As part of the Arts and Culture 2023 Festival going on between the cities of Bergamo and Brescia, one event, involving a commedia dell’arte character, is the “Arlecchino’s Cloak Project,” better known as “Il Mantello di Arlecchino,” which concentrates on “Arlecchino’s costume” rather than his mask. 

This is an interactive installation and theatre piece put together by two international artists: Kaarina Kaikkonen (art installation) from Finland and Vero Cendoya (theatrical presentation) from Spain. TTB Pocket Theater of Bergamo is the hosting theatre for these two artists.

The first step of the project is for the theatre company to go around the neighborhoods knocking on doors and asking residents to donate a “shirt” for the project. It doesn’t matter the type, the size, or the color, what matters is that the shirt has a story. An added piece to this “donation” is asking the residents if they want to share the story. They can do it either by allowing the theatre members to write it down/recorded so they can use it as part of the script or if the resident dares, they can become part of the theatrical presentation. (Of course, they would be trained for that.) This first step has been going on since January and will end in May.

At the end of May, Kaarina will use the different shirts to create a colorful installation just like Arlecchino’s colorful costume, while Vero will use the different stories, the resident participants, and the member of TTB Packet Theatre of Bergamo to create a theatrical piece which focuses on healing. Then, from July to December, both the installation and the theatrical presentation will be showcase in both Bergamo and Brescia. “Il Mantello di Arlecchino” is part of the many other festival’s arts and cultural events focusing on healing after the pandemic.  

Why the focus on healing? Because “Bergamo became one of the deadliest killing fields for the virus in the Western World a place marked by inconceivable suffering and dreadful soundtrack of ambulance sirens… Hospitals became makeshift morgues and produced parades of coffins and scenes of devastation that became a warning to officials in other Western countries.” (New York Times, Nov. 29, 2020). The devastation was so much for Bergamo, that the military was in charge of taking the coffins to the Lombardy area, where they were incinerated. You may google for images if you wish, they are, in fact, devastating to see. 

While no one is to blame, the entire city, including officials and residents, have been left with deep wounds that need to be healed. Enter then, the Arts and Cultural Festival with its concentration on healing. And so, during my stay in Bergamo, I visited the “Spazio dei Recordi de Quartiere” and spoke with some of the theatre members there.

It is important to note that this project is the second version of “Arlecchino’s Cloak.” In 2022, the same artists conducted the project in Sant’Antonio Valverde and Cologna villages in the northern region of Bergamo, known as Valtesse. Now they are doing it in Bergamo/Brescia as part of the 2023 Arts & Culture Festival. Since the project is not completed yet, two images are mine and two from the 2022 project’s archive.

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