Regional Theatre in Ferrara

Written by  Maria Cristina Nascosi
Several dozens of amateur theatrical companies are active in Ferrara and district, performing both in Italian and in dialect.
The official birth of regional theatre featuring productions in dialect in Ferrara dates from 1 April 1902, when a group of amateur actors directed by Alfredo Migliari put on a highly successful production of Castalda, Giovanni Pazzi's abridged version of the play of the same name by Carlo Goldoni, followed in 1903 by L'umarazz and in 1906 by Al quarantott, both written by Pazzi.

Thanks to an unpublished manuscript by Eros Menegatti, the talented Ferrara-born film maker, we know something of the historical background of several Ferrarese regional theatrical companies: «The origin of the 'Città di Ferrara' amateur dramatics society dates from 1912, when it was founded by a group of enthusiasts; these successful productions, first staged in premises in via Coperta, were subsequently incorporated into the repertoire of the Teatro Filodrammatici, which was active until the outbreak of World War I.
In 1916 (the company) was reborn as the 'Gruppo estense'; shortly afterwards, due to increased membership, the 'Gruppo estense' took the name 'Società Filodrammatica Estense'.

Led by the playwright Sebastiano Sani and the eclectic doctor, journalist, musician and author Nando Bennati, who was the chairman, in 1922 the new group began staging performances both at the Teatro del Soldato, owned by the 14th Regiment of Artillery situated in via Palestro, and the Teatro Pepoli in via Contrari where the company established its permanent base.
In that period, the company boasted some exceptionally talented actors while the artistic director was Rolando Boscoli, who was later joined by Renato Tranchellini. When Tranchellini became the sole director, he took the performances to the Teatro dei Filodrammatici as well.

Subsequently, still under the guidance of Renato Tranchellini, the 'Filodrammatica Estense' won various prizes in acting competitions held in cities such as Bologna, Milan, Ravenna and Ferrara itself. The repertoire included plays that were famous pieces from the straight theatre of the time, but they also put on abridged versions of classical works adapted for regional theatre. 1923 marked the beginning of the production of plays specially written in the vernacular for the theatres of Ferrara. This was thanks to Alfredo Pitteri, who began with Adio Rusina, performed on 23 March 1923 at the Teatro del Soldato.

On 6 September 1931 some actors formerly with the 'Estense' founded a new dialect theatre group known as 'Straferrara'. The new group made its debut in a theatre in Pontelagoscuro with Padar, fiol e Stefanin by Alfredo Pitteri.»
In the immediate post-war period, in 1945-46, in the old base in via Contrari, the "Società Filodrammatica Estense" was reconstituted by the actor-manager Alfonso Makain.
He held the first performances at the Teatro Comunale, which had been slightly damaged by bombing, as well as the Cinema Teatro Boldini and the Teatro Verdi. The "Estense" group continued working regularly, albeit handicapped by the lack of a permanent base, until it was definitively wound up in the Sixties. With the break up of the "Filodrammatica", the most enthusiastic actors joined the "Straferrara" theatre company run by Ultimo Spadoni, who was succeeded in 1967 by his son-in-law Beppe Fagioli. Being the last amateur group left, the "Straferrara" company came to dominate regional theatre in the area.

To return to Menegatti: «In 1976 the Gruppo Teatro Minore was founded by Sara Sebastiani Schiappoli, who was also the artistic director. This group, although much less active than the 'Straferrara', nonetheless worked regularly and its repertoire was continuously updated to include even adaptations of classical pieces such as L'Avar (The Miser), adapted from Moliere and Na dmanda ad matrimoni (The Proposal), adapted from Chekhov.»

To this day many other amateur theatrical companies are active in Ferrara and district, performing both in Italian and in dialect: recent surveys point to several dozens of them, many of which prevalently composed of young actors.

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