The Theatrical Construction Site - Under the Sign of Cancer is a project concerning Social and Community Theatre and Medical Humanities in oncology. It was carried on between 2006 and 2009 by Teatro Popolare Europeo (European Popular Theatre) and Master in Social and Community Theatre | Unito under the sponsorship of Rete Oncologica del Piemonte e Valle d'Aosta (Piedmont and Aosta Valley Oncology Network) and Regione Piemonte (Piedmont Region). At first, the project takes place inside the San Giovanni Antica Sede oncological hospital in Turin (San Giovanni Old Seat), then it spreads out in different hospital units and treatment centers in the city of Turin.
Under the sign of Cancer
October 2006 – March 2009
The Theatrical Construction Site – Under the Sign of Cancer is a project concerning Social and Community Theatre and Medical Humanities in oncology. It was carried on between 2006 and 2009 by Teatro Popolare Europeo (European Popular Theatre) and Master in Social and Community Theatre | Unito under the sponsorship of Rete Oncologica del Piemonte e Valle d’Aosta (Piedmont and Aosta Valley Oncology Network) and Regione Piemonte (Piedmont Region). At first, the project takes place inside the San Giovanni Antica Sede oncological hospital in Turin (San Giovanni Old Seat), then it spreads out in different hospital units and treatment centers in the city of Turin.
The project started when Alessandra Rossi Ghiglione, Director of the Master in SCT, met Rosanna Becarelli, Chief medical officer of the San Giovanni A. S. hospital.
The project received the High Patronage from the Municipality of Turin and the Piedmont Region, as well as from the Ente Teatrale Italiano (Italian Theatre Authority). It was also appreciated, among others, by Umberto Veronesi.
The project was developped underway together with the hospital communities and many partners, and has started off several project action units:
2006-2007: Telling the Disease
2007: Doors, Thresholds and Passages
2007-2008: 1000 candles for San Giovanni Antica Sede hospital
2008-2009: Under the Sign of Cancer
2009: Sergio Sugliano Hospice Project
2009-2010: Farewell Places
During the project, there were produced:
- a community theatre event Doors, Thresholds and Passages, which was performed in the Festival Torino Spiritualità (Spirituality Turin Festival)
- a performance Passions Cabaret Concert, which was staged at Teatro Gobetti – Teatro Stabile di Torino;
- a theatrical New Year’s Eve 1000 candles for the San Giovanni Antica Sede hospital was organized with the hospital residents
- a documentary entitled Doors, Thresholds and Passages, directed by Enrico Carlesi
- a photographic book made by Maurizio Agostinetto
- 12 theatrical guided tours in the hospital for Turin high-school students
- 4 workshops for students enrolled in the Interfaculty Bachelor for Health Educator
- dozens of theatrical actions inside the hospital: readings, stage installation, theatrical aperitives, festive events, musical performances
A specific description of the production paths and actions is available in the paper written by Alberto Pagliarino, attached to the “Publicationsˮ link.
Project questions and goals. Nowadays, the healing and dying experience is nearly entirely in charge of the medical approach. Hospitals are islands in the town. Is theatre able to enter there and become a vehicle for human and social participation? Does living a disease condition, as a patient or health staff, include a viewpoint that concerns each one of us? Is it possible to lay a new foundation of a general dying drama?
The will of making a training available for health staff was the starting point of this work, in order to face the burn-out condition concerning the medical and nursing personnel in their working context charged with a high-level of human and professional responsability. Later, the project developped and widened its action reference, aiming to create a specific activity in health promotion for health staff, patients, family members and the whole hospital community, as well as open the hospital doors to the city and its citizens.
Artistically speaking, the challenge was that of telling clearly and enchantingly the way life is both to the hospital members and to common citizens, taking the perspective of them who are sick or of the health staff. In this angle the project: 1) involved in the creative process, in staging and as audience not only patients and health staff but also high-school and university students, district shopkeepers, many associations and local institutions, individual citizens, informal groups and local networks, several boy-scout groups, local voluntary networks, the University; it 2) realised different theatrical and communicative formats: theatrical event, on-stage performance, community fest, movie.
Promoting institutions. The Theatrical Construction Site San Giovanni Antica Sede has been promoted and supported by a large network of institutions, authorities and associations with their different contribution to the realization of the activities.
Therefore the project was developped in partnership with ARESS – Agenzia Regionale per i Servizi Sanitari (Regional Agency for Healthcare Services), ASO San Giovanni Battista (Health Authority Hospital San Giovanni Battista), Fondazione Fabretti (Fabretti Foundation), Fondazione Faro (Faro Foundation), Officinartis, Progetto Salute Donna (Women Health Project), Rete Mediterranea di Medical Humanities (Mediterranean Network for Medical Humanities), Scuola di Umanizzazione della Medicina (School for Medicine Humanization), Slow Food Condotta Torino Città, Slow Food Educazione al Gusto (Slow Food Taste Education), Festival Il Sacro attraverso l’ordinario (The Sacred through the ordinary Festival), Festival Torino Spiritualità (Spirituality Turin Festival), Teatro Stabile di Torino, Coes.
With the support of: ARESS, Regione Piemonte, Sistema Teatro Torino, CRUT – Centro Regionale Universitario per il Teatro (Regional University Theatre Centre), Circoscrizione 1 – Torino Centro (District 1 – Turin City Center)
Target audience. The project is primarily addressed to doctors, nurses, volunteers, patients and their relatives in the different health structures as well as hospices involved in the project. Secondly, it is addressed to: family members, friends, the community citizens involved in many activities.
Methodology and format. The intervention processes and languages refer to the Social and Community Theatre methodology. Into more details, the work uses both the community drama method, conceived by Alessandra Rossi Ghiglione, and the narrative theatre. The work is grounded on life stories and experiences of the hospital “inhabitants” (i.e. doctors, nurses, patients and ex-patients, family members, health workers, cooks, guardians, cleaning assistants, etc.) and of citizens and students who participated in the activities. This material was gathered up during different work settings: one-by-one interviews, social theatre workshops, watching of theatre plays and collecting the audience comments. This material was reworked and increased thanks to the director’s and artists’ sensitivity with poetries, songs, photos, dances, music and historical and literary research material, creating this way many artistic restitutions, such as performances, theatrical guided tours, readings in the most meaningful places of the hospital, interactive stage installations and many more.
Quantitative results. In general, during 3 years of activities the project has involved:
- 2 hospitals
- 1 hospice for terminally ill patients
- 150 active participants
- 120 students enrolled in the Interfaculty for Health Educator and in the SCT Master at Turin University
- 140 high-school students of Turin
- more than 2.000 citizens in all, both participants and spectators
- 50 volunteers from local associations and institutions
Qualitative results. This work was the very first in a series of Social and Community Theatre projects promoted by the SCT Master and today SCT Centre | Unito. It created a specific field of Action Research, named “Art and Healthcare”.