The right to remain human

Conversation with actress and director Elisabetta Mercadante

For a long time now, as humans, we have taken the wrong path, conforming more and more to what Nietzsche called man-machine.

We are experiencing a propension to rationalize everything without taking into account that we are losing our lives. That breath of madness, sensitivity and spontaneity that makes us human and unique is fading. Therefore we are tending to equate machines to perfection without even considering that they themselves are not perfect.

According to Elisabetta, instead of aiming to become like the machine, we should value our imperfections making them an asset. Born in Capua, a city in the province of Caserta, to a Sardinian mother and a Neapolitan father, Elisabetta Mercadante has cultivated a passion for acting since she was a child. She attended the acting school directed by Giorgio Mennoia at the Manzoni theater in Cassino (in the province of Frosinone, in Lazio, Italy). Later she moved to Rome to study at the Scharoff Academy. She soon collected a series of prestigious artistic experiences. Simultaneously with her career as an actress Elisabetta attended the Faculty of Law graduating with the thesis “The protection of human rights in armed conflicts”. The question of human rights is a recurring theme in the plays in which she participates and in the works she has written. Elisabetta chose the theater to share her knowledge and to sensitize human beings to remain human beings and not to sell their souls to become automatons. At the end of the first stage of theater studies she wrote, interpreted and directed Continuando a Sperare (Continuing to hope) an excursus of human rights through the real and poetic life of Antonio de Curtis in art Totò.

Continuando a Sperare features monologues by her interspersed with some very significant poems by Totò such as La Riconoscenza, ‘O Schiattamuorto, Il Fine dicitore,‘ A Vita. The closing sentence of the show is emblematic, a sentence to which the author is particularly attached and which embraces all of humanity without condemning anyone: ”These are the two faces of humanity who has always won and who continues to lose. But I, like Totò, hold them both while continuing to hope.”

The initiative received considerable acclaim and the patronage of the culture department of the city of Cassino. Elisabetta is the official interpreter of the lyric Mille Criste (Thousand Christs)written by Enrica Romano, poet and teacher of literature and philosophy with whom she often collaborates. Mille Criste is a poem about thousand Armenian women crucified by the Turkish army. The opera won the third edition of the international award “L’Anfora di Calliope” presented by the same cultural association. Remaining on the theme of human rights, it obviously also deal with raising awareness of violence against women, which she doesn’t like to call feminicide.

E.M.: “Because, a priori, a woman should be considered a human being beyond sex. Violence and hatred have no sex, race or religion. In this case, violence and hatred are towards a living being at regardless of gender. I consider the word feminicide ghettoizing and counterproductive for women. It’s as if it makes us appear weak in front of the opposite sex and I don’t think we are weak.”

Elisabetta is currently dedicating herself to the preparation of Sophocles’ Antigone. Her goal is to bring back to the stage not only the Greek tragedy but all the shows with a moral of a certain thickness that aims at the social improvement of man and legality. As a director, she always trys to bring human rights on stage, even if in a comic key.

E.M.: “The law is best acquired through the theater. The Greeks spoke of it through tragedies. We should learn from the ancient Greeks who incited the people to be interested in beauty, in aesthetics not only in the externalform but as the beauty of the content.”

A woman empathetic and sensitive who, as an artist, is so caught up in thoughts and artistic visions that, often, while going to the theater for rehearsals she takes a wrong turn and gets lost. Her concentration is all on the scene. She focuses on the part to play or on thoughts that flow and past her eyes like the streets she crosses.

Elisabetta Mercadante Actress Director

Elisabetta teaches diction, psychotechnics and Greek tragedy in various theater workshops and is an actress and production assistant of the theater company “Non Solo Sipario” directed by Fausto Bellone. Non Solo Sipario” is currently taking Oltre lo Sguardo (Beyond the Look) on tour in the itinerant version of I Sentieri della Legalità (The Paths of Legality). She continues to collaborate in various initiatives organized by Luigi Troisi, Massimo’s brother, and with Sophia publishing house as a book trailer reader. She has been chosen several times as a reader for the prose interpretation of the texts of the actor and director Fabio Massa. And she is the official interpreter of a prestigious international competition of literature and poetry called “Ali e Radici”, an important association that deals with charity and is concerned with raising awareness of culture and beauty, whose president is the lawyer Michela Pirozzi. From a very young age Elisabetta participated in various shows but only after the first audition with Lina Wertmuller, at the age of seventeen, she decided to devote herself completely to theater.

Following the director’s suggestion she decided to study at the Sharoff Academy. Later she simultaneously auditioned for Zelig show in Milan and at the Pietro Sharoff Academy in Rome and passed both. She refused participation in the Zelig show to attend the prestigious Roman academy.

E.M.: “I chose the academy because it was limited in number. As for Zelig, I could have tried again anyway. The academy lasted 3 years. I passed the exams of the first and second year going directly to the third. Theatrical foundations allow a good theater actor to be also a cinema actor. Theater gets you in contact with the audience. As a theater actor you have no right of reply. If you fail in that moment that’s it!“

Elisabetta Mercadante Actress Director

Some aspects of her theatrical philosophy are close to the Edwardian school, in which every breath, every word, every pause has its weight to build something good for the evolution of the community.

On the other hand the new generations focus more on fast consumption, on what is only spectacular, focusing exclusively on the numbers and on the momentary profit. Since art is an expression of man’s evolutionary level, it is clear that along this line, instead of improving, man empties himself of his own essence.

E.M.: “Today everyone defines themselves as artists. Unfortunately there is a vulgarization of this term. In reality we should first learn to study and work in order to be able to define ourselves as artists. Today there is a hunger for notoriety and talent is no longer considered. What happened to the study, the seriousness, the skill? There is no meritocracy in Italy and this is not a dictatorship? What happens in Iran or in Ukraine or elsewhere is advertised by us who are always ready to point out others as criminals. Because what do we do? We want to talk about statelets in the U.S.A. that they still have the death penalty?”

Elisabetta Mercadante Actress Director

Elisabetta love for theater is intense but she also greatly appreciates cinema and television. Among some other experiences she participated in Gomorrah 4 the series.

E.M.: “In the Gomorra 4 series I played Black Lady, the accountant of Patrizia’s clan. The production offered me the part saying that they would develop the character as Patrizia’s accountant. However they didn’t.”

After talking about her career and theater in general, we returned to the subject of human rights, asking her opinion on what is happening in Iran. Elisabetta made some considerations that start from the Middle East to arrive at the censorship that we have been experiencing for some time now in Italy as well.

E.M.: “In Iran they are very atrocious. In their tortures and crimes they are extremely bigoted. This is known and it is bad that men and women are killed for religious crimes. God or Allah should always be on the side of the weak. A government that kills for religion is not right. Therefore in Iran they are wrong. Freedom of expression is suppressed but this also happens in Italy. They don’t kill us physically but they do it psychologically. The concept of democracy in Italy has been completely distorted. What have we ever decided as a people in Italy? It is fair to say that what happens in those places is bad, but we should also occasionally look at what happens at home and ask ourselves what we do for the world. I believe that the world is a bit like a human body. In a holistic sense, if my little finger hurts, I feel pain all over my body. So I have to treat the whole body not just the little finger. I have to look at the whole. I can not say that they are bad and then I sell them weapons or I disguise myself as a pacifist and go there for the oil.”

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