PhD student organises online theatrical performance

Wednesday 23 June 2021

St Catharine's postgraduate student Elena Emma Sottilotta has helped to organise an online theatrical performance on the power of creativity and imagination on behalf of the Cambridge University Italian (CUIT) Society. Dedicated to Italian children’s literature writer Gianni Rodari (1920–1980), and under the guidance of professional theatre director and actor Ludovico Nolfi. The Gianni Rodari Virtual Theatre Show - “L’alfabeto della creatività: un omaggio a Gianni Rodari” was launched in Italian with English subtitles on 16 June and it is now available to watch on demand.

Gianni Rodari was a renowned journalist, teacher and children’s literature writer, the centenary of whose birth was recently celebrated across the world. In 1970, he won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for his seminal contribution to children’s literature. Rodari’s thought on the importance of creativity as a vital impulse for personal growth, learning and socialisation seemed to Elena very inspiring in this dramatic moment for the whole world and for our community of educators and students.

Rodari’s message of hope and optimism was applied to a collective project which involved approximately twenty enthusiastic members of the CUIT Society, with little or some experience in acting, who took part in this initiative on a volunteer basis, guided by an attentive and scrupulous director that managed to draw maieutically from each of them the best of their inventiveness. Elena selected and adapted a variety of excerpts from Rodari’s tales, nursery rhymes and pedagogical reflections on hope, creativity and the art of storytelling. Ludovico Nolfi kindly accepted to embark on this project and offered his talent and expertise to direct this online performance. Alessandro Celona, one of the actors who participated in the performance, contributed his skills to editing the video and inserting the subtitles in English, which were previously created by the theatrical group. Starting in February and ending in June 2021, this truly collective effort generated a spark of creativity among its participants, as can be seen by the imaginative illustrations created by Claudia Iorio, one of the other actors involved in the project. In addition to Gianni Rodari, this show was dedicated to all the actors and theater workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Elena joined St Catharine's in 2018 to embark on a PhD in Italian. She commented:

"Inspired by Rodari’s conception of the error as a creative tool, we have all managed to get involved despite the constraints of the online medium. Just like 'a stone thrown into a pond', borrowing from one of Rodari’s metaphors from his Grammatica della Fantasia (1973), the initial idea of this project branched out and expanded in various directions almost by magic, leading to artistic drawings, photos and translations of Rodari’s texts, in a choral dimension in which everyone was able to freely express their creativity. The most important result, in addition to the final video of the performance, was precisely this widespread feeling of hope towards the future, thanks to the reciprocal encouragement and cohesion that permeated all of us over the course of this project. We hope that this performance can bring some lightness and food for thought to whomever may watch it."

On the new website hosting the Gianni Rodari Virtual Theatre Show, it is possible to watch the video of the performance and the teaser trailer, and explore testimonials of the participants, a visual diary of the “backstage” of the performance and unpublished translations into English of several nursery rhymes and tales by Gianni Rodari, made collectively by the theatrical group.

Find out more about studying Modern and Medieval Languages at St Catharine's.