Berlin, success has an Italian accent.
Two Italians on the stage in Berlin, the city of Bertold Brecht, where Luigi Pirandello and Rosso di San Secondo lived and worked. People from Berlin love their theatres, their actors and their directors. They are ready to welcome who comes from abroad, but then they may judge them with severity. It is not an easy scene, but it didn’t intimidate Elena, from Tuscany, and Manuela, from farther Sicily. Different experiences behind them, which led them, almost by chance, to the Sprea’s banks. Berlin, after the Wall, like Paris in the Twenties, calls artists from all around Europe. You can find an affordable place to rent, you can live decently with just few euros, and everybody, either painters, writers or singers, can get an opportunity. As long as it doesn’t get wasted. After few months Elena is offered the artistic direction of an historic theatre and Manuela founds his own company. Would it have been possible in Italy? Elena Vannoni, 38 years old, was born in Follonica. «I was a talented ballerina – she tells – and my literature teacher at college suggested me not to waste time. My parents were hesitant: how can you let a child leave by herself? I had to go to Florence. Finally I found a residence run by nuns who were open to host a ballerina». […] Elena starts studying as a costume designer, at the Istituto d’Arte in Florence. She is excellent in every field. Which one should she choose? She tries to apply for the theatre directing course at the National Academy for Dramatic Arts in Rome, only two applicants per year are accepted from the whole Country. She is late for the final audition: «I was already working as a costume designer. I was risking a sure job and perhaps I wouldn’t have been admitted to the Academy». But they select her! […] Elena graduates in Rome and starts working in several theatres. «I realized that I risked to shut myself in a sort of ghetto – she says – assisting male directors or working in off-theatres». In 2006 she comes to Berlin «to see what happens». She gets a scholarship from Universität der Künste, the University of Performing Arts. […] «My German teachers tell me: you have nothing to learn, here. You should rather be a teacher yourself – Elena tells – and after a couple of months as an acting and directing professor, I meet a guy who offers me to work in the theatre he manages». His name is Hans Peter: he is an artist and he took over the Engelbrot Theatre, a theatre with an history 120 years long. She puts on stage “Miss Julie” by Strindberg. And Hans Peter offers her the Artistic Direction of the Engelbrot. Everything in few months. […] Elena prefers a repertoire that is not tied to Italy: she puts on stage “Bites”, an internationally acclaimed play by British playwright Kay Adshead and she brings it to Rome as well. […] Elena marries her Hans Peter: «We organized a surprise wedding, at the City Hall. He decides to get my last name. To him, Vannoni sounds better that his German Trauschke». […] Elena starts facing some difficulties, indirectly provoked by her success. The Engelbrot Theatre was a forgotten theatre, but now is in full swing. Unfortunately, it is owned by a bank that, of course, mainly thinks to its profit. In order to extend the management of the theatre, the bank offers an one-sided contract: remodelling the building in one year. How can it be possible? The girl from Follonica and Herr Vannoni give up and the Engelbrot is closed. A berlinese suicide. «I realized that Germans look very open at the first sight, but when you succeed and the going gets tough, they look back at you as a foreigner», Elena comments. […] Elena follows Hans Peter to Los Angeles: a new place, new projects, but she is motivated not to leave Berlin. There is thin red line: Engelbrot in German means “angels’ bread”. Berlin and the City of Angels told by Win Wenders. Perhaps Los Angeles will bring some luck. The adventure goes on for Elena and Manuela. Victories, defeats, as usual, but being able to fight is already an achievement.
in “Il caffé della domenica” Weekly magazine of Quotidiano Nazionale