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Interviews and International Press

 

The Spanish playwright and critic Alonso De Santos called the De Fazio System “The Poetic Theatre.”  After attending the training seminar for professional artists offered by De Fazio at the Centro Dramático of Spain, De Santos remarked:

 

So sensitive, so poetic…it is curious that a person

  so important from The Actors Studio of New York

 gives an impression so different from the style 

 and language more or less associated with ‘The Method’.

 

                            Primer Acto

                                SPAIN

                            – Alonso De Santos

                                    Playwright & Critic

 

***

 

For the general public, his name says nothing; 

 but it sounds almost magically for the actors in Europe.  

 In fact, De Fazio is considered one of the masters of acting, 

a person of major international prestige.”

 

CORRIERE DELLA SERA

                            ITALY

– Giuseppina Manin

 

***

 

 

Dominique De Fazio.  He speaks quickly,

  says things that are acute, fantastic or intelligent, 

  and one understands immediately that 

  he has a great capacity to fascinate and guide, 

 and that he is a master.  We are speaking, in effect, 

 of one of the most quoted theatre teachers 

 at the international level.”

 

                                                                             LA REPUBBLICA

                         ITALY

       - Ugo Volli

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VATICAN RADIO INTERVIEW
with Rosario Tronolone
(in Italian)

ENGLISH TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW

"I Giochi dell’Armonia" presents:

Cinema Effect - the big screen and the magic in one’s eyes

Rosario Tronolone -

Dear Friends, I am Rosario Tronolone, welcome back to our weekly appointment with the cinema world. 

 

Today we want to introduce a movie that was already showcased at, and was the winner of, various festivals - and which had its European debut at the Aquila movie theatre just recently. 

We’re talking about the movie titled “Dancing on a Dry Salt Lake” by Dominique De Fazio, who is here on the phone with us. Good morning and welcome.

 

Dominique De Fazio -

Good morning, thank you. 

 

Rosario Tronolone - 

This movie, with it situation and its atmosphere, reminds us of another movie which we loved very much, Baghdad Cafe. Perhaps not so much because of the situation that the characters find themselves in, but because of the element of the unexpected, which can suddenly change the course of a person’s life. 

Your movie’s protagonist, who’s played by you, is Warner De Santis. He suddenly realizes that the world around him is collapsing - his wife leaves him - he loses his job. It seems that everything is approaching ruin. 

But instead, the protagonist finds the opportunity for a new life. 

Why did you choose to explore a critical time leading to something new? 

 

Dominique De Fazio -

Sometimes, when a person is rooted in a certain life structure, they become imprisoned by something that is invisible, like an invisible net. And at times, just so that we can free ourselves from this, the person must let life end, in a way, and begin new again. 

So, sometimes, if a person isn’t wise enough to propose this on their own, then it’s the circumstances the ones that lead to life being ruined. And luckily so. 

When something is completely ruined, only then a person is willing to ask “What does life mean?” - “Where am I?” - Who am I?” - What makes sense?”. So this type of “ruin” that you mentioned was intended. The environment of the desert is so apt for this. 

 

Rosario Tronolone - 

It’s so symbolic of such a situation. 

 

Dominique De Fazio -

Also because the desert is so vast, such a void. It’s a place where so many of the people who find themselves there, are lost. Luckily so. And by being lost, they find themselves. Or are found by. 

 

Rosario Tronolone - 

How did you personally come across the Mojave Desert? When did you visit it and what did you feel when you saw it? 

 

Dominique De Fazio -

I was driving through it one day, when my kids were little, many years ago. They were feeling hot and asked for something to drink. Somehow I found a place where I could get some water. This was a strange-looking village, with a mine and a Chinese woman who was offering Opera and Musical Theatre in the middle of the desert - very strange. 

Years later, when I was looking for the setting where my story could take place, I remembered that place and asked myself ‘where was that?’ So I went to the desert almost blindly and finally found it. I met that woman again. In fact, we shot in her store. This is how it began. 

 

Rosario Tronolone -

In your movie, I noticed first of all that there’s a difference in the rhythm. The beginning, when the protagonist is still dealing with his initial situation with no escape, the editing is fast, it’s alternate editing. Things appear to degenerate and even the editing tells us this. Whereas later on, the rhythm is much slower, calmer. The protagonist himself starts to pay attention to the movement in his step, even. He starts to slow everything in his whole existence down. Is the re-discovery of one’s slower pace also a way to go deeper into something?” 

 

Dominique De Fazio -

Yes, indeed. This was intended. I edited the movie so that in the first few minutes, when he’s in Los Angeles and is full of himself, his way of asking questions about life is filled with inner noises. I edited it this way in order to capture not only a sense of the city, but also to capture his inner life. How it translates to the outside world for him. Then, when he goes to the desert, it’s not just about slowing the pace down, which, in his case, he’s forced to do, but it’s about a way to move forward; leaving emptiness, space. 

If one moves slowly but is still motivated by a goal - that’s like running. 

Whereas, if one moves slowly, or even not so slowly, but there’s emptiness in the movement, space, openness - life can talk to us. 

In other ways we can’t hear life. We propose things, we have ideas, we have motivations, objectives, needs - our actions are motivated by a lacking. 

Instead, in the movie I wanted to explore how it’s possible for someone NOT to move forward in life not being motivated by a need, but by a response to a listening for what’s already there. The organic response would be would be to follow it. By following, one is brought to a state of harmony with something bigger than oneself, which was always there. 

 

Rosario Tronolone -

One of the means that are available to the protagonist, when it comes to this search, is the artistic expression. In the seemingly abandoned and void desert environment he finds himself in, he decides to stage a musical - which sounds improbable and even the other characters are doubting the success of this choice. Here there’s a scene that deeply moved me, which is the one where the characters push a piano in the middle of the desert. 

Why does the artistic means have this capacity of leading to a discovery. A re-discovery of values? 

 

Dominique De Fazio -

I think, in part, the way I do cinema, and the way I do theatre, stems from the idea that reality is not contained in an object, like a piano, or a place, like the desert. Reality is a relationship between things. It’s like a bridge between two things. It’s in there - vibrating. Likewise, I propose that my very own identity, is not found in my physycal body. Who I am is something I discover from the relationship between myself and the things around me. When I am in a relationship - in a dance with an object, or an environment, or another human being - a type of dynamic structure, like a dance, emerges. This dance is The Truth. When I crafted my film, technically and aesthetically, when I wrote it, directed it and curated all the desert shots, I tried to put everything in a context, so that the audience would not just see an object, or a location, or a juxtaposition of things that were separate. I did it in a way that the audience is placed right there with us. They don’t witness something; they are placed where we are and enabled to discover with their own eyes, their own sensibility, something around them. So, in the way that the movie is directed, there are several attempts to place the audience in the desert. 

That seagull who flew by - when I was doing research I found a fossilized pelican on the ground and asked a geologist who was advising me how it happened to be there, given how far we were from the sea. I thought that it was impossible. He said that he’d found a seagull, once. He said that these birds must have gotten lost - a strong wind or storm and they lost their way. They became attracted to the water that was pooling from the mine and assumed that it was a lake. Then got stuck in the muddy water and died. So I asked “but what does it mean?”  He replied “All who find themselves in the desert, are lost.”

OK, I will use this as a starting point for my research. It could be that all the people who go out into the desert are unconsciously wishing to get lost. To drop something off of their bodies, which they thought belonged to them - they want to get rid of it and rediscover themselves without these invisible, added things onto their bodies. 

 

Rosario Tronolone -

One of the things that the protagonist finds, for example - earlier you talked about relationships between people - he discovers an authenticity of relationships, especially with the character named Richard. He owns a store and tells him all about the myths and anecdotes tied to the Mojave Desert. Richard asks for something in return and, instinctively, the protagonist (Warner) wants to give him something which he considers valuable, equating valuable with expensive. Eventually he tries to give him a watch. But what Richard is asking for is about inner value. So, for example, he asks him to sing, with real sentiment, a song from his Italian roots. Thus the perception of what matters changes.

 

Dominique De Fazio -

Yes, this was directly taken from the actual structure of asking something. If one asks a member of the Kawaiisu Tribe for information, they might say “Look, I can tell you a story that comes from our fathers” which has value and one doesn’t have to pay for it but offer to open oneself to it. Warner doesn’t understand this for a long time. Richard will get him to understand how one has to place oneself, relate oneself, in order to let thing reveal themselves; appear even from a story. 

 

Rosario Tronolone -

After having had the experience of shooting this movie with the actors, both Italian and American, has your life changed? Did you understand something about yourself that you hadn’t explored before?

 

Dominique De Fazio -

Yes. First of all this all came about in Rome at the Studio De Fazio, which is a place dedicated to research for professionals in the performing arts. This is not a place where one gets a preliminary training. It’s for individuals that are already in the profession and who aren’t solely concerned with how to get work in the field. They are working artists whose main question is “What’s worth doing with my life in this profession? What projects really interest me and why am I doing this?” These professionals are mostly Italian, also German - they come from eleven different countries. They are singers, writers, directors, dancers…. Within this Studio we crafted three different theatre productions already, which have made their debut in Germany, Rome and the US. All stemming from the work that we do in Rome. Then we thought “Let’s make a movie” to verify that my teaching, my line of research, which is so unique, can work and be effectively used in cinema. They said “OK, let’s do a project” and we began. It was written in Rome. The first rehearsals were held in Rome. The funds eventually were found. This production has been in line with regular Hollywood productions, with regular Union contracts, regular salaries and so on - but the twelve main roles were performed by the actors from Rome. Other were cast directly in Hollywood. And, if I may, I’d like to say that I’m extremely happy to see how the Italian actors embody this training. It’s a kind of language that fits with their experience perfectly. It seems as if their nature is speaking right through them like a system. So it’s not surprising to me that those who do the work I teach most naturally, are generally European, and specifically Italian. 

I don’t mean to minimize the American actors’ contribution - they offer other kinds of abilities - but what I teach, what I try to invisibly communicate to the audience, the Italians have been wonderfully able to accomplish by their own nature. 

 

Rosario Tronolone -

You were just mentioning a method, which has its roots in Lee Strasberg’s Method. You are a lifetime member of the Actors Studio but then you developed your own [method] rather personally. Would you like to illustrate, however briefly, since the topic is obviously broad and complex, I imagine, how you developed your method?

 

Dominique De Fazio -

Let me try… the problem for me is that when I was studying with Strasberg I became famous worldwide as the teacher who, after Strasberg, held the maximum authority over The Method. I was asked to tour the world representing Lee Strasberg and his Method - from NY to Russia, Eastern Europe, South America, Cuba, Argentina, Spain, France, Italy… all over. And in the beginning I thought that I was supposed to represent that path faithfully. But I started questioning some things due to the fact that simultaneously, in those years, I was studying an ink wash painting technique called Sumi-e, with a professor from Tokyo. He’s also a Zen Master. Through this painting-based researched I discovered another language with which to talk about life, expression, communication, that was completely different from The Method. I then began to understand that these two were completely different viewpoints of what a human being’s life means. And little by little I started to understand, what elements had contributed - historically, sociologically in their respective eras - to the formation of these basic assumptions, which are often not visible even to the very individual who’s pursuing the research and creating a system. 

When one is studying acting or any other art form, one is demonstrating, embodying a philosophy of life. Even if one isn’t aware of it, one is a fruit from a certain tree and proposes just that in the world. 

I understood that for an actor, the most concrete thing that he’s communicating to the world, isn’t the content of a play, nor a character’s personality. Rather, the very moment in which an artist stands at the doorway of a creative act, reveals all his fundamental assumptions about life. What [the artist] perceives life to be; what stands, or doesn’t stand, behind all things; if he thinks human beings are this way or that way; if there’s a god or not… we understand. 

In the end it is all a matter of where we’re starting from. This beginning moment holds the message. It’s the most concrete thing that an artist offers to the world. His fundamental communication is what he’ll be known and recognized for. It will be his contribution, his most indelible footprint in the ground. How he stands before a creative problem - there all is revealed. 

I can look at an actor’s work for five seconds and understand a lot about what his fundamental assumption about life is. 

 

Rosario Tronolone -

Thank you indeed Dominique De Fazio, who, we remind you, is the author of the movie Dancing on a Dry Salt Lake, which had its world premiere a few days ago at the Aquila Film Festival. Thank you for being here with us, for having talked about your movie and about the artist’s mission in their life. 

 

Dominique De Fazio -

I wish to thank you for the type of questions that you asked, for your knowledge of the movie and for the care that you took, not only for me but for those who are listening. I am deeply appreciative of the care that you take in your work. Thank you. 

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