Otello Cenci, head of shows at the Rimini Meeting (Photo: Rimini Meeting)

The essential on stage: the shows at the Rimini Meeting

From Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's journey to the Holy Land to St. Francis, art films, Bach, a Music Contest... Artistic director Otello Cenci discusses the program that will animate the Rimini Meeting this year.
Matteo Rigamonti

We sometimes encounter the essential at the theater. This is the challenge with which the program of performances of the 45th edition of the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples opens. This year’s edition offers a rich program and a range of cultural proposals, from drama to art cinema, through all kinds of music.

The 2024 theater season opens with the inaugural show, August 20 and 21 at 9:30 p.m. at the Galli Theater, entitled 'Who Are You? The Jerusalem Challenge.' Based on a text by Alsatian-born writer and playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt and starring actor Ettore Bassi, it is a co-production of the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples Ets Foundation, the Fondazione Istituto Dramma Popolare San Miniato and the Centro Teatrale Bresciano.

Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt in the Holy Land (Photo: Rimini Meeting)

The idea of staging what is essentially Schmitt’s personal travelogue to the Holy Land came from a proposal by Lorenzo Fazzini, editorial manager of the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, to Otello Cenci, director of the show as well as the Meeting's head of Shows: "During a meeting at the Meeting in 2022, I was struck by his humanity and threw myself into an increasingly passionate reading of his texts," Cenci says. "Last year we staged Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran, and then Lorenzo proposed that I read a preview of The Challenge of Jerusalem. A Journey to the Holy Land to confirm whether we could make a new show out of it.” And we did.

"Schmitt's first-hand experience of conversion seemed particularly interesting and valuable to us in regard to the title of this edition of the Meeting ('If we are not after the essence, then what are we after?')," Cenci continues. "Eric-Emmanuel in fact recounts his personal experience as an atheist for whom, thanks to encounters with people and places symbolic of different religions, faith begins to take shape, becoming something human and carnal." In addition to the author, who has been personally involved in making videos of the acting parts that will enrich the scene, there will also be contributions from Syrian singer Mirna Kassis as well as Italian and Arab musicians.

Pianist Ramin Bahrami (Photo: Rimini Meeting)

Another story of encounters and friendship lies behind the invitation to pianist Ramin Bahrami, who will perform on the Galli Theater stage on August 24. An Iranian naturalized Italian, he is among the most acclaimed and modern performers of Johann Sebastian Bach's repertoire, and is already known to the participants of the Meeting. "We first met 20 years ago on the occasion of the presentation of a publication in the Spirto Gentil series," Cenci recalls, "and we have been in touch ever since."

Speaking at the content presentation, Bahrami emphasized his connection with the Meeting: "In this dark time, friendship and dialogue among peoples are needed more than ever. The Rimini Meeting is a shining example of this, but good intentions must be followed by deeds. We must forget our economic interests and put human ones first. Dialogue, understanding each other, is the only solution. Bach's music is a wonderful example of this."

Giovanni Maddalena, Nicola Abbatangelo (director) and Giampiero Pizzol’s one-act tragicomedy 'Acqua' will instead bring to the stage the classic theme of truth and how it can be betrayed when lies become ideology. Set in a fictional seaside town where it has been raining incessantly for days, it features a group of friends getting lost in a bar as the weather threat grows, as do the accusations of the town’s public figures and the fake news in circulation. This performance will also take place on August 22 at the Galli Theater, followed the next day by Giovanni Scifoni’s 'Fra. St. Francis, the superstar of the Middle Ages.' "Perhaps one of his most mature shows," notes Cenci, who, "dealing with important topics in a very everyday language, as is his style, will re-propose the figure of St. Francis to the Rimini meeting, as a current icon and a universal reference when talking about 'essence.'" The shows can be booked and tickets are on sale at Vivaticket.

A scene from the show ''Acqua'' (Photo: Rimini Meeting)

Cenci is keen to emphasize that the Meeting’s shows are never "side" or mere "lightening" events, on the contrary: "They have always been part of our DNA. Just like the exhibitions and meetings, they form part of the soul and skeleton of the program. And they are also important because they use an absolutely universal language, therefore capable of reaching anyone." Including tourists in the city, who by coming across this rich programme will get to know more about the Meeting.

And that is not all. At the Corte degli Agostiniani, also in Rimini, a triptych of art films will be shown – which can be booked from August 18 – including films from the Venice Film Festival: 'Tatami- A Woman Fighting for Freedom,' 'The Old Oak' and 'The Children of Gaza - On the Waves of Freedom,' as well as 'Cabrini.' While the theatre and film festival continues – free and open to the Meeting’s participants – Davide Rondoni’s documentary ‘Sacritalia’ will also be shown at the Piscine Ovest Illumia Stage, which aims to answer the question 'Does the Sacred Still Exist in Contemporary Life?'. Also happening there are 'I Want the Peace that No Man Can Give,' a poetry show by the Friends of Nicco Association; and 'You are an Unknown Language,' with Ivan Talarico.

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Let us not forget music, for every taste and genre: from the screening of the documentary 'Io, noi e Gaber' in the Neri Generali-Cattolica Hall to the listening of the Spirto Gentil series with Beethoven and Dvořák; from the entries of the Meeting Music Contest, the result of a collaboration with Il Mei, the Meeting of Independent Labels of Faenza (Gea, Irene Rugiero, Luca Fol, Samuela and Sonoalaska the finalists) to the final evening of the Meeting, again on the Piscine Ovest Illumia Stage, with the very young Nuova Orchestra Santa Balera. Music – and those at the Meeting will realize this – is increasingly becoming the privileged access key to talk to our young people.