“Know that tis my fast intent To shake all cares and business from my age; Conferring them on younger strengths. Tell me, my daughters, which of you shall we say doth Love me most?"
Inspired by Shakespeare's King Lear and turned into a musical tragicomedy en travesti, Queen LeaR is both popular and high - as required by the Elizabethan tradition. The show was written by Claire Dowie, set to music by Enrico Melozzi, directed and performed by five drag queens - perfect contemporary declination of the Shakespearean fool.
Queen LeaR is our latest production and has both an English and an Italian version. The latter made its debut in January 2019 in Teatro Carcano in Milan, while the English version still has to be performed.
Lea Rossi moved from Italy to the Uk in the 70’s and opened a little doll shop, whose sign reads: “Lea R”. The elderly lady is now facing the end of her business and of her life. Struggling with her physical decay, she is unwilling to let younger generations take over and to separate herself from her things, in spite of the efforts of her three daughters and of her loyal friend Mrs. Kent.
The Shakespearean themes are now associated to a contemporary, stark atmosphere, where castles become studio apartments, the moors are retirement homes, and the madness turns into senile dementia. In this harsh world the old “queen” has no place to go but an old people’s home and here her epic visions – knights, wars, and medieval kingdoms – come to life.
Queen LeaR deals with uncomfortable issues of our time, such as old age, social integration, illness and death, with our style: overlapping genres, pop music quotes and ironic, over-the-top – but not for this less authentic – characters.
QUEEN LEAR a Nina’s Drag Queens‘ show by Claire Dowie after William Shakespeare original music by Enrico Melozzi concept Francesco Micheli performed and directed by Alessio Calciolari, Gianluca Di Lauro, Sax Nicosia, Lorenzo Piccolo, Ulisse Romanò
set design Erika Natati costumes Rosa Mariotti ligth design Andrea Violato wigs Marco’s Wigs assistant director Camilla Brison assistant for the scenes Giulia Bruschi costume assistant Leonardo Locchi
musical recordings Orchestra Notturna Clandestina
italian translation Michele Panella and Lorenzo Piccolo sound Alessandro Baldo technician Luna Mariotti vocal coach Elena Arcuri by IngressoArtisti artwork Francesco Calcagnini photographer Valentina Bianchi
SOC. COOP. / TEATRO CARCANO / TEATRO METASTASIO DI PRATO
music production CASA MUSICALE SONZOGNO
supported by Fondazione Cariplo, Manifattura K, Kone Foundation (FI), Kilowatt Festival, Sorellanza
thanks to Accademia di Belle arti di Brera, Gianluca Agazzi, Chiara Bartali, Andrea Colombo, Naomi Galbiati, Francesca Sgariboldi, Donatella Mondani, Piccolo Teatro di Milano, Ingresso Artisti, Federico Salerno, Beatrice Palumbo, Leonardo Caruso, Serena Aldrighetti, Fulvio Santarpia, Orlando Manfredi, Salvatore Fiorini, Lorenzo Marquez, Giampiero Caponi, Emiliano D’Urbano, Carla Mulas Gonzales, Valentina del Re, Agnese Sielli, Elisa Agosto, Lodovico Bertuzzi. Viole Chiara Ciancone, Matilde Orsetti, Ambra Michelangeli, Leila Shirvani, Elisa Pennica, Giovanni D’Eramo, Dario Epifani, Joao Tavares Filho, Francesca Raponi, Ludovico D’Ignazio, Giustina Marta, Oriana Santini, Bego Garcia, Valerio Marcangeli, Daniele Moriconi, Giuseppe Rosa, Olena Kurkina, Fabrizio Candidi
Nina’s group’s actors-performers-singers-dancers are precise in every detail, able to enter and leave the characters and the century to make us accomplices. Maurizio Porro, Cultweek
Everything is told in a style able to speak a language closer to the young audience, demonstrating that theater is not dusty even when it takes root into a distant past. Valeria Prina, Spettacolinews
Nina’s Drag Queens’ poetics, made of spontaneous perceptions and expressions, is so powerful as to awaken in us again a sense of wonder and amazement. In short, they give us a bath of childhood. Raffaella Roversi, 2righe.it
A high level performance for all the actors, perfect and virtuous in a complex and varied mechanism of movements and expressions. (…) A show absolutely not to be missed, different, true, intense, that makes you smile, laugh, move and that brings a universal message that in these times too often taken for granted: love, as long as you are on time. Vittoria Colli, Cosmopeople
Everything is even more credible, even more true, even more natural, thanks to an interpretation that goes beyond exaggerated hairstyles, vertiginous heels and “divine” clothes. The actors makes the characters vivid and give the public a glimpse of everyday life, with the echo and the scent of an ever-present Shakespeare. Salvatore Bruno, Intoscana.it
Therefore Queen Lear touches our deepest chords which, for better or for worse, make us simply and inevitably human. Michele D’Ambrosio and Leonardo Favilli, Gufetto.press
“ Perhaps after a while she starts daydreaming, and imagines that it’s him who’s waiting for her call. And who knows, who knows, she wonders, is there any difference between a man waiting and a woman waiting? ”
Nina’s first solo show. In the suspended dimension of a room, a female character is chased, dismantled, searched between the lines of the text, in a journey between man and woman, love and waiting, celebrated muses and ordinary housewives.
The English-language version of the show debuted in 2018 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with the same performer and the translation of Maggie Rose.
In this solo show two characters are driven mad by love: painter Oskar Kokoschka, who made a life size doll of his ex-lover Alma Mahler, and the nameless woman on the phone to her ex-lover in Cocteau’s La Voix Humaine, heartbreaking and at the same time comic in her shameless feelings. A male actor unpicks femininity through these intertwining stories of final goodbyes, showing woman as muse and woman as a victim of love.
This tragicomedy goes right to the heart of drag, putting love and creativity under the spotlight, with all the frustration and exaltation they may entail.
Two very different female figures: Alma Mahler is a free, independent soul, almost the personification of art itself; the other woman is mediocre, without heroism or an identity. In both cases, the focus is on a man’s violent behaviour towards a woman.
Cocteau and Kokoschka try to create an imaginary woman, to control them with their gaze, the first through writing, the second through art. Onstage, an actor attempts to attain an elusive female essence, even if he knows he will never get there. His search for Alma, or for love, or for the perfect form to represent a woman, overlap and intertwine. The solitude brought about by the love and the solitude of the artist go hand in hand, alive in the very same room.
For this show, we had we had the pleasure of collaborating with Daria Deflorian, actress, author and director, who put the research on scenic languages and the relationship between performer and audience at the center of her work.
ALMA, a Human Voice written and performed by Lorenzo Piccolo director Alessio Calciolari assistant director Ulisse Romanò tutor Daria Deflorian
translated by Maggie Rose scene and costumes Rosa Mariotti lights Andrea Violato photographer Valentina Bianchi
production Aparte – Ali per l’arte co-production Danae Festival with the contribution of Fondazione Cariplo – project fUNDER35 selected by NEXT 2016 – Lumbardy Region and Kilowatt Festival thanks to IT festival – Open IT project, Sorellanza
Original, defiantly high-brow show. ★★★★ Eddie Harrison, The List
Alma, A Human Voice is unlike anything I have ever seen. I would keep an eye out for Nina’s Drag Queens. ★★★★ Greta April, Arthur’s Seat
A turbulent, disconcerting examination of love and loss, and how quickly we can spiral into utter disorientation. ★★★ Kirstyn Smith, Marbles Mag
Lorenzo Piccolo offers eloquent images of a male figure in full flight from stereotyped masculinity. (…) Alma is visually vivid, and full of a profound sense of escape from the bonds of a kind of masculinity that prefers to feel nothing rather than risk the pain of Cocteau’s heroine, and that believes a living, breathing woman can somehow be replaced by a doll. ★★★ Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman
I’m delighted by what I see here: a very clever and beautifully realised exploration of the tropes of ‘woman as victim of love’ and ‘woman as muse’. Dorothy Max Prior, Total Theatre
Lorenzo creates moments of statuesque stillness which take your breath away. (…) A stunning piece of theatre. Brian Butler, Gscene
Stirring visual and aural imagery. (…) Lovely, sensitive. Caitlin A Kearney, The Skinny
A show in which irony competes with aesthetics. Tom Wicker, Fest
Surprise! Nina’s Drag Queens have accustomed us to a kind of excess, exquisite costumes, over-the-top tricks, dizzy stilettos. Instead in this monologue everything is measured, composed, ironic, delightful. Lorenzo Piccolo wearing his “good boy face”, without a touch make up, reenacts two tragic stories with enchanting humour. He deploys a minimum of drag queen tools, with admirable lightness and vitality. Simply an hour of pure pleasure. Fausto Malcovati, Hystrio
A CHAT WITH MAGGIE ROSE
Just before leaving for Edinburgh towards the Fringe Festival, in July 2018, we had a little chat about the show with Maggie Rose, who also translated our play.
MAGGIE Why the title Alma, the Human Voice?
LORENZO It is a summary of the two starting points of the show: Cocteau’s “Human Voice” and the figure of Alma Mahler. The Italian title, “Vedi alla voce Alma” is a sort of untranslatable word game that sounds like “look up the entry Alma”, but also contains the word ‘Voce’ (Voice).
M What was the seed that kickstarted your play, Alma?
L At an exhibition in Vienna, I saw a picture of Alma Mahler’s doll – the doll Oskar Kokoschka had built after she left him. She was lying on a sofa, peaceful and scary, immersed in a timeless solitude. Somehow she reminded me of the abandoned woman in “The Human Voice” … so I tried to weld together these two images.
M Like Godot, it’s a play about waiting. Beckett wrote about men waiting in very different circumstances, you choose women, who are feeling absolutely desperate because of a relationship gone wrong.
L I guess that time is a central issue in theatre, as theatre is a real-time experience shared between stage and audience, but of course a symbol as well. So for me it is a really funny but also honest question: how can I let time pass on stage? How can I represent waiting?
M You ask the audience at one point is there a difference between a man and a woman waiting for an unfaithful lover. In your role of man\woman, using drag techniques, you seem to place yourself in excellent position to try and answer this question.
L I think that the interesting thing is that you can ask yourself this question. It means that, in our mind – and in our society – there are things for men and things for women, or, at least men-ly ways and woman-ly ways to do things… The question also give me the opportunity to say that, as a drag, I’m not exactly interested in representing a woman. Femininity is just something that I love as a theatre game, an expressive key. Being a man playing a woman, I put myself somewhere in the middle, as you say. In particular in Alma this happens a lot and it is very fluid: I am the nameless woman on the phone, but also Oskar, Alma as muse, Alma as a doll, an actor, Jean Cocteau, a milliner… I just express human nature.
M You interweave two other story lines into Alma. Cocteau’s Human Voice, in Ingrid Bergman’s splendid interpretation, and the Alma Mahler-Kokoschka story. What kind of writing process enabled you to achieve this?
L I worked on the two stories separately, so much so that every now and then I asked myself if I wanted just to rewrite the Human Voice, or just to tell a story about Alma’s doll. With Cocteau’s play, I feel a deep bond, a love-hate one. In a way it is something very old and old-fashioned, in others it really is something that never changes: violence in human relationships, unrequited love, lies and so on. So, trying to decide if I liked this one person, one act play or not, I began a dialogue with it and I started taking just the stage directions, which were sometimes more interesting for me than the play itself. The lip-sync provided the rest and gave me one more chance to engage in a dialogue with the “living” material. With Alma’s story, the writing process was very simple. I just wrote down the facts that I had collected thanks to a little research, as if it was a sort of dark romance. Then I cut it to keep it as sharp as possible. Then, the composition of the show itself meant understanding how (and where and when and why) I could put together these two story lines and the music materials. And we can say that it was only than that the script was written: on me, together with the director.
M Do you think the way Nina’ s Drag Queens usually start from classic plays to rework them makes them fairly unique in the world of drag? Or did you have a model in mind when you started working in this way?
L It is of course very common to rewrite classical works in contemporary theatre. Most of the time it is probably done in a less visible way than ours, sometimes it is just the director’s point of view … and I think this is a healthy way to study a big story if you change it, open it up, so you can call it into question. We had no specific models in mind when we started, we just wanted to have fun and were excited to discover something new about characters – the drag queens – who are usually connected exclusively with performative acts and cabaret. In the end, I think that putting together drag world and classic plays created a very specific style and poetics … and the result is, yes, quite unique.
MAlessio Calciolari directs Alma – How do you work together to achieve what is a stunningly beautiful piece of total theatre?
L Thank you for the stunningly! Alessio began as a dancer and basically his vision is all about the body, and the body in space, so it was charming and challenging to understand with him how to give shape to my words onstage (in particular the Alma Mahler’s parts are very literary, by choice). Together, rehearsal after rehearsal, we built this “metaphysical room”, a place where the two stories could cohabit. Alessio’s staging and my writing basically hinge on the question: how can they intertwine?
M When did you start working on costumes and set in the rehearsal process?
L We use very simple items, and most of them were there from the beginning (the carpet, the trolley bag, the armchair, some dresses). As we went along we simply changed some of them with something more functional or more beautiful, together with our set and costume designer Rosa Mariotti – who, for example, literally dressed the armchair.
M Are your costume and set designers people you normally work with?
L Yes, we usually have long-term collaborations. For example, Rosa is currently designing the costumes for our new production, Queen LeaR. Andrea Violato, who did the lighting design for Alma and built the lamps we use on stage, will also be part of Queen LeaR’s artistic team.
M Music is a key element in Alma. For Italians some of the music is virtually classical What do Ornella Vanoni and Patty Pravo mean to you?
L There are two very famous Italian song in Alma: “La bambola” by Patty Pravo (in a cover by Giusy Ferreri) and “Mi sono innamorato di te” by Luigi Tenco (in a cover by Ornella Vanoni, mixed with a Gustav Mahler’s symphony). The first is one of our most iconic pop songs, the other is one of the most romantic. Both of them strike a vibrant chord with Italian audiences. For me these singers are part of our culture, using their voices in a show gives me the opportunity to establish a deep emotional bond with the audience and to make the story closer, creating a sort of “common language”.
M This is the first time you are doing a solo show? What are the challenges?
L My first time, yes. The challenge is the measure. Too much, to little. Usually you have stage pals to help you in find the balance, when you are alone is all on you… At the same time, this is a deeply desired show, which had a long and organic creative process: so I know every detail and I feel at home while doing it. Moreover, it’s almost 2 years from Alma’s debut, so it has grown. The real challenge, now, is to do the show in English!
M In Italy, where there is no funding body like Creative Scotland or the English Arts Council, independent theatre companies like Nina’s Drag Queens struggle to survive. How did Nina’s Drag Queens manage to fund this show?
L Along with many initiatives and open calls we follow to find some resources, we just started a membership campaign. Anyone can now sustain our company, becoming a Nina’s Sister, therefore part of the Sisterhood! We’re so proud of this project, that collects the energy of all our friends, fans, and pupils that in these first ten company years have followed and appreciated our work … so I’ll just close this nice chat saying something that I’ve repeated a lot in these last month: who finds a Sister finds a treasure!
"Lost at sea, afloat, our wandering little boat, drifting with the waves, led us to a place. It is the land of our desire and dreams, a place where one can leave all cares and regrets. But beware, beware! It is a land of dangerous treats. Why, who does not know with what fangs does humanity eat? "
DragPennyOpera is a comedy and a tragedy at the same time: it's a bittersweet play, a color portrait of our black humanity.
It is dawn. In the courtyard of a prison, under the scaffold, a platoon of widows waits for the execution of Macheath. They are his women: Polly, the wife, along with her mother, the entrepreneur Peachum; Lucy, the lover, daughter of Tigra, police chief; Jenny, prostitute and ex-lover. Macheath’s voice-off traces back the plot. We’ll never se him, but he is the only man: eternally absent, loved, hated, and eventually gnawed to the bone.
These women have extreme feelings and beastly behaviours, they are funny, disturbing, ironic characters: in other words, drag queens. The work is inspired by Gay’s “The Beggar’s Opera“, a mix of classical music and drinking songs, “high theatre” and parody, arias and ballads.
We reworked the original play’s structure, putting on stage a biting satire and a story of love, death, sex and money, told with politically incorrect, black humor.
DRAGPENNYOPERA inspired by “The Beggar’s Opera” by John Gay with Alessio Calciolari, Gianluca Di Lauro, Stefano Orlandi, Lorenzo Piccolo, Ulisse Romanò choreography Alessio Calciolari written by Lorenzo Piccolo direction Sax Nicosia
costumes Gianluca Falaschi scenes Nathalie Deana original music Diego Mingolla artwork Donato Milkyeyes Sansone wigs Mario Audello light design Luna Mariotti costume assistant Rosa Mariotti assistant director Mila Casali
production Aparte Società Cooperativa thanks to la Corte Ospitale – Progetto Residenze, ATIR-Teatro Ringhiera with the contribution of Fondazione Cariplo for the project fUNDER35 show selected by NEXT
With a touch of impertinence, we could say that after Brecht/Weill there are Nina’s Drag Queens. DragPennyOpera is not a parody but an interesting mixture of camp style and theatrical codes, actor and mask. (…) Ironic, funny, melancholic. (…) You can’t help but loving them. Sara Chiappori, Repubblica
This magical and cruel world resonates in the unconscious of the spectator, that deep space that deals with game, paradox, disguise and a bit of ruthlessness. (…) Opulent, muscular, engaging. Elena Cattaneo, Sul Romanzo
etude pour un vaudeville en travesti plein de paillettes
"In every tree of this garden, in every leaflet, in every trunk, there are human beings watching us. Don't you hear their voices?"
This is our first show inspired by a great theatre classic. A chorus of female figures suspended between variety and melodrama.
The Cherry Orchard is a borderland, a far horizon in spacetime. The Cherry Orchard is a crossroad of opposite worlds. The Cherry Orchard is is a forest full of ghosts, too soon forgotten. The Cherry Orchard is a syncopated symphony. The Cherry Orchard is a drag queen. Francesco Micheli
The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov is a small family saga, set during an era of great change. The characters of the play struggle against everyday situations which seem meaningless, such as unrequited loves, deserted parties, long walks among the cherry trees.
In our version, six women wait for the end. Around them, a group of men, a chorus of male voices invoking the sale of the garden, the inevitable countdown. From Checkov’s lines emerges a feeling, a kind of nostalgia for a lost world, a childhood that would never return but which hasn’t been forgotten. The female world of Chekhov is varied and intriguing: ladies, sisters, mothers, daughters and stepdaughters, caregivers, waitresses, maids, housekeepers, tricksters, lovers, would-be girlfriends, city women, country women.
They are travelers without a passport, divas without a stage, tragic heroines without a tragedy. And they laugh, they laugh all the time. But always through their tears.
CHERRY GARDEN etude pour un vaudeville en travesti plein de paillettes adaptation and direction Francesco Micheli with Alessio Calciolari, Gianluca Di Lauro, Sax Nicosia, Stefano Orlandi, Lorenzo Piccolo, Ulisse Romanò scenes Clara Storti, Selena Zanrosso costumes Giada Masi lights Giulia Pastore sound Giuliana Ginger Rienzi assistant director Luisa Costi
production Nina’s Drag Queens in collaboration with Atir Teatro Ringhiera, Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera – Biennio Specialistico in Scenografia Teatrale
scenes e costumes realization Omar Abu Fakher, Giulia Bassani, Alice Damiani, Marco Faffini, Du Jiao, Clementina Laura Manzi, Petra Nacmias Indri, Soyoun Park, Giulia Piazza, Elena Rossetti, Riccardo Rossi, Cristina Russo, Giulia Simonetti, Miriam Tritto, Yi Wu, Marianna Zarini, Jessica Zisa, Chiara Barlassina, Alessandra Locatelli, Alice Rossi, Duan YanYan, Mu Xiuja
thanks to Prof.ssa Grazia Manigrasso,Prof.ssa Francesca Biral, Prof.ssa Paola Giorgi, Prof. Angelo Lodi, Prof.ssa Donatella Mondani, Prof.ssa Maria Antonietta Tovini, Prof.ssa Berina Kokona, Tecnico didattico Beatrice Laurora; per il supporto nell’elaborazione dei costumi, gli studenti Gerlando Dispenza, Eloisa Libutti, Sara Mezzanzanica
No more time for the whining. Today, finally, Chekhov make us laugh. A Chekhov as you have never seen before, almost a discovery. These wonderful queens of resistance, led by Francesco Micheli, have transformed the cherry trees into cherries, female characters. (…) Gorgeous, delicious cherries. Fausto Malcovati, Hystrio
Grotesque, light and melodramatic: that is Nina’s Drag Queens’ Checov. Sara Chiappori, Repubblica
Nina’s Drag Queens successfully build a world apart where even Chekhov utopias find space ( … ), thanks also to the great sense of proportion and balance of Micheli’s direction. Literally a triumph: will see them again soon. Maurizio Porro, Corriere della Sera
A skillful mix of languages and techniques, built on a clear and clever writing. Paolo Schiavi , La Libertà