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Based on As if in a Dream by Marko Sosič and The Bread of Waiting by Carlo Tolazzi

Première November 14, 2014

Running time 1 hour 30 minutes. No interval.


Trieste, a City in War is indeed about Trieste, at war (during World War I, to be exact). Actually, it’s about a film about Trieste at war, as well as the story of a man in the present day trying to make this film. Based on two texts, As if In a Dream by Marko Sosiča and the Bread of Waiting by Carlo Tolazzi, the piece dramatizes scenes and characters from each while exploring the creator's and performers’ relationships to the tales in the present day. We watch the filmmaker assemble and film the piece: he operates a handheld camera, shooting scenes, and catching actors in ‘candid’ shots between scenes as well. Images are projected in black and white on a translucent curtain that hangs downstage, in front of all but the stage’s lip. Some action takes place here, but the bulk of the playing space lives behind it. The director/writer also has an area down stage left where he sits and ‘writes,’ along with a table in the audience from which he might direct, though he seldom uses either space.


There is one plot line that runs through the piece: a pregnant woman--whose husband goes to war and never writes--stays in Trieste, takes up a job as a train conductor, and has an affair with her boss. The other characters’ texts are more poetic in nature, less plot-driven, but are mostly what you would expect from a World War I tale: the men speak of the trenches, the hardship, the women speak of longing for their men.


The piece has a collage-structure to it, dictated by the process of the filmmaker. Text is performed, then re-performed with different emphasis and focus. Staging comes secondary to filming, so often it is difficult to see the actors onstage due to the fact that they are behind the translucent curtain or partially blocked by pieces of furniture. There are exceptions to this rule: moments where members of the cast move slowly through this curtain and deliver text to the audience, phantom-like, or stand up against the upstage wall, one hand raised and pressed against it. At one or two other moments, actors move into the audience and aggressively perform, or yell, their text at them.


Trieste wraps up with a repeating image of a man killed in war: downstage of the translucent curtain, an actor puts a bag over his head, lays in a stretcher, is carried behind the curtain, and dropped onto the ground. This action is repeated 20 times, while a song about war’s relationship to inequality plays. 















Cast size and detail: 10


Touring Size: Cast of 10, 8 technicians, 4 escorts, totaling 22


Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 4m, 10m, 7m

Maximum height/width/depth of stage: 7m, 10m, 10m

Cartage Information: Set will fit in one small truck or two vans.


Touring History: 


20 performances in Slovene Repertory Theatre in Trieste (November 2014)

20 performances in Italian National Theatre Il Rossetti in Trieste (December 2014)

2 performances in Gorizia - Kulturni dom (November 2014) 

1 performance in SNG Nova Gorica in Nova Gorica, Slovenia (November 2014) 

1 performance in SNG Drama Ljubljana in Ljubljana, Slovenia, (June 2015)

1 performance in SNG Drama Maribor in Maribor, Slovenia, Borštnikovo srečanje (October 2015)

Translation Options: Subtitles available. 



Valentina Repini, Organization Director


T: 0039 040 2453805

T: 0039 348 0032035




Availability: This production is not available for touring.


Director:  Igor Pison


Pison's initial theatre engagement was as an actor, with the ensemble of the Slovene Permanent Theatre in Trieste and the Italian theatre Il Rossetti. Following that, he collaborated with this company as dramaturg and assistant director. Pison now works in Slovenia, Italy and Germany as director of operas, dramatic plays and original projects as well as an author of dramatic adaptations. Since 2001, he regularly collaborates as author for the Slovenian programmes of Radio Trst A in Trieste.

Theatre: Slovene Permanent Theatre In Trieste


Established in 1945 as a professional and permanent theatre, the Slovene Permanent Theatre in Trieste is one of the eight theatres in Italy with the status of teatro stabile. With an ensemble of seven actors, the theatre produces five premières per year, often staging works that intertwine the cultural specificities of the Slovene and Italian community, thus strengthening the theatre's role as a cultural mediator between the two cultures.


Formally organized in 1902 as a Dramatic Society, in its initial period of continual activity (until 1920) the theatre staged 245 dramatic works, including world classics and original Slovene works, and 19 performances in the opera and ballet programme. In 1920 the theatre's building was burnt down by the fascists, which interrupted the theatre's activity for the following 25 years. In 1945 the theatre was re-founded as professional institution and has since then staged over 450 dramatic, opera, and ballet works. In 1964 the Slovene Permanent Theatre in Trieste finally got its own space in Kulturni dom (Cultural Centre) in Trieste (architect Edo Mihevc) and in the same year was also officially acknowledged by the Italian state, becoming one of its permanent theatres.


Theatre contact information: 

Valentina Repini Programme organiser


00 39 040 245 38 05




The Slovene Repertory theatre and the Repertory Theatre of Friuli Venezia Giulia have succeeded in their ambicious joint project: to represent in occasion of the centenary of the First world war - in a coproduction in two languages, based on a text by two authors, different per style and language - how the tragedy of the war was and still is felt by people in Trieste and in the area of the Carst. The performance Trieste, a town in war engrosses the audience both from the emotional and the rational point of view, tackling compassionately the reality of that time and the consequences, that we still experience today, of the First world war and the essence of any yeasterday’s or today’s war; moreover, it clearly talks about some issues, which for many people still represent a taboo.


Bojana Vatovec, Primorski dnevnik, 15.11.2014 


The author-director builds the scenes of the memories in front of the audience, he interrupts and continues the performance, at the same time he frames, in particular he shoots a war movie. Spectators are allowed to enter the fascinating world of the production of a documentary, but at the same time they participate in the recreation of the history, they enter the intimate stories of people and their faces, that are willing just peace. In accordance with the concept of the performance, also the projection and the element of the direction of a film about war, losses, intimate unease, as well as the role of the Author-Director are technically and conceptually accomplished.


Anja Bajda, Primorske novice, 17. 11. 2014 



This is a piece that attempts use of some theatrical styles currently in vogue, without enough artistry or complexity to successfully pull them off. A piece dripping with sentimentality, but void of any actual human exploration of the difficulties, complexities, and horrors of war. While the program suggests that the presence of the filmmaker allows the audience to consider the historical material in relation to the present day, it does not achieve this. Instead, it puts the focus on the act of creating a piece of art/entertainment, and unintentionally presents such an act as a masturbatory affair. The director repeatedly proclaims the need to “let the women speak,” and so they speak predictable text of their longing for their absent loves. There are moments when one sees resistance on the faces of the actors: perhaps they are aware of the lack of nuance in this director’s vision. And admittedly, the plot line that runs throughout, of the pregnant woman whose husband is at war, is more complex than these womens’ texts. But the play ultimately seems to invest in rather than investigate the less nuanced portrayals of women during wartime.


I think it is also important to note the failures of staging in this production. Because the focus was on filming over staging, the stage pictures were clunky, blobby, and uninteresting. This seemed to me a problematic prioritization, given the medium in which this director was primarily working. It was clear that the director was more interested in the concept of live video feed than letting theater do the thing it exists to do: let live bodies communicate human truths to other live bodies in the same space.


To be clear, I believe live video feed can be a useful tool in supporting the tenants of theater, if it is used thoughtfully and towards the aforementioned goals. I have seen many productions that have done just this, and in fact wrote my Master’s thesis on one such production. This was Waves, by British Director Katie Mitchell, which relied on live video feed to explore the interior vs. exterior lives of her characters. There, the live video feed was an organic solution to the problem of staging an interior life onstage, and the relationship between the filmed images and the live action onstage was key to understanding this philosophical exploration. But there was nothing organic about the formal tools incorporated into this piece: they did not derive from the material, but were instead absurdly thrown on top, like putting an Armani dress on an elephant in an attempt to make the elephant look chic. This Armanied elephant wasn’t fooling anybody.  

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