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Montreal’s Giant Fest 

And other noteworthy gatherings and festivals.

For two weeks beginning May 22, every stage in Montreal from the smallest cabaret to the largest auditorium will serve as a temporary home for a visiting theatre troupe, as part of the first Theatre Festival of the Americas. More than 30 companies from Canada, the U.S., Mexico and South America will perform in English, French and Spanish in the largest festival ever held in Canada.

The milestone event is the fruit of the efforts of Marie-Hélène Falcon and Jacques Vézina, who imagined such a gathering more than two years ago. Along with their committee, the 16th Festival Québécois du June Theatre and the XXIst World Congress of the International Theatre Institute—which will hold its own events as part of the festival—helped to garner support from government agencies and private sources. Selection committees composed of world theatre experts helped select the companies that will perform, including Mabou Mines and Squat Theatre of New York City; Los Cantadores de Estorias of Brazil: Yuvachkani of Peru; Rajatabla of Venezuela and Los Titiriteros of Argentina. Other performances include a U.S. production of Sarita by Maria Irene Fornes and Québécois productions of Michel Tremblay’s Albertine en Cinq Tembs and Jean-Pierre Ronfard’s Le Titanic.

Le Titanic, winner of the Quebec-creation contest inaugurated by the festival committee last October, just may be the most spectacular event of the festival. Inspired by sea myths, the action will take place in a number of locales including the Lachine Canal and Montreal’s port. Under the direction of Gilles Maheu, the text and scenography will call up visions of Noah’s ark, Bosch’s Ship of Fools, Exodus, the “boat people” and more. Notes the director, “Audiences will see, smell, hear, feel and live the experience of inhabiting a ship crossing the sea to bring ‘old country’ culture to the New World.”

In addition to the live performances, an international Symposium on Theatre Criticism sponsored by the Canadian magazine Jeu and the Theatre Critics’ Association of Canada will include lectures, seminars and discussions on a variety of topics. The Cinématèque Québécois will also present a series of films and videos that go beyond the world of theatre to portray the multiplicity of cultures and artistic practice of the countries participating in the festival.

Tickets, which range from $8-$16, go on sale April 9 and are available in the U.S. through Teletron/Ticketron.

Voices From Spoleto

The ninth Spoleto Festival U.S.A. will honor the contributions of the late Italian playwright Eduardo de Filippo, with the first American production of his play Inner Voices. The 1948 work illustrates a recurring theme in de Filippo’s canon—that dreams have the ability to project people’s capacity for good and evil. It tells the tale of a man who dreams that a family has murdered a friend of his—and the dream is so vivid that upon waking he reports the family to the police.

Inner Voices was most recently produced at London’s National Theatre. The Spoleto staging will be a production of New York’s Circle Repertory Company, and John Pepper is set to direct.

Gian Carlo Menotti, who founded the festival in Spoleto, Italy, in 1977, extended its activities to include a second venue in Charlston in 1977. This ninth festival, which runs from May 24 to June 9, will also include a production of Handel’s Ariodante from the New York-based Baroque music ensemble Concert Royal and the New York Baroque Dance Company; a production of Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West to be directed by Australian filmmaker Bruce Beresford; and appearances by dance companies Timothy Buckley and Troublemakers, Stephen Petronio and Dancers, and the Mark Morris Dancers. A brochure of events can be obtained by writing Spoleto Festival U.S.A., Box 704, Charleston, S.C., and for the first time tickets are available nationally through the outlets of Chargit and Ticketron.

Theatre in Movieland

Teacup-and-telephone pictures like Arsenic and Old Lace and The Women more readily betray their theatrical roots than Orphans of the Storm and Ben Hur. As one contemplates the thumping spectacle of the latter films, it is hard to imagine that they ever emerged from the stage. The Theatre Collection of the Museum of the City of New York has both the resources and the imagination to trace those roots, as witnessed by its current omnibus exhibit, Broadway to Hollywood: Great Plays into Great Movies, on view through next November in the Minskoff Theatre Arcade on Broadway between 44th and 46th Streets.

All of the above-mentioned films are featured in the exhibit, which starts from the silent era and wends its way to the most recent stage-to-screen transfers, A Soldier’s Story and Amadeus. Photographs, movie stills, paintings, posters and costumes illustrate the precarious but often exhilarating relationship between the two mediums. Some of the more notable costume artifacts exhibited are Judy Holliday’s peignoir from Born Yesterday, Katharine Hepburn’s white gown from The Philadelphia Story and Marilyn Monroe’s lace blouse from Bus Stop.

Bringing this sweeping subject into focus is a “sound-and-light show” featuring film clips from the bottomless trove of film-adapted plays. The voice narrating the show is that of Jose Ferrer, who played a celluloid Cyrano de Bergerac with memorable panache.

Briefly Noted

Will there be another Olympic Arts Festival? Robert Fitzpatrick, vice president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and director of last summer’s monumental event, says the possibility is being investigated. Fitzpatrick is chairing a committee to consider the feasibility of staging international arts festivals in Los Angeles on a regular basis, perhaps every other year, starting in 1987. “The question,” he declares, not surprisingly, “is funding. As wonderful an idea as the festivals are, funding must come as ‘new’ funding and not take anything away from the ongoing local endeavors.” The L.A. arts community agrees.

Up the California coast, the third annual Bay Area Theatre Week kicks off May 4. The week is the brainchild of the Theatre Communications Center of the Bay Area and the 97-company Bay Area Theatre Alliance. The celebration of theatre from Marin County to Monterey will include Write Your Own Ticket!, a discount ticket program designed to introduce the public to theatre at substantial savings; Follow the Troupes!, a series of free shows in public plazas and auditoriums; and Steal the Show!, a fund-raising gala featuring Bay Area performers. Last year’s celebration attracted more than 25,000 participants.

A conference on political theatre in Western Europe and the United States will take place May 3-4 at Columbia University in New York, with Eric Bentley as featured speaker. Readings of contemporary political plays will highlight the conference, and precede it as well on April 2, 8 and 29. For conference information contact Rita Poom, the Institute on Western Europe, Columbia University, New York, NY 10025; (212) 280-4619.

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