pandemonium or pandæmonium, in “Paradise Lost (1667) “the name of the palace built in the middle of Hell, “the high capital of Satan and all his peers,” and the abode of all the demons; coined by John Milton (1608-1674) from Greek pan– “all” + Late Latin daemonium “evil spirit,” from Greek daimonion “inferior divine power,” from daimōn “lesser god” as in demon.
It is still snowing. A thick blanket of snow lies on the poetic land where shows, workshops, trainings, schools, performances, festivals and all forms of gatherings used to grow, season after season, night after night. Sometimes in abundance, sometimes in scarcity, always with hard work. A labor of love, technique and dedication, often marginal and fierce, almost always financially fragile. I have loved that field so very much, and I have been blessed with many years of practice and play with so many wonderful human beings who, like me, have loved that field so very much.
We were all busy in our gardens when the snowfall started.
I did not see it coming. Nobody did, except some virologists, some top secret experts in national security and various science fiction writers. The storm came from the East, it hit Europe, Italy first, then Oceania, the Americas, Africa, until the human family found itself in the worst pandemic in living memory and the greatest “lockdown” in human history.
I was in Australia working at a Bouffon show when the storm started and the Corona tricksters sank our thespian ship. Within days, we moved from the ecstasy of daily rehearsals and devising in the wondrous intimate embodiment of a chorus of Bouffons, to saying goodbye to each other on Zoom. That was my first zoom meeting: I remember vividly the joy attack in seeing the crew, hearing their voices and their laughter irradiating from their beautiful faces. And, at the same time, the pain of not being with them. A craving distress, a skin unbalance, a hole in my guts and in my chest. The intense sensation of a lack, a longing, a loss. A state that has become very familiar over the following weeks and months of lockdown.
I started writing these notes because I do not want to turn this loss into normality, and accept an unacceptable transition into a world of disembodied social interactions. I do not want this “new normal”. It’s an exceptional time, and I want to consider it completely ab-normal. An emergency. If this becomes normal it will be a collective move into a dystopian insanity.
It is now April 2020. I have started writing these notes during my days of quarantine in my theatre studio in Padova, Italy, my hometown where I managed to return after an epic trip through continents and airports already transformed by the virus into the set of a science fiction B-movie.
These notes have emerged from an overdose of perception and reflection about this astounding scenario, as well as from multiple conversations with friends, colleagues and former students who have looked for each others in the attempt to make sense of an unprecedented collective event. I feel that this conversation is crucial not only artistically and poetically for us as theatre practitioners. It is also extremely relevant politically, for us as citizens. We are in one of those historical thresholds when an entire society, and in this case an entire civilization, is deciding to adopt a particular new technological landscape that will significantly change the collective behaviour and the very nature of the daily social and economical interactions. Ultimately, our culture will change, and our collective conscious and unconscious mind will be trans-formed.
I think this transition is comparable to the arrival of the printing process, or the Industrial Revolution or the arrival of the Internet. We are at the cusp of something crucial and, unlike the other major transitions, this one has happened extremely fast. This collective migration into a remote mode, has not happened within centuries, decades, years, or even months, but within weeks.
And it’s here to stay.