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      Mrs. Pirandello edges further away from obscurity

      Jan. 10, 2016

      In Search of Mrs. PirandelloWhen Montreal actor and writer Michaela Di Cesare wrapped her world premiere of In Search of Mrs. Pirandello at the 2015 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, she decided to take a break.

      “My plays have so much about me, so when I premiere a new play I feel very vulnerable, very exposed,” Di Cesare admits.

      But it was during this break that Di Cesare found out she wasn’t quite done yet with Mrs. Pirandello. She got a call from the organizers of the annual Wildside Theatre Festival at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre – her play had been chosen to be part of the 2016 edition.

      “I’ve had my eye on Wildside for a long time. I’m really excited to be doing the festival,” Di Cesare explains.

      When she returned to Montreal, Di Cesare workshopped the play, using audience reactions and reviews as inspiration. A staging at the Centaur would now allow for both sound and lighting design, a luxury that was not available to her at the Fringe.

      Due to scheduling conflicts, Di Cesare also had to recast some of the actors. Tara Nicodemo is reprising the role originally performed by Nadia Verrucci.

      “Tara was in the first play I ever saw, at the Centaur Theatre! She inspired me so much. We became friends over the years – Tara’s parents were customers at my family’s deli. So when it came time to recast, I approached Tara,” Di Cesare explains.

      Di Cesare admits that the experience of Mrs. Pirandello has changed her attitude about the local Italian community’s support of the arts.

      “I’m going to get cheesy, but Ezio [Carosielli] at the Rialto is an example of what the Italian community can do to help. Ezio has really been a part of the play’s growth,” she comments.

      The Rialto Theatre was instrumental in making the Fringe premiere of the play possible.

      This time around, the Italian-Canadian Community Foundation and the Casa d’Italia are among the community supporters behind the play. The January 14th performance of the In Search of Mrs. Pirandello will be followed by a fundraising cocktail organized by the Foundation.

      In Search of Mrs. PirandelloIn 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.

      In Search of Mrs. Pirandello“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. Di Cesare went on to perform her one-woman show in Toronto, New York, Hudson, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Stratford.

      “My dream with this show [Mrs. Pirandello] is to tour it everywhere,” Di Cesare admits.

      The Centaur Theatre stage is a very good start.

      In Search of Mrs. Pirandello is directed by Cristina Cugliandro and features Di Cesare, Davide Chiazzese, Adam Capriolo, Paolo De Paola, and Tara Nicodemo. The play opens today (January 10, 2016) as part of the Centaur Theatre’s Wildside Theatre Festival and runs until January 16.

      To purchase tickets to In Search of Mrs. Pirandello, please visit

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