Mercantia 10-14 July 2019

It’s no longer a matter of only playing in the streets (or theatres)!
The Fourth Theatre opens up new spaces, new ideas and new vernaculars. We need to look beyond, as we already have and continue to do. At Mercantia, the artistic concept of “Between Earth and Heaven” still offers plenty of space for exploration, in a theatre that recalls its roots and opens up to the fourth dimension…
In the first thirty years of the Festival, we have never stopped dreaming. To continue to do so, we must have the courage to change and fall in love with a new project, to renew our goals and ideals. Twenty years ago, after the tenth Festival, Mercantia decided to shed its skin and renew itself. We have been very fortunate to experience continuous success since then.
Mercantia is a butterfly…
In the early years, the festival of medieval theatre hatched from an egg, then like caterpillars, we joyfully crawled through the streets and squares of the medieval village. In the last decade, we have metamorphosed into a chrysalis, and now it’s time to take flight, between Earth and Heaven, like a spectacular butterfly.

Mercantia is dead. Long live Mercantia!
(Everything changes, nothing stays the same…)
The Earth is the mother, Heaven is the father!
The sun is the fire, the fire is our strength.
The air and the wind blow in new ideas
water is our theatre, to quench thirst!

We make our gardens grow with new trees and new flowers, with new theatrical animals in Mercantia’s streets, halls and palaces. But don’t worry. With every rebirth, we continue to play the score we put aside at the last festival. The stage has changed a bit, but the dramatic hubs remain the same. We are always moving towards the light!

We are like fireflies, twinkling in the darkness!
In the early 1960s, because of air pollution and, especially in the countryside, water pollution (blue rivers and transparent pools), the fireflies began to disappear. The phenomenon was meteoric and startling. A few years later, the fireflies were gone. Let’s be clear:  I would give all of Montedison, multinational corporation that it is, for one firefly.” (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
We want to be those tiny spots of blinking light, theatrical insects to brighten these dark times. A theatre of resistance, little lights to attract anyone walking on the Earth. Debunking the beliefs and false illusions of society, offering a welcome, defeating the poisons of our minds.
Rediscovering our humanity and life’s values is up to each of us, and to the theatre of Mercantia…
Even better, more refined, more profound, in our formats and shows, our new proposals, new spaces and new ideas, even more secret gardens, even more party!
Every year, when I find myself writing up a new artistic concept for Mercantia, an inner voice calls me to task and tells me to talk about theatre, not only about philosophy. I suggest reading the Manifesto of the Fourth Theatre, where I set out the content and motivations of an inevitable turning point. Come to think of it, we started this flux many years ago; now it’s time to change the record and broaden the ambit.

Account (Theatre is life and life is theatre)
This project, this new section of the Festival, aims to open the four walls of the home to Mercantia, to tame us, to make us less wild. If theatre is life and life is theatre, the houses and homes of the village of Certaldo serve as the ideal location for our early experiments in the Fourth Theatre. It is not only apartment theatre, it is much more, or much less, like a meeting point between theatre and life, between Earth and Heaven, like the cross in its mandalaform. We open the doors of our homes, offering a welcome, not shutting down into our little selves. In recent years, Mercantia has fertilised a variety of territories, giving birth to new experiences and new artists. In how many Certaldo homes has the sacred seed of art been sown?  How many have become actors, dancers, musicians, puppeteers, warriors
Find out in the Account project, following these metatheatre sites from door to door, each one with a lighted lantern to mark it out. In these locations, the duality between fiction and reality, between theatre and everyday life is surpassed. A father welcomes you at the front door, the mother offers you a coffee and the daughter dances on the kitchen table. There you have it, in a setting like no other, with emotions, concepts, content, being told and ever-changing, the new semiotics of a living theatre. Every home will have a different, original story. Each life, each family, each creativity is different.
Life is theatre, theatre is life.

Mysteries & Drolls
It is said that, at its roots, in the ancient history of the theatre, it all began with sacred performances or rites related to time and the seasons. Later, via a long road and many adjustments, it passed through the decadence of the bourgeois theatre, resulting in today’s contemporary theatre and all its varied expressions. I believe that in the beginning, there were men, women and children in a cave around a fire. The gentle light of the flames lit up graffiti on the rocks, the theatre, the word took shape in the description of the hunting scenes and dramas experienced in that primitive world. Each time, if not always, when I put on my storyteller’s garb, I seem to feel in the air an energy, a vibration that is but millions or at least thousands of years old.
“Between Earth and Heaven” recalls the theme of the sacred, of what unites, what links people to heaven, to other people and to nature. This is why we come back to our hills, perhaps to the woods and our secret gardens. The Drolls will make us see the funny side. This unites us too and makes us human, along with the tears we have shared. In the words of a Japanese holy woman, “we don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh”. Becoming a laughing clown and making people laugh, this is a small mission in itself.
“Between Earth and Heaven” seeks the roots of European folk theatre, from mystery plays to clowns, hosting theatrical offerings of contemporary forms of expression that refer to folk drama, jesters, clowns or other forms that reflect the canons of theatre inspired by the sacred.  This will be a key driver of the three-year “Mysteries & Drolls” project, financed by the European Union and led by the Municipality of Certaldo.

Let me tell you about the party…
Even from afar, on the approach to the upper village, you can see beams of light reaching up to the sky. Then, as usual, up the mountain on the funicular or Via del Castello. Climbing the mountain is a highly spiritual symbol. The village has a variety of installations, such as the wooden stairs that can emerge from anywhere. Even a staircase is a symbol of dreams and ascent; the towers have always been a Babel of meanings. The village has all this, and we can build more, those going up and those going down, Angels descending from Heaven, angels of all kinds and features communing with and observing us. We will find ways to look beyond the walls to discover what they are defending or hiding. We will observe the planets through powerful telescopes and open new spaces for theatre and music; we will hear and premiere our two favourite bands; we will bring the fun to the streets with our wandering performances. Children will have their own specific square, although we must all become children if we want to go to Heaven… The trapezes will not only be those from circuses, but, as the Native American culture tells us, an ascent and descent, a sway between Earth and Heaven. Other esoteric chromatic signs will mark out the arches in some of the old village walls. We need to find someone who can fly alone or attached to balloons. We’ve already talked to Icarus, but he wasn’t available. The labyrinthine effect will be amplified in new alleys, paths, squares and even closed spaces that we hope to receive more or less as a gift, offered to all the families in the village, if they want to play a part, in many ways, in this year’s Mercantia. It’s also part of their heritage. Apparently, those who are not looking will come across the Festival, the riches of Mercantia and the variety of shows on offer. Everyone knows about all this and it will be the same this year, because we’re only telling you what you already know.

Mercantia is a laid table; it is warm bread straight out of the oven. It is the Carnival of the soul, a glance heavenwards, the joyous twinkle of the tranquil city of light.