Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stefano Nicolao & Carnival, The Show

Let's start with the Venetian costumer, Stefano Nicolao. I sat down to write about him, glanced at the clock, and, instead, ran out to the supermarket before it closed. I dashed over to the Billa, and who should be standing in the produce section, but Stefano Nicolao!

Here was our conversation:

Cat: I was just about to write about you, and here you are. I was going to write that only a man with coglioni can cry in front of an audience. And everyone clapped! When you spoke about your great appreciation for your family... it made me cry, too.

Stefano: You have to understand that I hadn't seen many of those people for 10, 20 years. And that moment... as I was speaking about my family and the culmination of 40 years of work, it just hit me...

Cat: After your speech, after the food, right before the show, I found myself sitting in the theatre next to your aunt. She told me that your mother supports you, sacrificed for you. She said that your father supports you; your daughter loves your work; she said that your wife was your assistant. She said the entire family was involved. Your aunt said that all this family energy lifts you up, up, up... and I was so moved to hear it. Because it's the opposite for me... and I imagined how different life would be to have the support of an entire family... to have all that extra energy instead of doing things on one's own. That's another reason why I was crying.

(Stefano's made costumes for the films Elizabeth, The Merchant of Venice, Casanova, etc., etc., as well as stage and television. If you click the title above, you will arrive at the Nicolao Atelier website.)

We spoke in further detail, and then agreed that we must shop before the store closed (it was just about to close, and we were both just beginning to shop), so I zipped off past the jams.


Last Thursday, May 22nd, I had an invitation to go to the Theatre of San Gallo to celebrate 25 years of the Nicolao Atelier di Stefano Nicolao (right now, the lobby is full of their costumes), and then afterwards, to see Carnival The Show. I had been curious about Carnival, The Show, because I'd seen the advertising around town. To me, it sounded very touristy; not something that locals would be interested in. So, this is something I would not ordinarily attend, except that there was the Venetian costumer, Stefano Nicolao, before the dinner and the show. I honestly did not know what to expect... and I wasn't going to stay after Stefano Nicolao's speech... except the dinner I was supposed to attend got confused, so at the last minute I decided to gulp down some of the buffet and stay for the show.

WITH THAT CAVEAT, I sampled some of the food after the stampede had already galloped through, and I found the remainders to be rather ordinary, but served in attractive plastic tumbler things... Well, the appetizers were fine. There was plenty of wine/soda/water to drink. There were so many people attacking the food at the same time that I didn't try too hard to get any, but the little I got was lacking in flavor. Now, I am not a great connoisseur; usually you can put anything in front of me, and I will eat it. I can, however, judge a good pasta e fagioli, and this pasta e fagioli was not up to par. I don't know if they have adjusted the food to suit the tastes of the tourists... maybe that's what it is. In any event, if we judge the food on were there any leftovers...? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Maybe one kernel of rice. So, the majority of people did enjoy the food! To be fair, I would guess that this was a special evening, and that ordinarily the audience does not descend en masse to graze. Perhaps it was because we were all gathered together prior to the buffet to hear the speech, and then poured out into the dining area at the same time. It would be interesting to see the theatre on a "normal" night. I would imagine that it is better organized, since people would trickle in as they arrived.

THE SHOW, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. It was unexpectedly good -- the actors were good; it was professional and enjoyable. It made me miss Venice and the way life used to be before the soulless Corporate Invasion. It reminded me of a theatrical production I did long, long ago in Southern California. It was an outdoor dinner theatre, and I was playing the part of Karen Andre in Ayn Rand's play, The Night of January 16th. The food was equally strange... I can't remember, like a box lunch dinner. Carnival, The Show, has absolutely nothing in common with the Ayn Rand play except in my own mind -- it conjures up a dinner-theatre memory... old-fashioned in a sweet way. Professional, but not slick. So, if you have ever been to a dinner theatre production in America, it is sort of like that.

There is a very thin plot, which is that the Atelier, or studio, of this costumer, is creating the costumes for Marchesa Luisa Casati, who lived in Palazzo dei Leoni, which is now the Guggenheim. She was having a grand ball, and running around declaring: "I want to be a living work of art!" On stage, the actors are creating costumes and reminiscing. The narrator states at the beginning that it is not in chronological order. It's a hodge-podge of Venetian history, touching upon major events and interesting personalities in an entertaining and amusing way. THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND! When Venice had a sense of humor... In fact, the next night, Friday, I ran into my Dear-Old-Friend, Ludovico de Luigi, To Whom-I-Had-Stopped-Speaking For-A-Very-Long-While But-Still-Love-Despite-His-Evil-Ways, at the opening of Joe Tilson at the Bugno Art Gallery, and we both agreed that there seems to be a general LACK OF HUMOR on the planet these days.

Anyway, back to Carnival, The Show. I just LOVED it. Really. It was strangely moving. I sat next to another journalist, and we both were laughing and crying at the same times. Due to the presence of Stefano Nicolao, there were lots of Venetians who would not normally be there that night, so, it was a special night. So, I would say: go there for the show, but don't expect great food. At least Carnival, The Show has a sense of humor! It's an entertaining Venetian history lesson, mingling facts, legends, gossip, scandals -- just like real-life Venice:). They use the space well, mixing live action with digital projections -- something I always love. I am a firm believer in mixing film with live action, opening up all sorts of possibilities for expanding the entertainment.

I predict the next step in live theatre will be more audience participation. Well, everyone has been trying to break the Fourth Wall since before time began, but because of reality TV (which I have seen once in my life at my sister's house in California -- it was quite enough), people are now used to it -- in the Ayn Rand play mentioned above, there were 12 jurors picked from the audience every night. They sat on stage and decided whether I was guilty or innocent. That was cool:) In fact, maybe over there in the States you have already annihilated the Fourth Wall and I just don't know it because I don't read/watch the news and I haven't been over there for some time.

ALL VISITORS TO VENICE should be required to watch Carnival, The Show within 24 hours upon arrival, and then take a short quiz:)

To sum it up, it was as if I attended three separate events on the same night, at the same place.

1. Nicola Atelier di Stefano Nicolao - celebrating 25 years - with the costumes on display at the Theatre of San Gallo.
2. A mad, crazy buffet.
3. A wonderful theatrical production set in an Atelier much like the real-life Nicola Atelier; thus the tie-in.

Ciao from Venice,

P.S. I did immediately spot an error -- they have a printed Timeline in the program, and they say that "Venice was founded in 421 (conveniently on St.. Mark's Day, April 25)." Well, Venice (as we all know:) was founded on Friday, MARCH 25, 421 at the stroke of noon right downstairs at Rialto at San Giacometto. And another marvelous coincidence is that Stefano Nicolao, too, was born on March 25th!

Carnival, The Show
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1 comment:

  1. If you want to know the truth of the fabulous Marchesa Luisa Casati, visit www.marchesacasati.com