For ten days, Elements made its home-away-from-home at the villa Via Sacra in Barga, Italy. The villa, established securely on the city wall of this age-old Tuscan, mountain town, is situated only a brief (but hearty) climb up the narrow stone street to the duomo named for the town's patron, Saint Christopher.
At the duomo—enveloped in the aura of hundreds of years of devotion, and surrounded by stone and wood carvings, traces of the Templars, and the words of local "poet laureate" Giovanni Pascoli, Elements engaged with the locals through the craft of the medieval mystery play. In Latin—the original language of these plays, but also the "nonno" (or granddaddy) of both English and Italian—we recounted the legend of Saint Christopher, including his dubious beginnings, his quest for a master worthy of his service, and his martyrdom; and we told the simple but mysterious stories that grace the stone ambo in the duomo: the Annunciation, the Visitation, and Herod and the Magi. Finally we honored Saint Francis, whose Feast the church celebrated over the weekend, with his Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, in the original Umbrian dialect.
The marvelous juxtaposition of known and unknown faced us at every step of this production. We told stories that we know by heart in a language that is not our own. We played beloved characters in an unfamiliar setting. We did our best to present ourselves with full intentions and hopes for authenticity and generous sincerity, with no knowledge of how this new audience would receive/perceive us.
"Trust the text," we always say in moments of question, when things get over-complicated and the meaning becomes unclear. So trusting the text, trusting the stories, trusting these people in this beautiful place, we made our venture. Each evening was a heart-to-heart exchange that bridged the barriers of language and culture. The open faces in the glow of candles reflected the generosity of spirit and profound connection we shared through these ancient words. It was a wonderful first experience for Elements in Barga. We look forward to next year!