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      Who was Mrs. Pirandello?

       
      By
      Jun. 3, 2015

      Montreal actor and writer Michaela Di Cesare is jumping back into the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival waters with a new play that she both wrote and stars in.

      In Search of Mrs. Pirandello tells the tale of the writer’s search for Maria Antonietta Portulano, the wife of Italian Nobel Prize-winning playwright Luigi Pirandello.

      “I always liked Pirandello’s work, starting from when I was in school,” Di Cesare explains.

      “Whenever I worked on his plays, I read up on him. There would always just be a footnote about his wife. A lot of scholars just called her crazy. And that was it,” she continues.

      That footnote Di Cesare often came across simply read: “The great burden Luigi Pirandello carried was his wife, who went insane. She persecuted him with an unprovoked and crazy jealousy.”

      When it came time to think about her next play, she knew she wanted to write about the mysterious Mrs. Pirandello. Di Cesare received a grant that allowed her to work on the play under the mentorship of Micheline Chevrier at Imago Theatre in Montreal. So began her yearlong Playwright-in-Residency at the theatre.

      It would only be during a research trip to Pirandello’s hometown in Sicily that Di Cesare began to realize what her play would be about. There wasn’t much information to be found in the town, but she came across some letters written by Maria Antonietta Portulano in the town’s library. The locals turned out to be quite helpful.

      “The play pretty much wrote itself during the trip,” Di Cesare admits.

      “The story is about one woman’s quest to find out how a woman becomes a footnote. It’s about a Searcher who goes to Sicily in search of Mrs. Pirandello and how that quest changes her life.”

      “I always said that after 8 Ways I would never write another quest play. And that’s exactly what I wrote,” she muses.

      Di Cesare’s debut play, 8 Ways My Mother Was Conceived, made its Montreal premiere at the 2011 Montreal Fringe Festival. Since then, she has performed her one-woman show in Toronto, New York, Hudson, Ottawa, and most recently, Winnipeg and Stratford.

      Di Cesare sees the Montreal Fringe premiere of In Search of Mrs. Pirandello as a stepping stone to the bigger and more elaborate production her original script dictates. A wonderful opportunity for theatre artists, the Fringe Festival has strict rules about a play’s running time, set up allowance and set design.

      “There’s a version of this play in my mind that is big and grand, on a big stage, a big professional stage.”

      In Search of Mrs. Pirandello is directed by Cristina Cugliandro and features Di Cesare, Davide Chiazzese, Chip Chuipka, Mike Payette, and Nadia Verrucci. The play opens this evening (June 3, 2015) at the Rialto Montreal Studio, located at 5723 Ave du Parc, and runs until June 20, 2015. For a full listing of show times, please visit www.montrealfringe.ca/spectacle/in-search-of-mrs-pirandello/.

      For further information about the 25th Annual St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, please visit www.montrealfringe.ca.

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