From 25 to 28 May 2022, Teatro Libero, the ‘free’ theatre of Palermo, Sicily, opened its doors to the 16th edition of Presente Futuro, an international performing arts festival dedicated to emerging artists under 35 from Europe. Contributing to the cultural life of one of the most vibrant and multicultural cities in southern Italy, Presente Futuro operates within an international and growing network of performing arts. This year’s festival combined 13 performances of experimental theatre, dance, contemporary circus and everything in between. This hybrid programme usually includes uncompleted works up to 20 minutes long, whether short works-in-progress, excerpts or longer pieces adapted to this length. These creations ‘compete’ with each other for different awards that will enable the selected artists to develop their ideas and eventually complete their works within a year’s time frame. Although the 20-minute time limit creates a common axis for their evaluation by the jury, the spatio-technical adaptation, which is limited to the possibilities of the hosting institution and the conventions of the festival-taster, may alter a work or a concept and render the selection process unfair for the ‘competing’ artists.
In this frame, one selected artist may receive financial support equivalent to €1500, a one-week residency and the presentation of the completed work at Teatro Libero (Presente Futuro award). The rest of the selected artists are granted residencies to the partner studios and theatres: Between the Seas cultural organisation in Greece, Teatro Comunale La Fenice di Arsoli in Rome and Teatro San Materno Ascona in Switzerland.
The winner of this year’s Presente Futuro award was Sara Lupoli with Rosarosaerosae – The Skin of Images, who also received a residency award at Teatro San Materno Ascona. It is an eerie work that combines movement and videos projected on two constructed screens – one covered with white folded fabric, perhaps a wedding dress turned into a projection screen – and suggests a topography of the inner world of a woman. It begins with a startling superimposition of the performer’s image projected onto her own body, clothed in a transparent blouse with red brushstrokes symbolising violence upon the female body. Short delays between the projected images of the self further distort Lupoli’s physical body, affirming the impression of a battered woman – as if Rosa, Rosa and Rosa, the three names of the long title, were looking for internal peace and reconciliation with each other. The overlapping projections on Lupoli’s body also create outstanding optical illusions reminiscent of multi-perspective cubist paintings. Wim Wenders’ desert images from Paris, Texas paired with Ry Cooder’s original soundtrack of the movie, and the projection of the lake of indifference taken from La carte de Tender (inspired by Madeleine de Scudéry’s novel Clélie, Histoire Romaine), are suggestive of trauma, loss, loneliness and ignorance, and the quest for true and mutual love. The beginning is undoubtedly ingenious and promising but the rest of the work left me looking for more originality and cohesion – which, since it is an unfinished project to be developed further during the year, is perhaps a positive aspect.
If Rosarosaerosae manages to draw a performative cartography of the female soul, Wake Up! by Marcella Meloni reflects further on femininity. It is a physical and amusing work based on circus, puppetry and clown technique that creatively uses props and object animation through the body to portray the obsessions of another female character (by coincidence also called Rosa) who is isolated in her home and gradually rebels against the conventions and stereotypes of femininity imposed by western society. Its light and humorous tone certainly makes it accessible even for a non-expert audience, but I was perplexed that it received both the Between the Seas award and the award by Teatro Comunale di Arsoli (Rome). Since the latter prize is named Per un Teatro Necessario (For a Necessary Theatre), my expectation was that another piece, Pornodrama2, would have been a more ‘necessary’ recipient of this award.