Go Do This: Toy’s Home

A singularly unique theatrical experience this weekend at Firehouse. Holly Gordon saw the preparations with her own eyes, and spoke with charming Italian writer and director with her own voice!

Actress Paola Compostella in Toy’s Home. Photo by Francesca Palla.

What it is

A play about a bomb. Well, that’s a metaphor–something the play is full of.

Katia, a businesswoman at the beginning of her career, returns to her childhood home to try to save it from foreclosure while reconciling with her overbearing mother and estranged brother.

Toy’s Home is written and directed by Italian artists Jacopo Squizzato and performed by Katia Mirabella, Paola Compostella, and Squizzato himself.

We are promised a circus of dancing lights and shadows, a decaying home, and promises unfulfilled. According to Squizzato, it’s as if a light bomb has exploded, and every object, every memory, is exploded on the set, on the costumes, on the actors. The home is important in Italian culture, and the set itself is made to reference spirit, to be organic. “It is not like an apartment, apart from society.”

Oh, and the entire thing is performed in Italian.

“We go down to the particular to get to the universal,” he says, noting that if he just wrote about his own personal experiences, the audience might not be able to relate, but “if you dig deeper, you can arrive at something universal.”

Writer and director Jacopa Squizzato (left) and Katia Mirabella. Photo by Francesco Palla.

Writer and director Jacopo Squizzato (left) and Katia Mirabella. Photo by Francesco Palla.

Who’s behind it

Firehouse Theatre, under the new artistic leadership of Joel Bassin, who moved here from New York about a year ago.

This play will be performed in Italian with three artists and a technical director from Need Teatro in Verona, Italy. Their mission is to create original performance works that reflect on and critique fundamental characteristics of Italian culture including family, tradition, generational change, and economic inequality.

How did they end up in Richmond for just a three-day run? A cold email–that Bassin returned. “Why not?” he thought, mentioning that some of his best ideas have resulted from just going with a feeling. “I can’t think of that ever not having turned out well.”

How did the Verona group even hear of Firehouse? Recalls Bassin, “Jacopo said, ‘We were attracted to you because of your dedication to new dramaturgy.'” Firehouse’s artistic director describes his experience of hosting the Italian company: “To feel like you’re part of a bigger picture…is a humbling thing…when you meet a kindred spirit from another part of the world.”

This is a part of Firehouse’s FRINGE series.

Where it is

Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad Street, in a one-time fire station.

Set and costumes are key, as Mirabella and Squizatto spent considerable time showing me their drawings and set pieces still in construction when I visited. They brought their set to the U.S. in suitcases. There’s a lot of play from light and shadows, silhouette, and empty frames.

“It is incomplete, like the life of the character,” notes Squizzato. Each object has a spirit, and actors will be taking objects on and off, moving in and out of the space, creating a contamination of the space.

Parking is free across the street at Lowe’s. You’re just down the street from the Camel, and around the corner from dozens of Fan joints, which you’ll need for discussing after, as writer and director Squizzato confides “I do to you a material, and after, you can put it together.”

When it is

Friday, March 18th at 8:00 PM, Saturday, March 19th at 8:00 PM, and Sunday, March 20th at 3:00 PM.

How much it costs

For the general public: $18. For students: $10. Buy tickets online or call the box office at 804.355.2001.

Parking is free across the street at Lowe’s.

Other things to note

Yes, there will be English subtitles–perhaps against Bassin’s better judgment, who notes that audiences sometimes spend the whole time reading instead of watching the play. So don’t do that. “I don’t think people go to opera to pay attention to the individual spoken lines,” he suggests. “It’s the musicality of the language.” Need Teatro will do a special question and answer after the play if the audience desires.

If you don’t go do this, you will…

Miss out on the “individual impulse to experience something in a new way,” which is what Firehouse hopes to do this year with the 2015-2016 theme of RADICAL CHANGE. Richmond is on the cusp of change. Be with it this weekend with a troupe that came an awful long way to show it to you.

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Holly Gordon

Holly Gordon spends her days working with Richmond’s hearty nonprofit community and her nights singing in a community chorus. She loves her feminist book club, and is always distracted by shiny things.

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