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Storytelling: Veronesi’s Don’t Tell

Veronesi’s Non Dirlo, a Review

by Natasha Lardera

Storytelling, that “interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination,” is, per an aspiring storyteller, at the core of Non Dirlo (Don’t Tell), a monologue by, and performed by, Sandro Veronesi. The Italian novelist and journalist, has mastered this art not only on the written page, but also on stage. Indeed the author and award winning writer (La forza del passato, Caos calmo, Terre rare) has been busy presenting the monologue he has extracted from his book Non Dirlo (Bompiani, 2015).

After the publication, Veronesi, who is not a trained actor, thought his job was not complete: in order to be so, his narrative had to be brought to life on stage. No theatrical scenery, no music, no light effects, but just a man on stage that stands between the text and the audience.

In storytelling someone always presents a story, and in doing so he/she encourages the active imagination of the listeners.Traditional theatre is a physical experience, where the narrative links the actor to the audience through vivid, multi-sensory images, actions, characters, and events. The listener imagines the story and, based on the performance and on his/her own beliefs and experiences, he/she comes up with his/her own idea as an actual co-creator.

In the case of Non Dirlo, Veronesi’s imagination was stimulated by a specific event. Back in 1996, Pope John Paul II, sent copies of the Gospel According to Mark to Roman families, in preparation for the Great Jubilee of 2000. It was an invitation to re-awaken spirituality. Veronesi himself received a copy and that’s when he decided to read it. Although raised catholic, but not practicing, Veronesi shared the general idea that Mark’s Gospel is inferior to the others, especially to the most intellectual Gospel of Matthew (addressed in works by Pasolini and Rossellini). He figured that if the Pope had decided to send that one out there must have been a reason. It was being sent to the Romans, the same audience Mark had written it for. Mark is seen a storyteller with a mission, who, through his story, is spreading christianity. Veronesi himself, defined Mark’s Gospel, as a “conversion machine,” tuned on the imagination of its recipients.

DontCherryLaneMay2NTDSC00845resThe Gospel of Mark is believed to be the first and the one that inspired those written by Matthew and Luke. It is much shorter than the others and it narrates the ministry of Jesus, from his baptism by John the Baptist to his death and discovery of the empty tomb. It omits biographical stories, like the narration of his birth and his appearances after the resurrection, and important teachings, like the Sermon on the Mount. In this Gospel, Jesus is a man of action, someone whose identity must be kept hushed, who is not afraid to confront the Devil and evil, who performs miracles (heals the sick and feeds the hungry) who is at times hard to understand and leaves the disciples fearful and uncomprehending.

At the performance of Non Dirlo, we witnessed a master storyteller, Veronesi, illustrating to the audience the work of another master. Brilliant punch lines and unexpected cinematographic metaphors, transform the austere text into a relatable story without ever trivializing it, but actually making it simply captivating.

Regardless of your religion, or even wether you are religious or not, this monologue casts a glance at the gospel as an innovative book that introduced flashbacks, reverse perspective and several other narrative tricks. All with the purpose of converting the Romans, a population of men of action, who have no time for theory and unpracticality and who enjoy life in a basic way with all its pleasures.

So how does someone, an aspiring writer, master the art of storytelling? Experts have come up with a bunch of general rules, but two are the most significant. As per, Kathryn Cave, editor, IDG Connect International: “Find the human story: A lot of written material fundamentally fails because it doesn’t lead with the most interesting material. Usually with human stories the more emotive the tale and the more people can relate the better it will perform. People ultimately need to take a journey and identify with characters.”

Mark presents the story of a man, who is also the son of God, but as God and demons recognize his identity, both the disciples and the crowds fail to recognize him. Veronesi makes a parallel to the famed TV show Columbo, where we know who the killer is within the first minutes of the episode which then continues to show us the process that leads to the discovery. In order to discover who Jesus really is, Mark shows us his actions, not his words, what he does proves who he is. Mark leads us to the crucial turning point of the crucifixion, where the hero, capable of performing miracles never seen before, chooses an upsetting destiny. As an audience member, and a reader, it is easy to identify with the disciples and the crowds, taken by the magic of Jesus’ deeds, the desire to understand them. This takes us to the second rule. “Know your audience.”