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Tyrol or Not Tyrol

Theatre as History in Südtirol/Alto Adige


Nóra de Buiteléir

On 19 June 1992 Austria and Italy declared the official resolution of the South Tyrol question – the dispute that had dominated relations between the two countries since the end of the First World War. While this bilingual province is today held up as a triumph of minority rights protection and a model for post-conflict societies across the world, the story of the South Tyrol since its amalgamation into the Italian state in 1919 has been a complex and often turbulent one.
This book investigates the political role of the theatre in reflecting, shaping and subverting patterns of cultural identity among the German-speaking South Tyrolese. Taking as its starting point the representation of history in a series of ambitious theatrical productions from the 1970s to the present, this study offers close readings of texts and performances and an examination of the belated development of professional theatre in the province. The role of theatre is analysed in terms of the broader historical and sociocultural factors at play in the shaping of South Tyrolese identity.


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CHAPTER 1 Setting Out the Story: Establishing a Historiography for South Tyrolese Theatre


To begin at the beginning … — Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood The Italian and German languages, unlike English and Irish, do not distin- guish between the concepts of ‘story’ and ‘history’. As children we learn that a story is something with a beginning and an end; history, in the abstract sense, is broadly understood to have neither. In its more direct manifesta- tion, however, every history needs both a beginning and an end. Every act of history, every selective and subjective moulding of a ‘story’ from the materials of the past with the tools of the present cannot but place itself within certain definite limits. This history of modern South Tyrolese drama and theatre ends – and is forced to end – in the present time, the present time conveniently falling shortly after the bicentennial year of the famous battle of Bergisel. Where, however, should it begin? The answer to this question is not immediately obvious. Any tenta- tive historiography of modern South Tyrolese performance is subject to a number of variables in the fields of geography, politics and terminol- ogy. Where exactly do we mean when we speak of the South Tyrol? Is it reasonable to superimpose the political borders of the present onto the cultural landscapes of the past? Theatre has been practised in the German- speaking Alpine lands south of the Brenner Pass for many hundreds of years. There is evidence to suggest that the medieval tradition of the Passion play 14 CHAPTER 1 f lourished in the region right...

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