Interview with the winner-Fortunato Calvino

The Italian language winner ex aequo of the third edition of the Carlo Annoni Playwriting Prize, in 2020, was Fortunato Calvino, with his play La resistenza negata. It is going to be performed at the opening of this year’s Lecite/Visioni Festival, on 22nd May 2021, at the Teatro Filodrammatici in Milan, by the Carlo Annoni Prize: a sign of rebirth for theatre, which is going through a painful period.

Fortunato Calvino is a filmmaker, director and award-winning playwright: he won, amongst others, the Premio Giuseppe Fava in 1995, the Premio Enrico Maria Salerno and the Premio Girulà in 1996, the Premio Speciale Giancarlo Siani in 1997, the Premio Teatri della Diversità in 2001, the Premio Calcante in 2002 and 2009, with his plays Cravattari, Maddalena, Malacarne, Adelaide, Cuore Nero.

His plays have been succesfully performed in many national and international theatres.

What do people not understand about diversity and so why is so important to dedicate a playwriting prize on this matter?

The Carlo Annoni Playwriting Prize fills a “dramaturgical” void in a country like ours, full of contradictions and where for some years now there has been a strong return to hating the “different”. Attempting to marginalise him in society.  I think this attempt failed thanks to the Associations that fight against homophobia, thanks also to culture, cinema and theatre, where finally the cliché of the 70s disappears giving a more real image of the LGBTQI world. It is a long way, and increasing the intolerance that now poisons our country (and not only ours). This issue is mainly due to politics (especially the right-wing one), which instigates to hate the different, increasing intolerance, and violence. In this situation, a playwriting prize such as the Annoni gives many authors the opportunity to write on a subject that until a few years ago was only a minority topic. Today, more than in the past, there is a transversal public that is very interested in these issues, a public that filled the theatres until the pandemic erupted. Now, unfortunately, they are empty.

Can you tell me an anecdote about your victory?

When I arrived in Milan I found a busy, vibrant city. But when I went back to the hotel, which was near the Central Station, I found out that I was the only guest there, which made me feel a bit uncomfortable. And I confess that I couldn’t sleep at all that night.

What has your victory of the Carlo Annoni Prize meant to you?

A recognition of a long militancy on these themes where I wrote other plays such as: La Camera dei ricordi staged in Milan in 1995. A playwriting prize such as the Annoni in a context such as the Piccolo Teatro is a great gratification for someone who has written and dedicated himself for a long time to these themes and not only these. It is also a help in finding a production, and La Resistenza Negata will probably be staged in the summer.    

Can you give any advice on how to write a play to the dramatists?

I have always had a goal, that of touching on untouchable, uncomfortable themes, or themes that are still taboo in today’s society: and this has led me to be an author who has earned his own personal space in the world of playwriting. This is my advice: keep away from the usual dynamics, but try to be unique in the themes you address.  

What do you expect from the future after this global situation that we are living?

I expect that all this will end and we will go back to the theatre… and this will happen, not immediately of course. This Pandemic has shown us how fragile we are. That we should love our earth more; I have not stopped writing during this time, and I believe that over the next few years there will be many plays about this terrible moment that the whole world is living.

Interview with the winner-Joseph Aldous

Joseph Aldous won the English Language Award of the Carlo Annoni Playwriting Prize in 2020 with his play Get Happy.

Joseph Aldous is a writer and actor. He completed the Soho Writers’ Lab for 2018-19, on which he wrote his first full-length play, Get Happy. He was also part of the Soho Writers’ Alumni Group for 2019-20, and recently developed a second full-length script commissioned by the Oxford School of Drama.

What do people not understand about diversity and so why is so important to dedicate a playwriting prize on this matter?

I think it’s important to reiterate that diversity isn’t a kind of ‘one-and-done’ vibe – one of the reasons why continued diversity and representation are so important is because so many voices have been – and continue to be – kept out of conversations for so long, that we’re only really scratching the surface; but I think people sometimes feel as though because a certain type of story has been in a theatre or on TV then that’s it, job done. We need more stories, more protagonists, more worlds. It needs to be in constant growth.

Can you tell me an anecdote about your victory?

I was in the restaurant I work in when I found out. I saw an email with a rejection for something else and thought ‘yep, another one, there we go’ – and then 15 minutes later got the email telling me I’d won. Quick turnaround! Then my lovely manager poured out some wine for us all at the end of the shift and I got appropriately plastered.

What has your victory of the Carlo Annoni Prize meant to you?

It’s been such a wonderful thing. More than anything, it’s given me confidence and hope that my work might be enjoyed by people, and might resonate. It’s the first play I wrote, and everyone at the Carlo Annoni Prize has been so supportive about it, so it’s been really special for a writer like me, at the beginning of everything.

Can you give any advice on how to write a play to the dramatists?

I feel like I’m absolutely not the right person to be giving advice on that at this point! But advice which I give to myself (pretty much hourly) is to follow my gut, and write what you know you want to see. All the other aspects will fall into place – but that’s where your essence is.

(I think.)

(I hope.)

What do you expect from the future after this global situation that we are living?

I think that it’s not going to be easy for a while – I’m bracing for that. But I’m hoping that this cauldron will spur on some absolutely necessary change. This situation has exposed so much ugliness ingrained in our society, that I hope that when we move through this current moment, we all remember it, and work towards a kinder, more loving future. And that no-one ever votes for the Tories again. Thanks!

Interview with the winner-Mark Erson

Mark Erson won the English language award on the first edition of Carlo Annoni Playwriting Prize, in 2018, with his play Mark in Venice. Here is an interview with the author.

What do people not understand about diversity and so why is so important to dedicate a playwriting prize on this matter?

While there are many contests for playwrights to enter, we do not always know how gay-centered stories/scripts will be received.  There are many theatres around the US that have to be concerned with how such stories would be received by their patrons.   Another challenge of producing theatre in a hyper-capitalistic system. Contests like these help voices that have not typically been present in the theatre to have a place to be and to be celebrated.  It ensures development of new stories and new voices.

The year after my win, I wrote a play about daVinci that I would have never written if I hadn’t been encouraged by the contest organizers.  In doing so, I learned about daVinci and what a hero the LGBTQ community has in him.  Recently, commercial TV in the US has depicted him with little truth about the man.  A contest like this can also help our community claim and tell a history that has otherwise been hidden and even hijacked.

Can you tell me an anecdote about your victory?

I was able to come to Milano to receive my award and participate in the celebration.  A true high point in my life.  Because I wrote a story that lifted up a coming out story to live in harmony and equivalent to a spiritual story, and since I am a openly gay pastor serving a parish that welcomes LGBTQ people, there was more discussion about me as a pastor than me as a playwright.  But that was okay.  My play, MARC IN VENICE, is definitely born out of my own spiritual journey and coming to terms with my own identity.

What has your victory of the Carlo Annoni Prize meant to you?

It was such incredible validation and affirmation.  I’ve written a good number of plays.  Most have been self-produced.  Winning told me that someone else saw value in what I was writing.  Since winning I have been more prolific and am writing with a greater sense of confidence.

Can you give any advice on how to write a play to the dramatists?

Look at your own life for ideas.  Not to write autobiographical plays, but to see the themes and passions that have fueled your journey.  Write what you know intimately.  And play the “What if” game.  Take an actual event or story idea and then start to ask: What if this happens or that happens.

What do you expect from the future after this global situation that we are living?

I want to believe that, like the renaissance that followed the plague of the 14th century, we will come out of this with new understanding about what is important, what feeds us, what is essential to our well-being.  May the gift of 2020 be a refocusing (pun intended) and may we come out of it with a better vision of what is valuable.  Of course in my opinion, the arts are at the heart of this re-birth.