Last night, I realized that I haven’t really detailed the characters I’m using in my show. There are only four of them, myself included, so I thought a brief description of them was in order. For a lot of them, they’re really rough concepts and not so much fully fleshed-out characters. My hope is that the characters, though they have basic parameters, will be largely fleshed out during rehearsals – which will start probably at the beginning of February.
The first character I’d like to describe is la vedova, the Widow. This character existed before I fully conceptualized what my show was going to be (setting, themes, etc.). I had been thinking about creating a show based around animals, and the dichotomy between ladybugs and black widows became really striking for me. I thought I would have a character for each of these creepy-crawlies, and that they would be important foils of each other.
After deciding that my show was going to take place in Fascist-era Italy, as a nod to my own family history, I knew that I wanted to keep the widow as an homage to my own grandmother. I kept, also, the idea of opening with a funeral where the Widow becomes, well…a widow.
I began reading about tarantism and la tarantella, which I’ll probably write a long, intense post about at some point. Suffice it to say, the European black widow spider became a very prevalent image for me. I had come full circle and realized that I could not escape this haunting image of, on the one hand, societal expectations of women (to marry, raise a family, etc.), and on the other, ways in which women break away from those expectations (being independent, having a career, living their own lives). In Italy’s past, women were punished for going against the grain – not in the sense of being stoned to death or exiled like in some other places. The woman in question would be ostracized, looked down upon, forced into submission by the pressures of society. I think that this sort of pressure still exists – in Italy and around the world, for both women and men, and in many forms.
So with all these thoughts in mind, jumbling around, half-formed and striving to become whole, the Widow was born. She is my embodiment of the typical Italian woman – though one who has a glittering opportunity before her to transform her life, if only she can find the courage. I think the show has, rather unintentionally, become all about her.
The Widow is young – maybe in her early thirties. A young widow is both sad and hopeful: Sad because she lost her husband so early in life; hopeful because she has a chance to reconstruct that same life in a way that suits her, as opposed to bowing to the pressures of being a wife and mother.
Obviously, the Widow is very gloomy and depressed – she just lost her husband! He was a soldier (I think), fighting in a war about which he has no say. The Widow feels bitter, useless, and entirely unmotivated to continue. Her purpose in life has been eliminated – she has no husband, and she has not yet been able to have children. In the mindset of the time and place, her only job in life will be to help maintain the house and fields with the members of her extended family.
Despite the shroud of grief in which the Widow is enveloped, I fully intend for her to have moments of joy and happiness, where the memory of what has happened to her so recently can fade into the background for a little while. A terrible thing has happened, but life must move forward. And move forward it does.
In terms of circus skills, the Widow definitely has a contact juggling act at the beginning of the show. Other than that, I see some clowning becoming important, as well as some partner movement stuff.