Teatro Antonin Artaud[Théâtre Antonin Artaud, TAA]
Swiss company created in Lugano (Italian Switzerland) in 1969 by Michel and Michèle Poletti. The couple had been involved with puppets since 1964. Michel (b.1943) had studied theatre, mime and puppetry under Paul Pasquier, then under Éliane Guyon, Étienne Decroux and Robert Desarthis. He also studied political science. In 1965, the Polettis and the painter, Frank Wohlfahrt, had set up the Compagnie du Castelet in Paris. Their first show, an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (French: Alice au Pays des Merveilles; Italian: Alice nel paese delle meraviglie) using eighty puppets, opened at the Maison des Beaux Arts. In January 1967, the Polettis migrated to Canada taking with them Le Diable amoureux (The Devil in Love) adapted from Jacques Cazotte.
From the beginning the company’s work was focused on creating total theatre, bringing together a number of puppets of different kinds, shadows, special effects and original music. The Polettis often brought together puppets, actors, dancers, musicians and singers on the same stage. The Teatro Antonin Artaud created about fifty shows for both children and adults, and gave more than five thousand performances in fifteen countries in Europe and North Africa. The repertoire included Il vecchio della montagna (The Old Man of the Mountain) by Alfred Jarry, and they were the first ever to have staged it. Among the company’s other plays were Jarry’s Ubu sur la Butte (Ubu on the Mound) and more than fifty original scripts written by Michel Poletti: Barthélémy, Mandragora, Romeo e Giulietta (rock-opera), Elsinore, il castello di Amleto (Elsinore, Hamlet’s Castle), La notte del gatto (The Night of the Cat, in collaboration with Sabine Madl). And many others, almost all of which were performed at Charleville-Mézières and at other major European festivals. The company also produced several shows for Swiss Television, including Ubu, Il Tesoro di Marco Polo (French: Le Trésor de Marco Polo; The Treasure of Marco Polo), Pop Faust, and Pulcinella.
The Teatro Antonin Artaud also created the Festival Internazionale delle Marionette (International Puppet Festival) at Lugano in 1979 and invited troupes from all over the country to perform in Italian Switzerland. The year 2010 will be the 28th edition of the festival. From 1987 to 1998, the TAA had a permanent home in the Teatro San Materno d’Ascona, a private theatre built in 1927 by the dancer Charlotte Bara.
The TAA had to stop work in 1993 because of Michèle Poletti’s illness; she died in 1994. The theatre started up again in 1996, still under the direction of Michel Poletti, but with a new team to which were added two young puppeteers: Sabine Madl and Gabriella Korell. The company had the support and regular participation of artistes like Gil Pidoux (writer, actor and director) and the composer Ljubo Majstorovic. At this point, however, it no longer had a permanent stage and had once again become a travelling theatre. The TAA’s desire for a total theatre of “images and imagination” continues to be the goal towards which it works, and its productions use the new visual techniques to good effect in the performance of all kinds of puppets.