The Teatro Valle, inaugurated in 1727, is the oldest theater still active in Rome; Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” was first performed here. In 2010, the budget law of Giulio Tremonti, Minister of Economy and Finance, suppressed the ETI (Italian Theatre Association), a public organization responsible for managing the majority of Italian theaters, including the Teatro Valle.
On Tuesday 14 June 2011, it was decided that the activities of the ETI would be transferred to the Teatro di Roma for a year, until a call for tenders could be launched and a decision about the future of this historical place could be made. Because of this, more than 100 people — including actors, directors and backstage technicians, most of whom are temporary workers — occupied the theatre the same day, in order to save it from an uncertain future and from the risk of privatization. The Teatro Valle has thus become a symbol of the dramatic situation of the arts in Italy.
In the past few years, theaters and other cultural institutions (including schools and universities) have been ravaged by heavy budget cuts, as well as the wasteful spending of public funds. Just to name a few examples, the historical studios in Cinecittà, pursuing the logic of profit, are going to be turned into residencies and wellness centres, while the project to build a new Palazzo del Cinema in Venice has cost more than 37 million euros, with only a gaping hole where the ground was broken to show for it.
In addition to stopping the privatization of the Teatro Valle, the aims of the movement are to build a productive autonomy free of monopolies; to obtain a fair distribution of public funding and transparency in the allocation of funds; to prevent political interference in the production of culture and critical thought; and to obtain a welfare system for workers including unemployment indemnity.
Teatro Valle has turned into a direct form of self-government and a political laboratory for imagining new models of management based on participation and cooperation. The theatre is currently open to audiences and is enjoying a renaissance: admission is free and the public assemblies are crowded. Outstanding personalities in Italian culture, such as Nobel Laureate Dario Fo, are participating in the movement. Every night representations take place, with the support and constant participation of well-known actors such as Franca Valeri, Nanni Moretti and Elio Germano. The theater also hosts free nightly shows featuring celebrated Italian singers, as well as participatory discussions and workshops. Others celebrities from Italy and all over the world have shown and continue to show their solidarity with the protest; director Francis Ford Coppola, for example, lauded the protesters during an appearance at the Venice International Film Festival in September.
The Valle Occupato struggle is expanding to the rest of the country: on 2 September in Venice, at the same time as the city’s film festival, Teatro Marinoni, an Art Nouveau jewel, was occupied. It’s another abandoned cultural space at the centre of a real estate speculation. In Rome, sit-ins have been arranged at the Teatro del Lido di Ostia, the Teatro Volturno and the Cinema Palazzo di San Lorenzo. There are so many occupations going on, that it’s hardly possible to determine how many people are involved.
[en] Website http://www.teatrovalleoccupato.it/category/english
[it] Website http://www.teatrovalleoccupato.it
[en] Article “http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/28/theater/teatro-valle-in-rome-is-occupied-by-protesters.html?_r=2&ref=arts
[fr] Article http://www.liberation.fr/culture/01012344003-tangage-culturel-en-italie
[it] Article http://roma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2011/06/15/news/roma_valle_occupato_per_protesta_salviamo_il_teatro_italiano-17720925