The crew at Santa Monica Playhouse is about to say buongiorno to a visiting theatre company that’s coming a long way to hit the local stage. As part of a reciprocal theatre exchange between the Italian troupe Blue in the Face and the Santa Monica Playhouse, a production of Camping will be staged at the 4th Street mainstay from February 26 –– March 1. The actors will speak all lines in Italian.
Don’t worry if you don’t know your ciao’s from your cara mia’s. Evelyn Rudie, co-artistic director of the Santa Monica Playhouse, says following the story will be a snap. And after working with 11 other countries in the playhouse’s international theatre exchange program, she should know.
“The playhouse was founded by a Belgian actor in 1960, so we have always had roots in European theatre,” Rudie said.
Over more than forty years, the playhouse has hosted companies who are from or traveled to Canada, Cuba, England, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Japan and Sweden, to name a few. Rudie says the goal of the international theatre exchange program is communication and global community building.
“We feel that theatre is a necessity for our community’s health and welfare. We also feel cultural exchange between countries, states, and cities is vital in keeping the world healthy,” Rudie said. “When we did our first tour in Japan, a senator there said it was more than a play, but a bridge of peace and brotherhood between our two nations. We feel we have a responsibility to enhance communication, and show all the differences and similarities of our global community.”
Rudie said the language barriers are a challenge, but a welcome one. The concept of communicating without language and paying attention to body language, tone, inflection, and emotional indicators is part of the fun. When her company goes to Japan, they do ten percent of the show in Japanese, 90 percent in English.
“Think about when you’re in a restaurant and you see a couple talking but you can’t hear them. You often know if they’re fighting, or talking about good news, or going on a first date” Rudie said. “Audiences should not only be able to follow a play in another language, but be committed to figuring out what’s going on. The audience has more of an active role in the experience because they have to pay more attention.”
Rudie recalls performing a play titled Dear Gabby, The Confessions of an Over Achiever in Canada, Ireland, England and New York. The play dealt with teenage issues and the subject of growing up. It is very text-driven and language heavy.
“We did it in New York for an all-Chinese first generation school and they all got it,” Rudie said. “When we did it in Japan for the first time, an 80-year-old man cried and said ‘It reminded me of what it was like to be a child, and reminded me that I am still a child and will be for the rest of my life.’”
Rudie looks forward to the same kinds of reactions later this month, when Camping comes to town.
The play is about a group of hikers on a camping trip in the mountains. The journey becomes a metaphor for self-knowledge and awareness. Written by Blue in the Face founder, Mario Falconi, the play features company members from ages 18-47. A pre-show synopsis will be provided in English.
For tickets or more information, call 310.394.9779 ext. 1.