In a lazy, foggy and desolate day in the deep North chaired by Lega racist party where it is difficult to find anything that looks like good theater, I browse my daily diet of news and in a Neapolitan newspaper, my hometown. I discover the story of Bustheater.
It captures me, torments me and I decide to know all the unspoken.
Three young friends who have never lost themselves despite distant lives delve into a twelve-meter bus transformed into a theater (and occasionally a cinema) in an abandoned factory in San Giovanni a Teduccio, deep east of Naples once packed with futuristic international factories, just meters away from the first Italian railway.
With the ‘sack’ of the Savoias (Italian royal family, ed), those companies that grind discoveries and wealth were ‘transferred’ to the north of the country, thus beginning the never extinct southern ‘question’ at its tragic! anniversary, when Italy was unified.
Many historians will speak – and after them social scientists, without any politician healing it – of a de facto annexation of a composite country by a minority kingdom.
Certainly from the end of the 1800s the immeasurable gap in the index of wealth, life expectancy, now also of births begins … That of happiness and that of education have not been able to widen it …
I reach Ilaria with a video interview that you will not see but that I want you to imagine from the words that I transcribed as they came.
One Bustheater, three minds: your life in a few lines exactly where it starts
Only I, Ilaria Cecere, 34, converse with you as we dismantle the lights for a setting that will see us guests in a special event in an Aversa theater … But I speak, ideally holding the other two friends and minds of Bustheater, adventure and co-owners of the Bus: Roberta Ferraro and Alessio Ferrara.
Roberta is a sociologist, she comes from a whole other world and works in social cooperatives where she deals with second generation migrants. She and I have been friends since we were 15, maybe even earlier! We met because we were part of a group of secular boy-scouts (in Italy there are the catholic and the laic ones, ed)!
Alessio and I have been linked since high school where we met through fraternal friends in common and we have a similar training path since we both graduated in Naples from Antonio Monetta’s body mime school (Decroux technique, ed).
We also experimented by learning the art of stilts at the school of Peppe Zinno: they still have a long-lasting and resistant theatrical reality that has brought so much art to the eastern suburbs of Naples in twenty years in a small space in San Giovanni a Teduccio.
We got to know him, we went to him to be instructed and have stilts built, so we became waders and acrobats.
I started making theater when I was 12, Alessio a little older. And then he went to Berlin to specialize in a more circus-styled course.
I stayed here. I kept firm the conviction to stay in San Giovanni a Teduccio, near Naples and near the sea.
Working in the contemporary research theater, I tried to stay here as an actress and author, making my debut with a more traditional show at the age of 24 like Malamore, it talks about Camorra’s women. Alessio has always followed me through the most important awards (Riccione, Sant’Arcangelo, Scenario …) and with the company I was with before, Teatro di Legno.
Over time I got closer to our first passion, street theater and circus.
I have collaborated with contemporary circuses and very beautiful realities such as CiRcO PaNiKo (nomad collective composed of more than 25 artists, equipped with 1 yellow circus tent with blue segments, active since 2009 throughout Europe as a contemporary circus company, ed).
I chased the first traveling theater that I encountered in my life and that really enlightened me, the ex Capra Grassa, the current company of Brunette Bros. They have a small horse transport truck from the 70s that they style for surreal vaudevilles, they too had a theatrical and circus origin and one of the owners is a very good scenographer as well as an actor.
It is important to abandon the sectoral idea of roles for such a project – the actress, the director … To make a circus you need to know how to do everything. Not that we are, but we aspire to be circus performers who know how to set up a tent, make lights, write a show and go on stage.
How much bureaucracy and above all how many disappointments or surprises has your business reserved to you up to now, from the foundation to the search for tenders and funding?
We have had all the disappointments from this point of view.
If I tell you what we went through to try and get categorized according to the current bureaucracy … Canceled events and everything you can easily imagine.
Taking article 69 in southern Italy is impossible, after three years of filming we discovered that it is impossible, truly impossible to obtain it.
Only the first year we managed to stay in the square in Naples, the wonderful Piazza del Gesù Nuovo (one of the most stunning antique squares in the former Greek part of the city, ed). It must have been luck, it must have been that Luigi de Magistris (the current mayor of Naples, who came from a meteor formation in Italian party-ism and is a former magistrate, ed) was still in the height of his political forces, however we triumphantly entered the square and for five days we made a beautiful festival. We were scared like few other times, it was our first release, it was a Christmas, we had just bought the Bus in October (it was 2015).
Tell me where did you find it …
This is also a beautiful story to tell (and to read, hopefully!, ed).
The year before I had taken a camper also to follow my previous circus theater collaborations more autonomously also because without a camper it is nearly impossible.
The following year I decided that it was important also in Naples to try to put together such forces.
Roberta and I had already experimented with a four-hands collaboration by creating a reading on a trafficked woman. We decide to brainstorm to participate in a call by Invitalia (an Italian very bureaucratic public company, the National Agency for Investment Attraction and business development, ed): each brings her own idea and we discover that … we have brought the same idea! Take a mean of transport and transform it for theater and other activities.
At that point, with sparkling eyes, I show her a video of a company once subsidized by ETI (the Italian public founding body for theatre, ed), the Teatro dei Sassi di Materia. After thirty years of a fantastic career, in recent years they bought a bus with a regional tender won for the purpose and intended for women only. Soon after they closed.
Both with glitters in front of youtube we immediately fall in love with the Bus. But do you know who sent me that video? My boyfriend at the time – we now live together but at the time we were not a stable couple: he was the son of a director who collaborated with that theater at the time …
Almost a fate …
What do I have to tell you, I felt invested by this thing … The Invitalia Call continues for us until the final phase when, in pushy and hard-faced Romanaccio-style (the typical dialect spoken by Rome residents, ed), they tell us ‘how do you plan to make all this money?’ And obviously there deny funding.
We had presented a rather incredible project with a roof garden and hydrogen engine … They really.. say no!
We got home so frustrated…
In the meantime I talk about the Bus project with Alessio who had accompanied me to see him in Montalbano Ionico, near Matera, parked under a canopy.
He never believed in public calls, he trusts more in private funds. He was working at the school where he graduated, Die Etage in Berlin, as a circus theater teacher. And he says ‘why don’t we buy it?’
The bus costed 36,000 euros and we found the funds from the number one social welfare in Italy, the best call for things like that (given that for an app or a technology tool you can find the funds with your eyes closed): the parents!
Crowdfunding brought us another 2000 euros. We fought against time, on one hand there was Equitalia (the State debt recovery company, ed) that was taking the good from the company, on the other a German guy who wanted to buy it.
Within three days we bought it. And we took it to Agerola, where the Mayor hosted us. There I had a show in a festival, On the Path of the Gods, and we had an excellent relationship (my mother is from Agerola, I don’t frequent the relatives too much but I love them and the place). We put it in an unused multipurpose center and started a long artistic residence. I remember that he said something very beautiful: “do as if you were at home”. Luca Mascolo hosted us almost two years, a man (beyond the fact that he was mayor) who really helped us.
We found other people who helped us along the way, there in Agerola. A bus owner gave us new wheels …
Have you learned to drive a bus?
No, we have learned millions of things but this was not the most important.
We were lucky enough to meet beautiful people like our current driver Giacomo who loves us and follows us. To drive such a vehicle with three axles you need a great expert. You have to learn to listen to any noise and know what it means, how to learn to change the diesel filter when it stops in the middle of the road (and we run also out of gas!), When the clutch burns in the snow … You have to think about many things to perform the shows, so it takes a lucid and capable person to drive a mammoth vehicle …
Mentors or teachers seen elsewhere who, like meteors, have crossed your skies and have convincingly ‘contaminated’ you?
I have teachers in my heart, but there is something in contemporary theater that convinced me to say no and to embark on the Bustheater. There is something wrong with its methods of dissemination, in how it approaches the audience, something in the circuit of funded theaters and in research theaters that gets stuck, that is far from people.
The traveling theater experience that has most illuminated me is the Chilean Mastodonte Theater. What prompted me to move to the other side of production, distribution and placement in the theater beyond the Ex Capra Grassa and CiRcO PaNiKo, were also the Aviera and Camillo.
I saw a possibility of subsistence that classical theater does not have.
The actors are far from the possibility of real self-diffusion: beyond if one takes me, if the other takes me, if I manage to win the important prize that if all goes well, it places me in two theaters .. It is not only circuitry, it is also the audience of the traditional theater that has dismissed me. Or aspiring theaters, or insiders or operators. I missed people, people.
Contemporary theater is very self-referential, I agree
I didn’t want to make theater to be just me … (she says it in Neapolitan, ed) or with someone who is already making theater. Whole families come to the circus. The other day a family moved in with us with their camper and they spent their holidays where we were assembled.
A family made up of a Livornese father, a mother of Brazilian origin and a long time in Tuscany, their daughter. After the tenth replica she witnessed, we dressed her and made her do a piece on stage with the trapeze artist, she deserved it!
Often you use food (and not just popcorn when your bus turns into a cinema) or anyway the taste, including a bar, to make your all-round proposal suitable for kind of healthy socializing. How much did the place where you work (and where you were born) influence you in assuming this configuration?
This is a practice of all traveling theaters. Among the first real traveling theaters in Italy, the Teatro di Girovago e Rondella, a family theater that mainly deals with puppetry. They have two smaller vehicles which are very different from ours but they also had a refreshment point. The Capra Grassa made sweets (in caravans) of an incredible goodness.
Many hours are spent in the theater of this type, which is life itself. Food is part of life. Having a drink together before and after is also important because viewers want to stay at our ‘theaters’ even when the piece is over.
The Casabar, our bar attached to the theater and located inside a caravan, was born in the last year.
Being able to give something during the show has always been important and we usually offered an infusion or, last but not least, chocolate. But before the Casabar there was no moment of sharing – when the public wants to ask for an explanation, take a picture of themselves inside the scenes …
Books and music on your desk now
I tell you the ones most related to the history of the Bustheater, it is easier for me.
Books: Melville’s Moby Dick and Joseph Conrad’s The Shadow Line.
When I took the bus, they accompanied me for the first thirty-day trip and to the Napoli Teatro Festival Italia.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years (and why did you choose American English – theater and not theatre – for your title)?
I don’t want to answer you with a joke! (she laughs, ed)
When I was 20 years old I was playing an American character called Wendy, with Alessio we did this little show for the Stable Theater for Innovation for Children Le Nuvole (Naples). It was for children aged 3 to 6, it was on the American circus …
When Mamozione from the Crane Company arrived, they called it the Grubus Theater.
We looked at our bus so much and realized that the name was already there, simple: Bustheater … It was so clear, simple, concise and perfect that it seemed useless to seek another name.
This question is tough because we have to be careful not to close next year!
After various wanderings, we landed in an ex-abandoned industrial area in San Giovanni a Teduccio because we could no longer be guests (after Agerola we’re hosted by the Municipality of San Potito), moving continuously and not being able to establish a unique relationship with a place. We also needed an indoor place to make the bus last (and we too)!
San Giovanni gathers us, it is the place of our youth, it is near the sea.
In order for the Bus to continue we need to work even harder but also need a patron or a call to welcome our specialty …. Our theater is also a theater, even if inside a bus!
What have you learned from life so far?
That the challenge is to stay together in difficulties and keep doing. Find the right synergy, don’t lose faith. It is important to get together with those who have a common vision, trying to walk together can change the world around.
For example, the three of us have been joined by a company of ten people, these people have become others after arriving at the shed. Only with the strength of teamwork, which wants a different place in San Giovanni, have we already changed the surroundings in some way. The appearance of this urbanity.
There is a young blacksmith who works alongside us: before he was very sad and he was alone, now he is happy. The neighborhood kids now come to us every Saturday.
This is a teaching that I learned by sacrificing my whole life.
I also learned that without money even the best of intentions die.
Listen to this interview on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/5sJhMbjdWTh0qRqhIj2oGq