he brings to the stage. Here is a man clearly enjoying domestic bliss. The room overflows with photographs of happy family times. He gives his young son a hug and talks to him gently. Then, looking with comfort at his wife and co-founder of Bottegavaga Theater company, Alberta Toninato, he gives a systematic demonstration of the masks used in their commedia dell’arte performances. He is and emanates “calm”, in a word.

Anyone who meets Carpenedo in such circumstances off-stage will likely also drop their jaw and blink a lot to see his comic antics bring Arlecchino to life in Bottegavaga’s Arlecchino Torn in Three.

It’s not just him, but the entire troupe.

Spend fifteen minutes with Bettyna (Betty) Andriolo on the streets of Venice and you are likely to also meet one or another of her current or former students coming up to give her a hug. You know she is THAT teacher, the ever patient and warm one. But on stage she then musters hubris from her toes to become the hard taskmaster for Arlecchino that she is anything but in real life.

Bottegavaga Venice Theater
Betty Andriolo in a Venice cafe

How fun to have this peek at the real people who are these struggling artists—trying to make their art and be true to their calling.

This frequent theater writer for Chicago is very struck by the differences and similarities in Bottegavaga’s circumstances compared to artists struggling on different terrains. What’s the same is that these artists are clearly driven to create, perform, and master their craft. It’s a drive easy to see—a rose is a rose is a rose and you know it when you see it.

Bottegavaga Venice Theater
Vanni Carpenedo and his son, at home

The difference?? Bottegavvaga Theater however is not in a city with 300+ theater productions each year, let alone a Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) that has declared this the “Year of Chicago Theater”.. Perhaps these facts should chasten every Chicago theater production’s cast and creatives to take note of how every other theater has helped create a cadre of theater-lovers and the audiences they get to entertain every night.

Bottegavaga Venice Theater
(Left to Right) Alberta Toninato and Bettyna (Betty) Andriolo in a Venice square

DCASE might be touting the Chicago theater scene to bring in tourists.In Bottegavaga’s Venice, in contrast, there are times when you don’t see anyone but tourists, but not necessarily of the theater-devotee variety. Visitors flock to architecturally unique Venice to go out for a gondola ride, a museum tour, a memorable restaurant, a gelato splurge, and shopping. For evening entertainment you’ll likely find them taking in one or other of the half-dozen musical performances in Venetian palaces that will no doubt feature Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

The Bottagavaga artists have individually plied their trade all over Italy and beyond. They came together as a group – or back together—to create commedia dell’arte works that can both pierce the Venice tourist ecosystem that surrounds them, and also find a way to transport this most Italian of theater forms to a global audience.

First, they had to create their own script and transform Goldoni’s classic work into a bilingual abridged format appropriate to their prospective audience. It was written and re-written—Alberta starting the process with three different English translations. More, nearly every performance of this work changes it again, enriched by the successful improv add-on of a prior performance.

That doesn’t mean it is an exercise in performance art “let’s see what happens”. Once the working script was arrived at, they had to carve ten eight-hour days of rehearsals to bring it to performance level. In each language there is constant word salad mix-ups at work in the script. And actually, it is more than bilingual—dipping into both Venetian dialect as well as Italian proper.

Now, their challenge is to find fifteen minutes of this short play to cut. That’s the rules of the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival venue where they will be performing this August-- 50 minutes max- with twenty add-on for set up and set strike down. And, they need to muster the funds to get to the Fringe now that they have been accepted.

Bottegavaga Theater is Headed to Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Fringe this year—and next? It strikes this reviewer that Venice’s Bottegavaga Theater is exactly the type of Italian culture ambassador that the various Italian Cultural Centers in major US cities or promoters of Italian tourism seek.

For more information and to make a donation to help them attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival visit the Bottegavaga website.

 

Or, performance tickets—and best tips for nearby best restaurants—if you are touring Venice you can also be arranged via Ornella Naccari of ON-View Travel Agency, a member of the Divertimento Group.

 

Editor's Note:  Read the review -- "Bottegavaga Venice Theater Presents ARLECCHINO TORN IN THREE Review – Comedy Knows No Borders"

 

 

 

 

 

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