Cultural heritage, linking the past and future: the case of PICCOLO TEATRO in Siena (Italy)

The “Piccolo Teatro” was the creation of Marga Sergardi Marmoross (1919 – 2011).

Marga Sergardi brought to Siena and Palazzo Sergardi Biringucci the theatrical expertise she had attained before World War II in her youth in the gardens of Villa Catignano, her family homestead, just outside Siena, where she set up original  rustic performances.

In order to do that she taught the farm workers’ children how to act, and wrote and directed plays for children, being a young little girl herself.

She called the group the “Company of the Rooster of Catignano” and they performed (not only in Siena but also in Rome at the Teatro Quirino and in Florence at the Teatro La Pergola) fairy tales, myths and stories Marga composed herself.

Since war broke out the theatrical activity came to an end. But in the early 1950s Marga Sergardi moved her activity to Palazzo Sergardi Biringucci and founded the “Piccolo Teatro di Siena” setting up a perfectly working and fully equipped 100 seats theatre in the ballroom of her Siena house. The “LITTLE THEATRE” was inaugurated by Paolo Grassi and Silvio D’Amico, availed itself of the collaboration of the Florentine Maestro Carlo Francini and became a means of education and  a centre for theatrical productions for both young and adult professional actors. These two parallel lives of Piccolo Teatro thrived for almost half a century.

In addition to the refinement of their personal skills of interpretation, Marga wanted the young actors to obtain a good knowledge of the requirements of a play so that they might acquire an expertise in art and technique.

The repertoire of the “Piccolo Teatro di Siena” since its inception included acting, voice and diction classes, ballet, foreign languages, costume design, lighting design and set design, and last but not least History of Theatre classes.

The concept of theatre meant as artistic and technical teachings was a rather innovative idea at that time in Italy. Its aim was the training of qualified professionals both for the stage and for all disciplines connected to the theatre. From 1986 to 2002 Fiamma Marmoross directed the Ballet School of Piccolo Teatro di Siena, introducing for the first time in Siena the educational program that Mme Marika Besobrasova, director of the École de Danse Classique Princesse Grace, entrusted her with, and created beautiful annual ballet productions and  international examinations.

Countless theatrical productions have taken place on its stage for over 50 years; expert seamstresses helped make over 800 costumes; some of them may be  admired in the rooms of Palazzo Sergardi Biringucci.

The vast theatrical library includes texts and theatrical works from the “SPANNOCCHI LIBRARY” inherited by Marga Sergardi and an entire collection of 1500 volumes donated by Maestro Carlo Francini.

Today, Olimpia Bracci Marmoross the granddaughter of Marga Sergardi took over the management of the Piccolo Teatro di Siena becoming the artistic  co-director with Gerardo Maffei of the cultural association “Piccolo Teatro Marga Sergardi” continuing Marga’s dream.

“The lessons of CREATIVE DRAMATICS are a way of partially solving the problem of uniting different states in modern times. Boys often have the same fanciful imagination despite their country of origin, Mrs. Olimpia Bracci Marmoross said during a High- Level Conference held at the European Parliament on Cultural Heritage in Europe: linking past and future, quoting her grandmother.

This is valid also today, and it is my desire and resolve to follow into her footsteps in my capacity as artistic co- director with Gerardo Maffei. One of our aims is to preserve and promote this tangible and intangible cultural heritage by means of carrying on, developing and spreading these traditional teaching activities, establishing collaborative national and international partnership, and creating new contemporary and innovative theatrical productions”.

Moreover, she affirmed during the conference at the European Parliament in Bruxelles:

“Research has found that any development process has an important cultural component. Culture can act as an agent of social change. Therefore art and culture can be promoted as a crucial component of development success. UNESCO itself has recently begun promoting the idea of the “creative industries” as a mode of development. This is what Piccolo Teatro Marga Sergardi aims to become, a creative industry. In the future, human, social, and creative capital will have the greatest impact. And this is why art and culture are a necessity.  There is no approach that breaks  barriers, connects across cultural differences, and engages our shared values more than arts and culture. What we need is shared leadership  to demand art as a necessity, not as a nicety” she concluded .