The very fact that someone in Italy is staging Faith, Hope and Charity, by Austrian writer Odon von Horvath (1901-1938), a member of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) school, is in itself worth noting. But the production becomes even more interesting when the play, a story of dehumanization in Weimar industrial society, is performed in a former Tuscan wool mill converted into a performing arts space by architect Gae Aulenti.
At the Fabbricone Theatre in Prato (run by Prato's Metastasio Theatre), director Massimo Castri used the entire width and almost the complete length of the venue for the five-act play's set, comprised of 13 wheel-mounted elements, including three huge buildings, a gateway with two adjacent walls, benches, and a truck. This rather astonishing size meant slashing audience capacity from 450 to 100.
Castri's radical approach to this production--how many directors have the gall to tear out nearly 3/4 of the seats?--encouraged lighting designer Sergio Rossi to try different things in his own work. "During preliminary discussions, Massimo said he'd like lighting that brought to mind a gray, rainy day," notes Rossi, a veteran lighting designer in Italy who has worked with such directors as Franco Zeffirelli, Luchino Visconti, Robert Wilson, and Ken Russell. "Since there aren't shadows with that type of natural light, I thought neon would be ideal for reproducing it, so I had eight 33'-long fixtures custom built, each with three rows of neon tubes which, as opposed to fluorescent tubes, are dimmable. To ensure they only lit the floor, I fitted them with guide flaps--an idea I lifted from anti-dazzle fittings used on guard rail lighting for freeway curves. These units were hidden from the audience's view by the huge chains in the roof structure."
For Faith, Hope and Charity, Rossi used a combination of Martin PAL 1200 MSRs, Spotlight 1,000W Domino cycs, Spotlight QPS 2k fresnels, and DeSisti Leonardo 5k fresnels. He had rarely used moving lights on straight plays prior to this production, due to fan noise, lamp color, and lack of aperture--"but Martin's fixtures solved most of these problems," he says. "The four PAL 1200 MSRs we used had lamp color similar to quartz bulbs, and their beam-shaping facilities are a great advantage. We kept movements as subtle as possible, usually when moving set components."
Franco Visioli and Andrea Taglia, the sound designer and FOH technician respectively, each helmed a Soundcraft K3 console, in a setup that also was unconventional. Taglia explains, "The first hurdle addressed was the theatre's reverb, initially 4.2 seconds, but reduced by suspending a sort of vaulted false ceiling made from fabric panels with a space between them. The desk's automation helped me mute the radio mics (with a Shure UHF U4 system) according to who was talking onstage: open mics amplify reverb and unwanted noises, such as footsteps, heavy breathing, etc. Once we had stored the actors' settings, the snapshots also ensured precise, rapid assignment of each individual actor's voice to the nearest speaker at that moment."
Speakers on the project were comprised of a pair of d&b E3s and a Nexo PS10 flown on either side of the stage. Two d&b B1 subs were mounted behind the backdrop along with a d&b Max. Onstage, two more PS10s were flown in front of the backdrop and two d&b 1220s were placed above centerstage. Another Max was located behind the audience. Thanks to a delay matrix with an XTA DP100 delay processor controlled by a Master Electronics MIDI controller, actors' voices could be positioned exactly, even when they were speaking simultaneously from different positions.
Visoli was in charge of the incidental music and sound effects used in the production. "I was in the theatre working on ideas for four to five weeks during rehearsals," he notes, "following the dynamics of the show as it developed. The actual soundtrack was only defined during the last days before the debut, and continued developing during the show's run, as it must be perfectly timed with what's happening onstage. I used two Alesis ADAT XTs with 16 stereo effects tracks, including rain of varying intensity to simulate a storm, and town noises (sirens, cars, trams, etc.). Opcode Studio Vision Pro in a Mac Quadra 700 was used to play Digidesign Sample Cell samples, particularly in a long initial sequence at the start of the show, where I play Miles Davis samples in response to or anticipating actors' lines. I also had a recording of a band playing 'Alte Kameraden,' which 'marched' around the various speaker enclosures, thanks to some of my favorite processors: a Yamaha REV 7, a Roland SDE 3000, a Lexicon PCM 41, and a PCM 70."