Chicago director brings cultural exchange to Rome’s English Theatre

Director Barry Brunetti

 ROME - “I avoid use of the word ‘character’; it puts a distance between the actors and their role," says Barry Brunetti. "They are recreating human beings,” the professional and guest director at the English Theatre of Rome told the Insider last week.

The pro from abroad joined them a month ago and directing their next production Old Times, by the English playwright Harold Pinter, opening on Sunday evening.

Brunetti is a full-time faculty member at The Theatre School at DePaul University, where he serves as chair of the Department of Theatre Studies. He studied acting with Stephen Strimpell at the HB Studio in New York where he appeared Off-Broadway in featured roles in Irma La Douce and City of Life. Regionally, favourite roles include Salieri in Amadeus, Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, and Richard in The Lion in Winter. Regional directing credits include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Equus, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, and Dracula.

In relation to his University-research plans he sought out a recommended figure of the Rome theatre scene, Gaby Ford, director of the recent Great Gatsby and main woman behind The English Theatre of Rome - a division of Ford Entertainment. Ford, to Brunetti’s surprise, directly asked if he was interested in directing. Pinter says the ‘Old Times story is something that actually happened'. I’m interested in Pinter because in his plays it is not just about the words, but what’s under the words – open to all sorts of interpretations.

Brunetti loves the academic environment and is delighted to extend his research to Italy. His academic leave is 1.5 months and while he is not working with the Old Times cast: Douglas Dean, Alexia Murray, and Dyanne White, he is out on the streets researching the lines between the spectator and the audience through observing folks celebrating carnicale and everyday life of Rome, particularly in Monti neighborhood piazzas.  A favorite spot of mine is a square in my neighborhood Monti. I go there to relax, hang out and talk with the people.

The English Theatre of Rome is dedicated to presenting plays in English from October through to June. It goes for not just the cutting-edge pieces, but a variety – from the classics to the brand new and the unknown. It is a cultural exchange and has offered roles to Brits, Scots, Americans, Australians, and Canadians. Gaby Ford is the woman behind the scenes – taking on administrative, organizational and casting roles, as well as direction – continually re-addressing the balance and not afraid to take risks.

It is a free school. Here an artist can hone in his or her skills and exchange with people of different backgrounds. It serves as a springboard to new artists, professionals often come back to do something fun that isn’t offered elsewhere, or a transition.

What is exciting when I get pros with a grant from abroad to lend their talents to a theatre project is there is a whole new energy. The visiting artist at times brings a different approach, sundry concepts and as a consequence there is a willingness and thrill of the unknown that gets infused into the project. This sort of cultural exchange is uplifting and personally gratifying. It is one of the things that makes me and our theatre tick. –Gaby Ford

 Mr Brunetti is the third grant-guest to the English Theatre. The last was Harriet Potter and before him Dustin Wills, who is now at prestigious Yale. 

Old Times opens this Sunday at 5 pm at Teatro l'Arciluito - Piazza Montevecchio 5. For ticket information email or call (after 4pm) 066879419 or 3489355626. After the final performance in two weeks Brunetti will return to his home in Chicago. As for the state of the team, Brunetti says that there was much anticipation and they are in good shape!


Producer Gaby Ford