The Project


If you don’t learn it, history will repeat itself

The first date with “Voci nel Deserto” was held on February 27, 2010 in the historic neighborhood of Garbatella in Rome. It was hosted by “La Strada”, one of thirty community centers that are able to drive experimental culture in Rome, creating an alternative rivalry between “high” culture sponsored by official theaters and mass culture driven by television. On that occasion, 14 actors walked onstage, some of them already famous, others for their first experience, even though it was difficult to tell the difference. From the first phase of preparation to the final scene, the project has always been a collective work: no director, no names, theater volunteering we could say. At the turntable DJ Tuppi was mixing fragments of freedom of thought with fragments of sound taken from the reality of our day, to excerpts of Italian trash-comedy tracks. The result was a multifaceted blob that made people dance, between the past and the present, for about an hour and a half. Since then, the Voices in Rome have risen in many other theaters and spaces, such as Centro Cuturale Elsa Morante, Teatro Biblioteca Quarticciolo and Teatro Quirinetta, totaling tens of performances and gathering about 15,000 spectators.
More than four years after the collective was born, the number of artists has risen to 150 all over Italy and beyond. The project moved into other theatrical experiences: it has been supporting demonstrations for rights (e.g., freedom of the press, Constitution, Emergency); it has been flash mob in the streets and subway stations; it has been free meetings in front of Radio Popolare’s microphones with those willing to speak out and be heard. It has been introduced in schools (Liceo Tasso e Liceo Torricelli di Roma) and universities (Facoltà di Fisica della Sapienza, Istituto Europeo di Design) at the request of the students, to give voice to a new collective and educational experience.
The fragments of freedom of thought closely related to current events have been selected. The first 250 of them were collected in a book. Now there are 500 and the second volume is about to be printed. The website, together with the Facebook page (more than 4,000 contacts) and YouTube, is intended to be a meeting point for those who want to participate by contributing to the collection of fragments (still ongoing), by promoting the project, or even replicating it freely.

The project today
The active participation of the audience is key to the project. They are no longer just spectators: they become an integral part of this movement of which they themselves are firstly beneficiaries, and then become active producers once they feel called to action. The recalling of memory has, in this context, been shown to be effective, instantly understandable and easily reproduced in any shape. The movement’s modus operandi is therefore the paradigm on which a new way of viewing culture as a common good can be based. Bringing theater back to the people – as opposed to bringing people back to the theater – bringing it back to schools, to the streets, using it as a civic tool of vindication, a means of awakening consciences. Using theater as a wake-up call to the healthiest and most active parts of civic society, to the effect that they in turn organize themselves into local networks and co-ordinate themselves nationally in order to have a voice and a social impact, without boundaries, and to amplify that voice so that words from the past may be listened to, and may become instruments of change.

2013 marks a year of notable developments for Voci nel Deserto, which has gained increasing visibility and acknowledgements. It was the subject of two filmmakers’ work, Iris Manca and Paolo Bravi (HDeyes), who followed the group for approximately two years and created “Voci nel Deserto – a documentary,” which premiered in Rome in March of this year. The movement was awarded the “Premio Monteverde Pasolini – Causes of dreams, Visions of reality: Award for Culture, Arts, Information and Social Work 2013” for the following reason: “for putting theater at the service of social and cultural growth, as well as of free speech – and for highlighting a precious heritage of ideas and memories.” Furthermore, no fewer than three multi-lingual Voci Nel Deserto shows will be featured in June 2013 during In Scena! Italian Theater Festival NY, an official part of the calendar of “2013 Year of Italian Culture” in the United States, under the auspices of the President of the Italian Republic with the patronage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Italy in Washington, D.C.

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