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.
ASSOCIAZIONE DEL TEATRO PATOLOGICO
The Associazione del Teatro Patologico was born in 1992 under the direction of its creator and founder Dario D’Ambrosi, in order to institute a meeting point between theater and mental illness; a place to work with young people with grave psychological conditions. In 1999 it held the first International Festival del Teatro Patologico, which was dedicated exclusively to companies whose work tackled themes of psychological distress. In 2006, it established a theater school for differently able young people, a laboratory and place of exchange whose primary intent is to stimulate young people’s creative freedom without didactically influencing their imagination and sensitivity. Teatro Patologico has presented its work in many capital cities worldwide, especially in the United States where D’Ambrosi produced his work at the La MaMa Café Theater in New York and conducted numerous workshops at New York University, Akron University of Cleveland and Howard University in San Francisco. Teatro Patologico won the Wilton Price for Best Foreign Play (London, 2015), “Il Biglietto d’oro” in 1995 and the IDI Award in 1996.