We are Not Alone (Tutti non ci sono), first presented at La MaMa in 1980, stars Dario D’Ambrosi and is about a psychiatric inmate victimized by neglect in the outside world. The seminal play was written as a reaction to the Italian Mental Health Act of 1978, which was the first law to reform the psychiatric system. The work is a call for help and understanding vs. indifference and fear.
Dario D’Ambrosi is a former professional soccer player, one of Italy’s leading performance artists and originator of the theatrical movement called Teatro Patologico. Hisplays investigate mental illness by grasping its vital artistic and creative aspects with the intention of restoring the “dignity of the fool.”
The NY Times’ D.J.R. Bruckner wrote, “Any piece by Mr. D’Ambrosi is about each member of the audience. A viewer who surrenders disbelief for a moment will be carried away in an unimaginable world of chaos, wit, bewilderment, mirth, anger, disgust and a kind of sweet sadness, and will leave it with a sense of relief and loss.” In the ’80s and ’90s, D’Ambrosi marched irresistibly into the forefront of Italy’s theatrical ambassadors, a cohort led by Pirandello, DiFilippo and Dario Fo. In 1994, he received the equivalent of a Tony Award in his country: a prize for lifetime achievement in the theater from the Instituto del Drama Italiano (the equivalent of the TONY Award in this country). D’Ambrosi first performed at La MaMa in 1980 and has been in residence there nearly every year thereafter. He has written and directed over 16 plays, acted in 18 major films and TV movies, and written and directed three full-length films. Fifteen of his plays have had their American premieres at La MaMa. In the US, he has also performed at Lincoln Center, Chicago’s Organic Theatre, Cleveland’s Public Theater and Los Angeles’ Stages Theatre, among others. D’Ambrosi’s first international “Pathological Theater Festival” was held in 1988 in a mental hospital in Rome. The audience, he says, was made up of people who were normal and people who were sick, and you couldn’t tell which were which. He also organized an acting unit in an adolescent ward and helped them put on a play, but unlike the Marquis de Sade in Peter Weiss’ “Marat/Sade,” D’Ambrosi did not invite anybody “normal” to watch. Subsequent festivals of this type have been open to the public and have helped raise money to help Italy’s growing population of mental patients who have been “released” from institutions.