50th Anniversary Celebration The Pirandello Society of America (PSA) and Founder, Marta Abba, Pirandello's Muse

6 p.m., Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Elebash Recital Hall, The Graduate Center, CUNY,
365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th Street) NYC
Sponsor: Center for the Study of Women and Society


Featuring: Benito Ortolani, Professor Emeritus of Theatre, Brooklyn College, CUNY, "Pirandello's Muse, Marta Abba"

Staged reading of Pirandello's one-act play The Other Son, a Sicilian tale of horror

Pirandello 1934The co-organizers hope to accomplish at least three aims: to emphasize the influence of the Italian actress Marta Abba on Pirandello's later work; to let the audience experience, through a professional reading of the one-act The Other Son, Pirandello's vision of Sicilian peasant women left behind during the period of great immigration at the end of the nineteenth century; and to address Pirandello's unique dramaturgical methods. A panel discussion with the co-organizers and Benito Ortolani will conclude the evening.

Marta Abba and Pirandello

The Italian actress Marta Abba (1900-1988) provided inspiration and encouragement to the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) in his twilight years. After encountering this young, beautiful, and passionate actress, in 1923, Pirandello, already 58, was smitten; and he began to write plays for her: The New Colony (La Nuova Colonia); As You Desire Me (Come tu mi vuoi); Finding Oneself (Trovarsi); The Wives' Friend (L'Amica delle Moglie); and Diana and Tuda (Diana e La Tuda). Abba quickly became first actress (prima attrice) for his acting company, the famous Teatro d'arte in Rome, and worked exclusively with the Maestro on many productions. Theirs was a love affair realized only in art. They exchanged hundreds of letters, which Abba later donated to Princeton University. The collection was translated and edited by Benito Ortolani, the speaker at this event, and published as Pirandello's Love Letters to Marta Abba (Princeton University Press, 1994).

After Pirandello's death, Abba kept his name alive with productions of his plays throughout Europe and North America. While overseeing translations and productions of his work, she also conquered Broadway in her debut in Tovarich in 1936. In 1938, she married a businessman and settled in Cleveland, OH, but they divorced in 1952 and she returned to Italy. She continued to promote Pirandello's work until the end of her life and also wrote an autobiography in Italian, La mia vita di attrice (My life as an actress).

The Pirandello Society of America

Marta Abba founded the Pirandello Society of American (PSA) in 1958. The Society is a membership organization dedicated to the study of Luigi Pirandello's work and its impact on modern literature and theatre.  George Freedley, well-known writer, editor, drama critic, and curator of the New York Public Library's Theatre Collection, served as the Society's first president.

Current Society officers and board members continue the work begun fifty years ago by sponsoring readings, panels, and performances of Pirandello works. PSA is an allied organization of the Modern Language Association, participates in other national and international conferences, and has formed alliances with numerous organizations, such as the CUNY Graduate Center, NYU's Casa Italiana Zarilli-Marimò, L'Istituto Italiano di Cultura, and the Players Club in New York City.

The Society's peer-reviewed journal, the Pirandello Society Annual, PSA, is distributed to libraries and members of the Society. The editors welcome articles, performance and play reviews, documents, and essays pertaining to the work of Luigi Pirandello.  Further information: www.pirandellosocietyofamerica.org.

Co-organizers: Jane House, Ph.D., Artistic Director, Jane House Productions, www.janehouseprods.com, Janice Capuana, Graduate Center doctoral candidate in theatre and dramaturg

Sponsor: Center for the Study of Women and Society, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Cosponsors: Jane House Productions

The City University of New York