Andreoli of Nazareth
Marco Andreoli | 30-06-2008 | ENG
(Translated by Anamaría Crowe Serrano)

From an idea to a format. From format to blog. From blog to stage performance in constant evolution. That’s how contemporary theatre undergoes transformation.

Andreoli of Nazareth is not the title of a theatre performance.
If anything, it’s the name of a format; a format for the stage, to be sure; but a format nevertheless.

Some years ago I had the opportunity to work on José Saramago’s plays. The 1998 Nobel prize winning author has written four works for the stage: all commissioned and, to be honest, of even lesser literary merit than his least successful novels. That aside, three of them deal with events that deal directly with the Catholic religion. Saramago, who has always declared himself to be an atheist and a communist and who, after the publication of his novel, The Gospel According the Jesus Christ, was accused of blasphemy by the Vatican hierarchy, still seems surprised today by the fact that «usually no one talks about God any more».

Indeed, even if our culture – keeping September 11th out of it, let’s not even go there… - has long since passed the threshold whereby mutual intolerance between believers and non-believers might produce an unpredictable response, many of us, whatever our received or acquired education, sense something hanging over us like the presence of a “god-shaped hole” – an expression which has been variously attributed to Saint Augustine, Salman Rushdie and U2 – which is increasingly difficult to ignore.

And despite this – or even as a consequence of this – what Saramago says seems true: people don’t talk much about God. They talk about the Church, all right. But not about God.

Andreoli of Nazareth, as we were saying, is the title of a format. The fact that it’s a theatrical format doesn’t matter much. AON is a formula, a container which aims to combine art and information, research and debate, possible hybrids and miscellaneous denominators, into one thematic container; a container which could be labelled warning of spirituality in our contemporary age.

It’s not a copyrighted format. Its structure is far too simple for that, consisting of a sequence of heterogeneous obstructions to customs, end results and language, which are always separate from the theme, be it dealt with directly or indirectly, in a dogmatic way or with the aim of reworking it, through art or some non-part.

I believe – and it’s something I hold deeply – that there are two possible ways, very different from one another, of dealing with State religion. We can agree to be led by the official exponents of the Word – accepting everything is fine, even things that might paradoxically be at odds with the Word itself – or we can apply what ought to be the first commandment of the laity: “Thou shalt not abandon thy sense of critical judgement”.
In the first case, for example, a way can be found to reconcile - the word isn’t chosen by chance – a sacred book that affirms, three times no less, that a rich man has less chance of entering the kingdom of God than a camel of passing through the eye of a needle (Mk 10,25; Mt 19,24; Lk 18,25), with the gold that adorns the Pope, his cardinals and the entire Vatican, the only State in the world that hasn’t subscribed to any of the laws against money laundering.

My job of researching and collecting information began four years ago when I organised a summer working group with actors from the Circo Bordeaux company, in Gualdo Tadino, Umbria, in my grandmother’s house which overlooks the valley known as the “deaf” valley. For two weeks we worked there on the Bible, and on texts which feed off the Bible, such as the surprising Il tempo dei miracoli (tr. The time of miracles), by Borislav Pekic, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Since then, this story about the camel has me demented. I don’t understand how an intelligent believer – there are tons of intelligent smokers, never mind believers – can’t see, and be outraged by this and other contradictions. It would seem that everything is fine and dandy. It would also seems acceptable for not one priest to inform his indulgent audience that the word “camel” is the result or a mistranslation by Saint Jerome. It comes from the Greek “kamilos”, which is the mooring rope used to tie boats to the pier.

I tried to approach priests and faithful believers. I asked, for example: “How can you accept that the Gospel condemn wealth while the Church basks in luxury?”
This is a critical question. In five years no one has given me a convincing answer. Usually, I get a half smile, the odd person snorts, others mutter a few meaningless words.

But Andreoli of Nazareth doesn’t aim to attack any Higher Beings. Mind you, neither does he aim to defend them. His aim from birth has been to address a fixed issue, in an obviously partial and obviously unbalanced way, but an issue which is broad enough to be completely incomprehensible.

And then, returning to literature, if I hadn’t set out on this journey, I might never had read one of the most beautiful novels ever written: the Holy Bible: a novel which, according to Twain, “is dripping with blood and a wealth of obscenities”.

Today AON has the structure of a one-man show – better still, a one-man what? – but that’s only because no one to date has wanted to take part in the event. I would like the next AONs – which, it goes without saying, would mutate every time so as to contradict the idea of theatrical repetition, though that wouldn’t be the only reason – to play to increasingly full houses: the actor telling the story of Judas, the digital artist who rereads the story of the Creation in Second Life; but also the priest who demolishes all my work, the Jehovah’s witness telling of “door to door” encounters, the radical atheist explaining why it’s damaging to waste time like this.

I was born in 1974, I attended religion classes, made my communion and confirmation. I’ve met dozens of pathetic priests and three or four extraordinary men of the cloth. And I’ve always been frightened by the confusion of my thoughts and, when all is said and done, by the weakness of my beliefs. Aware of how much religion – but also other opiate substances – can help in so many situations.

Maybe all the reasons that have brought me to this point are right here. Which, as if it needs to be said, represents a moment of crisis.

I studied to be an actor. And then I studied to become a teacher.
Except that I’ve never felt I was an actor and I’m even less of a teacher. Though I make my living from teaching.
In a way, AON is a hybrid structure that attempts to combine these two experiences. A third could be added: the spiritual journey.

It’s strange. If I think of theatre, school and religion today, I imagine three corpses. Or maybe three terminally ill people – but I only think of that if it’s a particularly beautiful day.

And maybe I just don’t want to resign myself to the fact that if we came from dust, to dust we will return.

(June 30, 2008)
There’s also an Italian language blog, on the Andreoli of Nazareth experience where, in my usual disorganised way, I try to collect material and suggestions. All input in this regard – or in any other regard which might be unfathomable right now – is unquestionably well received.

Preliminary technical trials can be seen on YouTube, done in April 2008, for the closing scene of the performance: video 1; video 2.
The lead is God in person.
In the final version the mouth, as well as the eyes, have been replaced by a digital prosthesis.

Go to synopsis of Andreoli of Nazareth.

If you speak Italian & happen to be in Rome on July 2...
(and even if you don’t speak Italian but want something wacky...)
The next meeting with Andreoli of Nazareth will be:
Wednesday 2 July 2008 – 21.00 hrs.
show “Ubu fuori porta”
at Museo Civico “U. Mastroianni” – piazza Matteotti 13, Marino.
For a complete programme of the show, see Ubusettete.