During the run of Amadeus, as a co-production between PlayActing Theatre and Schull Drama Group, artist, Todd Bellici photographed the production in October 2019. Subsequently, Todd was invited by the Blue House Gallery, Schull to exhibit his photographs in 2020. All exhibitions were postponed until 2021.
When asked to consider a performance element to complement the exhibition, the PlayActing team of Karen Minihan, Julia Zagar and Alyn Fenn considered how best to reflect our Amadeus experience now, in July 2021.
A central part of the 2019 work of preparing for the performance (the planning, vision, workshops, rehearsals, design) was the core process of collaboration and collective creativity. The desire for co-creation when we work together is a strong motivation for us in PlayActing Theatre. So we were excited to return to that fundamental principle in 2021, to the idea of the connection between the Venticelli groups that had appeared in our Amadeus production and their reflection of the society in the play.
And, in fact, looking back now at 2019, it was what excited us then too.
There is always some part of a text that appeals to me as a beginning point for a play. The idea of a ‘society’, a community of characters within any play, mirrored by this present community of actors and artists, coming together from this Schull community in 2019, for this project.
(Excerpt from Day 2 of the blog, The Amadeus Project, Schull, by Karen Minihan)
To remind you of Amadeus…
In order to set the scene of the exhibition, our storyboard outlined the focus for our production of this noted play:
Set in the court of Emperor Joseph in late 18th Century Austria, Amadeus shows how this pompous society is impacted by the arrival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a rowdy young prodigy determined to make a name for himself. The play is narrated by Salieri, the former court composer, now a wizened, sad old man, facing his mortality and his God. Awestruck by Mozart’s genius, the young Antonio Salieri came to see Mozart’s genius as God’s way of mocking his own more pedestrian gifts and realised he had the power to promote Mozart’s talent or ruin it. The play flits between the present and the past, through the Palace of Schonbrunn, the intimate settings of the protagonists’ homes and other public areas–streets, theatres––where we meet the people of the Court surrounding Salieri. Those with power, and others without, are moved, manipulated and persuaded by Salieri as he plots the downfall of his rival. The roles of the Venticelli––“little winds” of gossip––expanded in this production as groups of rumour-spreading characters––became central to the presentation and the themes of community and society.
During the rehearsal process the actors reflected on gender and identity especially, amidst the beauty of their surroundings and the glory of Mozart’s music. The collective responsibility of this troupe of players as a community or society in this play, Amadeus, was seriously considered, as it exists in any community or society.
We revisited the Venticelli group dynamic created in the Amadeus production in 2019 through a workshop process day on a gorgeous, sunny 10th July 2021. We reconnected with some of the Amadeus troupe and, having fun in a garden, used theatre exercises and techniques familiar to the group and the music that inspired us back in 2019.
In our pre-workshop discussions, how we would proceed on the day was coloured and affected by Covid-19 precautions. It also became a fundamental though subtle part of the creative discussion on the day of the workshop. We adapted theatre games using 2 metre bamboo sticks and scarves, which became a means of protection. Todd Billeci, in his continuing work as an Artist, is currently exploring socially engaged practices and has an interest in community and collaborative involvement. He agreed to record this day also.
The series of photos in the second part of the exhibition, and the accompanying audio is both a Reflection of our previous work in presenting Amadeus and a reflection on our current lives. The actors’ selfies and other photos taken on the day are also displayed here in a slideshow, reflecting the use of phones in the 2019 production.
Our intention had been to create a group visual and audio portrait, reflecting back to the original production, but in the light of our current situation. Instead, the dynamic and energy of the group assembled changed that plan. In the end we created individual portraits but with a strong sense of the community, of being in a tight, comfortable and supportive group.