Director, theatre author, scholar and university professor, Luigi Squarzina was born in Livorno on 18 February 1922, to parents originally from the Romagna region. While earning his university degree in Law in Rome in 1945 (thesis “The electoral right in Italy until Fascism,” magna cum laude, thesis advisor Gaspare Ambrosini), he was awarded a director’s degree at the same time, with a scholarship to the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio D’Amico. His Yale University fellowship in 1951-52 was spent working with Alois Nagler, Chair in the History of Theatre, specialising in “Theaterwissenschaft”. In the late 1960s, he was one of the founders of D.A.M.S. (university degree course in the Disciplines of the Arts, Music and Performing Arts) in Bologna; there, he chaired the Directing Institutions at the Faculty of Letters for fifteen years – the first chair to offer this discipline, in Italy or in elsewhere. Then, from 1987 on, he taught the History of Theatre and of the Performing Arts at “Sapienza” University of Rome and then at Roma Tre University. He was a tenured professor from 1976, and professor emeritus from 1998.
Of particular note among his contributions to the advancement of theatre and performing arts studies in Italy, Squarzina led, from 1952 to 1957, the Dramatic Theatre Section of the great and innovative Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo [Encyclopedia of Performing Arts] founded by Silvio D’Amico, with contributions by leading Italian and foreign specialists, writing many of the entries himself. In 1966, in Genoa, while directing at Teatro Stabile and joined by I. Chiesa and S. D’Amico, he created Museo-Biblioteca dell’Attore; this museum became a Foundation of international consequence through the acquisition and development of enormously rich archival holdings. He served on the Scientific Committee for the national edition of Carlo Goldoni’s works (Marsilio ed.) and the Scientific Committee of the Il Vittoriale degli Italiani Foundation. For twenty years, he served as member of the jury of Premio Pirandello. From 1999 on, he was a correspondent member, and from 2002 a national member, of Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.
At 22 years of age, immediately after his Academy directing project with his adaptation of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (spring of 1944, the first show to be performed in Rome after the Liberation), he was invited by Alberto Moravia to join him in preparing the theatrical adaptation of Gli Indifferenti [The Time of Indifference or The Indifferent Ones], ed. in Sipario, 1947).
After his debut in the profession with All My Sons by A. Miller (1947), Squarzina carried out intense and innovative directing activity. In 1948-49, he directed R. Ricci’s Company (two Ibsen works: An Enemy of the People, his own translation, and The Master Builder); in 1949-50 he directed Teatro Ateneo (the Sapienza University theatre); in 1951 he was co-director of Teatro Nazionale, joining its director Guido Salvini; in 1952, upon his return from Yale, he founded and then directed, with Vittorio Gassman, from 1952 to 1954, Teatro d’Arte Italiano, which staged Italian classics and new works (the first complete Hamlet on the Italian stage, his own translation, written during his stay at Yale University, ed. Cappelli, Bologna 1953 and Newton Compton, Rome 1990; his Tre quarti di luna; the first Italian resubmission of Seneca with Thyestes). He would later recreate on his own Teatro d’Arte Italiano in 1959 (his Romagnola and F. Brusati and F. Mauri’s Il benessere). In 1965 he was asked to direct the first production by Compagnia dei Giovani, De Musset’s Lorenzaccio. For the San Miniato Summers, he created outdoor performances dealing with texts on religious issues: It is midnight, Dr Schweitzer by G. Cesbron, 1955; The Power and the Glory by G. Greene, 1956; J.B. by A. MacLeish, 1958; The Elder Statesman by T. S. Eliot, 1959. Thus, in the first decade of the post-war period, he dealt with opening Italy to international culture through theatre.
He then went to work in the sector of public theatre management; from 1962 to 1976, he joined Ivo Chiesa in leading Genoa’s Teatro Stabile, where he dealt with harsh controversies surrounding Sartre’s The Devil and the Good Lord, 1962, and his own Emmetì, 1965; from 1976 to 1983, he was director of Teatro di Roma.
He worked for fifteen years in Genoa, where he examined the classical authors, offering an innovative reading with an intensely interpretative attention, constantly based on rigorous philology. Many performances, either during this period or the previous or subsequent ones (always accompanied by Director’s Notes), may be considered together as cycles:
Goldoni: after La vedova scaltra (1951), with the Torrieri-Gassman-Zareschi company, and I due gemelli veneziani (1963) at Genoa’s Teatro Stabile with Alberto Lionello, brought on tour all over the world, in 1968 the “departure trilogy” began with the rediscovery of Una delle ultime sere di Carnovale, depicted with insertions from Goldoni’s Mémoires, an emblematic play on the crisis of the intellectuals and on the mass exodus of our artists. The “trilogy” continued with I Rusteghi (1969) and La Casa nova (1973); more, no longer in Genoa, were to follow: Il ventaglio (1979), La locandiera (1991), a new and different Ventaglio at the Roman theatre of Verona (1993) and La Guerra (1998).
Shakespeare and the Elizabethan theatre: the complete Hamlet (1952) was followed, in Genoa: in 1957, by the first Italian performance of Measure for measure; in 1964 by Troilus and Cressida, in which actors wore contemporary military uniforms (both his own translations, ed. in Opere Complete di Shakespeare, published by G. Melchiori, Milan 1977, vol. II); and in 1971 by The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Teatro di Roma: Timon of Athens (1983) and Volpone by Ben Jonson (1977). Lastly, in 1922, The Merchant of Venice (his own translation), featuring Alberto Lionello. All the Shakespearian Director’s Notes are now collected in L. Squarzina, Da Amleto a Shylock, Bulzoni, Roma 1995.
Latin and Greek theatre: Prometheus, in Syracuse (1954); Assembly women, at the Roman theatre of Benevento (1957); the world premiere of the newly discovered Dyskolos by Menander, at Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (1959); the 1968 production, in Genoa, of Euripides’s The Bacchae in modern dress, which, as Squarzina observed in his essay Il didatta e lo sciamano [“The Tutor and the shaman”], underscored the irreconcilable contrast between rational and irrational, and which began following interpretations such as those by R. Brustein, R. Schechner in New York and L. Ronconi in Vienna; Il Vantone di Plauto by P.P. Pasolini at Teatro Morlacchi in Perugia (1976); Euripides’s Orestes, in Syracuse (1984); the Seven against Thebes, at Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (1992), which was the origin for M. Martone’s film Rehearsals for War.
Pirandello: from the “historicist” Ma non è una cosa seria (1957) to Ciascuno a suo modo, a production that in 1961 placed Pirandello in the atmosphere of the avant-garde and of the indeterminism of scientific revolutions, to Non si sa come (1966), Questa sera si recita a soggetto (1972); Il fu Mattia Pascal in T. Kezich’s adaptation (1974), Il berretto a sonagli (1984, Paolo Stoppa’s final performance), L’uomo, la bestia e la virtù (1990), Tutto per bene (1988), Come prima, meglio di prima (1990), Liolà (1990), La vita che ti diedi (1994). Pirandello’s Director’s Notes are collected in L. Squarzina, Questa sera Pirandello, ed. Marsilio, Venice 1990 (including interviews with Gino Rizzo and Nino Borsellino).
Brecht: from The Seven Deadly Sins for the Accademia Filarmonica Romana in 1961, with Carla Fracci and Laura Betti, to Mother Courage and Her Children with Lina Volonghi and The Caucasian Chalk Circle with Lea Massari in Genoa (1970 and 1974), to Fear and Misery of the Third Reich at Teatro di Roma (1978).
On pivotal and controversial moments and characters of the Twentieth Century (“historic-dialectic theatre”): Italian history: Cinque giorni al porto (1969, on the first general strike in an Italian city, Genoa in 1900) and Otto Settembre (1971); works were co-authored by him and Vico Faggi, with Enrico De Bernart, with Ruggero Zangrandi; and European history: Rosa Luxemburg (1976), written with Vico Faggi, ed. Laterza, Bari 1976.
On “minor” Italian playwriting of the early 1900s, and on the time of the “great actor”: Marco Praga’s Il bell'Apollo (1962), Alfredo Testoni’s Il cardinale Lambertini (1981), Renato Simoni’s Tramonto (1982), Giacinto Gallina’s La Famegia del Santolo (1986).
Italian contemporary authors from the first post-war period to the present: from Sergio Sollima (L'uomo e il fucile, 1947) to Ezio D'Errico (L'oggetto, 1950), Ugo Betti (La fuggitiva, 1953), Rosso di San Secondo (La scala, 1955), Franco Brusati and Fabio Mauri (coauthors of Il benessere, 1959), Giorgio Prosperi (La congiura, 1960), Federico Zardi (Serata di gala, 1958), Anna Banti (Corte Savella, 1963), Diego Fabbri (L'avvenimento, 1967), Renzo Rosso (La gabbia, 1968), Vitaliano Brancati (La governante, 1984) and Mario Roberto Cimnaghi (Lord Byron prepara la rivolta, 1989).
“Major” American theatre: from the above-mentioned All My Sons that revealed Arthur Miller to Italy in 1947, to two O’Neill plays (the first Italian performance of The Iceman Cometh, 1965, and Long Day’s Journey into Night, 1974), E. Albee’s last text, Three Tall Women (1994); and “minor” works: Detective Story by S. Kingsley (1951), Tea and Sympathy by R. Anderson (1955), The Caine Mutiny Court Martial by H. Wouk (1954), A Hatful of Rain by M. Gazo (1956), The Miracle Worker by W. Gibson (1969), On Golden Pond by E. Thompson (1988): these texts/works, ahead of their time, allowed themes such as intolerance of homosexuals, militarism, the policeman/executioner, drugs, disabilities, and the disappointment of Roosevelt’s generation to be dealt with.
Some playwriting-directorial elaborations were a function of the presence of the “poeta in fabula,” the author in the scene: in the two aforementioned Goldonian texts – Il Carnovale (1968) with inserted text from Mémoires and La Guerra, 1998, and Molière’s The Tartuffe, that is Life, Loves, Self-censorship and Death of Mr Molière our contemporary, in collaboration with Cesare Garboli and Milly De Martinelli (1971).
As Artistic Director of Teatro di Roma (1976-83), in addition to his shows at Teatro Argentina, noteworthy are the novel initiatives Squarzina promoted: for example, the “theatralisation of urban space” in order to lend his collaboration towards the capital’s reaction against terrorism; during the Estate Romana, joined by municipal councillor Renato Nicolini, he demonstrated a new role for the Culture Divisions, as well as theatre workshops for “adolescents with disabilities,” which obtained extraordinary therapeutic results and was the first initiative of its kind in Italy. He also organised conferences on Carlo Goldoni (1979) and on the Roman theatre of the 1700s (1984, in collaboration with Enciclopedia Italiana); an exhibition on Mayakovsky, Meyerhold and Stanislavsky in Genoa, Milan, and Rome; one on Ennio Flaiano and the theatre at Teatro Argentina, and, in 1977, the great Berlin Exhibitions on the Theatre of the Weimar Republic and on Erwin Piscator (at Rome’s Palazzo delle Esposizioni).
Ha contribuito al rinnovamento della scena lirica lavorando alla Scala, al Maggio Fiorentino, all’Opera di Roma, alla Fenice di Venezia, al Regio di Torino, al Massimo di Palermo, all’Arena di Verona, al Rossini Opera Festival di Pesaro, a Tokyo, alla Staats-Oper di Vienna, a Chicago, a Montecarlo, collaborando con direttori come Carlo Maria Giulini, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, George Prêtre, Kurt Mazur, Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Muti e chiedendo scenografie anche a grandi artisti, Giacomo Manzù (Oedipus Rex di Igor Stravinskij, con traduzioni dal latino di Luigi Squarzina, ripreso di nuovo con sua regia nel 2005 al Teatro dell’Opera di Roma), Fabrizio Clerici, Corrado Cagli.
His scholarly output includes several essays of great depth, among which: Libertà e limiti della regia [“Freedom and limitations of Direction], 1963); Promozione di un repertorio contemporaneo come condizione di vitalità dei teatri stabili [“Promotion of a contemporary repertoire as a condition of vitality for repertory theatres], 1967; Cruauté, esorcismo e psicodramma nel teatro di oggi [“Cruauté, exorcism and psychodrama in today’s theatre”] which, at a conference at Venice’s Biennale Teatro in 1967, opened research fields he later explored in the production of The Bacchae (the conference was republished with the title Il didatta e lo sciamano ["The Tutor and the Shaman"], and translated into various languages); Pirandello e la maniera: Ciascuno a suo modo e il teatro totale delle avanguardie [“Pirandello and style: Each in His Own Way and the Total Theatre of the Avant-Gardes”], developed over several years starting from the aforementioned 1961 production; Perché dare Pirandello al fascismo? [“Why Give Pirandello to Fascism?”], 1978; not to mention I molti teatri di Pirandello [“The Many Theatres of Pirandello”], a commemoration held in Palermo for the sixtieth anniversary of his death (1996); the three essays on Brecht: Brecht e Weimar [“Brecht and Weimar”], 1978, Brecht e Breughel[“Brecht and Bruegel”], 1979, Brecht e gli elisabettiani [“Brecht and the Elizabethans”], 1988; the Regia [“Directing”] entry in Enciclopedia Italiana (Appendix IV, 1961/78, ed. 1981) and the analysis Nascita apogeo e crisi della regia come istanza totalizzante [“Birth, Apogee and Crisis of Directing as a Totalising Requirement”], a stage on a path towards a new way of doing theatre (1974); plus, Momenti italiani della teatralità [“Italian Moments of Theatrality”], in L. Squarzina and M. Tafuri, Teatri e scenografie, Milan 1976); Norma e trasgressione nel lavoro di teatro: le Regole per gli attori di Goethe [“Norm And Transgression in Theatre Work: Goethe’s Rules For Actors”], in “Comunità,” no. 174, 1975, with the first – and only – Italian translation of the Regeln, already published in 1954 in Arena; the Director’s Notes for Shakespeare and Goldoni (including L'Eros e lo stupore ["Eros and Wonder"], 1979. These and other essays are collected in L. Squarzina, Da Dioniso a Brecht, ed. Il Mulino, Bologna 1988, or in other volumes mentioned in the Bibliography. See also the introduction to Il teatro moderno by G. Lukacs, ed. Sugar, Milano. In 2005, he published Il romanzo della regia. Duecento anni di trionfi e sconfitte, ed. Pacini, Pisa, in the series under the direction of Arnaldo Pizzorusso and Ezio Raimondi.
In cinema, with Gianfranco De Bosio, he wrote the screenplay for The Terrorist (1962, directed by De Bosio, with Gianmaria Volonté) and for La donna del giorno with Cesare Zavattini and Francesco Maselli (directed by Maselli, 1956); he acted in Franco Rosi’s The Mattei Affair (1974) and in Giuseppe Patroni-Griffi’s The Driver’s Seat (1975). He directed the dubbing for J. Cocteau’s Testament of Orpheus, in which he provided the narrator’s voice.
For television, he wrote (in collaboration with Lao Pavoni) and directed Lo squarciagola (1966); he directed No Exit by Sartre (1982), Caligula by Camus (1982), as well as the TV editions of several of his shows: Carnovale, Casa Nova, Moliére/Bulgakov, Berretto a sonagli, and so on. He authored some original radio productions: Il Pantografo (1960), Vicino e difficile (1960), Il Sentone (1994), Il banco dei pegni and Pony Express (both 1995), all directed by him, plus the “impossible interviews” with Linda Murri (1974) and with Dante Gabriele Rossetti (1975).
He has translated works by Goethe, W. Raabe, Terenzio, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Shaw, Anouilh, G. Greene, etc.
Awards. In addition to those as author, specified in the Bibliography, Luigi Squarzina received several awards.
As author, he received the Premio Gramsci in 1948, for L’Esposizione universale, and the Marzotto Prize in 1957 for Romagnola.
For his directing career: the Orizzonti/Horizon Prize at the University of Urbino, Premio Internazionale Olimpo, Premio Astrolabio d’oro/Last Horizon of the City of Pisa, Premio “Una vita per il Teatro” from Taormina Arte, Premio Michelangelo and Pisa’s Caravella d’oro.
For the direction of individual shows: the Festival Internazionale della Gioventù di Praga Award (well before the iron curtain came down) for L'uomo e il fucile; four San Genesio Awards for J.B., Uomo e superuomo, Ciascuno a suo modo, La coscienza di Zeno; Premio Internazionale Pirandello for Ciascuno a suo modo; the Prix du Festival International de Paris for I due gemelli veneziani; three IDI prizes for the productions of La fuggitiva, Emmetì and Cinque giorni al porto; Premio Nazionale Eduardo for Brancati’s La governante; Premio Caos for his Pirandellian directing efforts; and Premio Govi for his direction of Goldoni’s works.
For television directing, he received Premio della Critica for La Casa Nova.
Lastly, for cinema, he won the Nastro d'Argento for best actor making his debut, in F. Rosi’s The Mattei Affair.
In 1998, he received Premio Antonio Feltrinelli per il Teatro, awarded by Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.
On Squarzina’s work, see C. Meldolesi, Squarzina. Per un Teatro di cultura, in Fondamenti del Teatro italiano. La generazione dei registi, Sansoni, Florence 1984; AA.VV., Passione e dialettica della scena edited by C. Meldolesi, A. Picchi and P. Puppa, Bulzoni, Rome 1994; Luigi Squarzina e il suo teatro, edited by L. Colombo and F. Mazzocchi (Quaderni di Gargnano edited by P. Bosisio, Università degli studi di Milano, ed. Bulzoni, Rome 1996, with a complete list of the productions and the texts, updated to 1966); E. Testoni, Un teatro di cultura, in Ariel, Anno I, n. 1, 2011; E. Testoni, Squarzina mette in scena Sartre: Il Diavolo e il buon Dio, in Ariel, Anno I, n. 2; F. Nicolosi, Squarzina e Pirandello, Aracne, Rome 2012; E. Testoni, Brecht, Squarzina e Strehler, in Ariel, Anno III, n. 1, gennaio-giugno 2013; Luigi Squarzina: studioso, drammaturgo e regista teatrale, Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi organizzato dalla Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice 4-6 October 2012; Luigi Squarzina: la storia e il teatro, edited by E. Testoni, Carocci, Rome 2012; E. Testoni, Dialoghi con Luigi Squarzina, Le Lettere, Florence 2015.
See also the entries dedicated to him in Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo and Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani.
He wrote several poems and short stories, including Zim, winner of Premio Todaro Faranda, 1999.
In July 1975, he married Silvia Danesi, tenured professor emeritus of Modern Art History at Sapienza University. He had two children: Federico, an architect, born in 1953 from his first marriage to the actress Zora Piazza (married in 1948), and Anna Isabella, born in 1979, associate professor of French Literature.
Moved by a human diligence that lay at the core of each of his directing efforts or philological essays, and considered the founder of “critical direction,” among the great names of his generation he is the only one to unite his passion for theatre direction with the firm personality of a scholar and theorist. A university professor from 1969 on, founder of D.A.M.S. with Umberto Eco, and tenured professor starting 1975, he taught principles of directing at the University of Bologna, and History of Theatre and of the Performing Arts at Sapienza and Roma Tre universities. He always had a large following of pupils and dealt with a wide range of themes in his abundantly attended courses: see Quaderno di Gargnano (ed. Bulzoni) dedicated to him, which lists the topics of his lessons.
His ample archive, considered to be of considerable importance for the history of the 1900s culture, has been donated to the Gramsci Institute Foundation in 2009, where it is side by side with the ones of Luchino Visconti, Piero Tosi, Sibilla Aleramo. His library, around 5.000 volumes, has been donated to the Istituto per il Teatro e il Melodramma of Giorgio Cini Foundation of Venice.
Luigi Squarzina died on 8 October 2010.