Theatre and War

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During the Second World War, the Italian theatre and publishing scenes underwent anunexpected change. On 6th June 1940, the Italian Copyright Agency (SIAE) issued an order prohibiting the publication and production of English and French texts, which until that point had represented a considerable percentage of the works staged and published in Italy. 

Irish theatre’s moment had arrived. Ireland’s neutrality permitted the production of Irish plays, including those which Linati had translated twenty years previously. Thanks, however, to Lucio Ridenti (director of theatrical magazine Il dramma) and the artist and theatre director Anton Giulio Bragaglia (then director of Rome’s Teatro delle Arti), an unexpected development occurred: English language authors who had hitherto had little or no association with Ireland suddenly began to be presented as Irish. 

The supposedly Irish foreign-born writers (oriundi) included Eugene O’Neill, George Kelly, and even Emily Brontë.This phenomenon was the theatrical equivalent of the anti-English books published during the same period, yet the ruse also worked as a subterfuge to smuggle through otherwise inaccessible authors, dodge the payment of staging fees, and, in the true spirit of Fascism, undermine British cultural dominanceIl dramma devoted itself to the cause, publishing anti-British barbs from the pens of Shaw, Huxley, and Byron, among others. 

It was in this way that the Italian public discovered the American O’Neill, but also Yeats, Synge, Wilde, Lord Dunsany and, above all, Sean O’Casey. And thanks to Il drammain 1940 these writers were also discovered by a young Paolo Grassi, who published them in the book series he editer for Milan’s Rosa e Ballo publishing house, and by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who as a teenager put on performances of Synge in his living room. 

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