Taking the theatres!

I would like to share with you some thinking, but to do so I first have to give you some pieces of information:

Italy has been fairly touched by the so called OCCUPY movement (I say so comparing the italian experience with Belgium, where I took part to the indignant, Spain, as everybody knows from news, and California, where I have been part of the movement too: I will post something about it, promise!!!). In a few cases people took the street, or better the squares, but the movement did not have the echo it had in other countries and neither the social movements (which are pretty strong in Italy) paid them any attention.

For example in Rome, while I was there with the March to Athens (by the way the March is now in Greece, they will be in Athens on May 5th, I reach them at the end of April) people from roman social movement were not interested at all (or not so much) to us and they were if not suspicious at least uninterested to the group of italians who had occupied a square.

I perfectly understand their reasons for not being enthusiastic …it is not what I want to talk about now.

The point which is interesting for me is that since last Autumn in Italy there is  a relatively wide movement related to the occupation of theatres and cinemas: two in Rome (Teatro Valle e Cinema Palazzo), one in Catania (Coppola), one in Napoli (La Balena) and finally, which the psicological reason why I am writing about it now, one in Palermo-my hometown, where I am not right now- (Teatro Garibaldi).

The two facts might be completely unrelated: italian movements didn’t take the streets, actors and other “workers of culture” occupied some theatres has it has been done before pretty often. No connection at all! and yes, there is no connection, between this two facts…not explicit for sure!

bbut the interesting point is that if you have the chance to move from one context to the other (as I have done) you see some similiraties (both in terms of contents and approaches) that it becomes natural to ask yourself: why people here decided to take the theatres instead of taking the squares? and why they don’t feel related to the ones who did take the streets?

This last thing is not an hypothesis: while I was in Teatro  Valle, during a european Forum on Commons, there were some people from the indignados and occupt frankfurt invited but the connection didn’t seem to be very close. I even asked about it…but the answer was a bit vague.

Anyway I think this might be a point to think about: I see strong connection between taking a square and taking a theatre (step back to the ancient greek world and you will see the connection patently) and considering that keeping a street taken is definitely more difficult than keeping a theatre taken…it might be the next step!!!

What’s the most important thing the two occupation have in common: assemblies and participation!

Hope to hear your reaction and your experience (I don’t know so much about cultural places occupations around europe, I just know about an occupied theatre in Athens)



Hi Elisabetta,

Thanks for

Hi Elisabetta,

Thanks for this, I’ve been missing a report on We the people :-)I’

I’m very curious tough, from what you know, how does it work occupying a theatre? How long can you do it, and given it’s private property, how are people dealing with authority?

Have you seen this conversation here with an indignant? In addition to assemblies and participation, she beautifully talks about the community, the WE that replaces the I in the crowd…

About the differences between movements… that’s something I’ll also look up and ask a friend of mine, and then get back to you. Thanks!


Hi Noemi

first of all thanks for the conversation you posted: it’s very interesting…even if a bit long so, honestly, I didn’t read every post :slight_smile:

I agree, the idea of WE is fundamental for this kind of movement. The risk , of course,  concerns communication. If we want to add something I could even say that what touched me moving from the Indignes in Brussels to the Occupy Movement in California and finally to the March to Athens (which involves “indignants” from different part of Europe) is that every assembly is “facilitated”.

This last point is crucial for me, but, sometimes it can create problems: even id “we” is the fundamental approach some inviduals are more charismatic than others, and some people are more “experienced” (both in facilitation and, more in general, in social movements). Therefore there is always a need for necessary balance.

symbolically I like the fact that instead of claps we move our hands (that’s the calpping way for the deaf language ( I am not sure this is the correct expression in english, but I am sure you got what I mean)

I don’t know exactly aboout facilitation in theatre occupations (since I have never been in an internal assembly)  but I could say that those (facilitation and moving hands) are not yet part of their methodologies…even if, for what I know at least at Valle they are working on facilitation tecniques (I know about it because one of them asked me some advice!). However it doesn’t affect my discourse.

Now let’s step back to your first question which implies crucial arguments:

first of all so far theatres occupation have always concerned theatre which were not used as theatres (either they were abbandoned, either they were supposed to be transformed in parkind, or malls or …). This very fact make it easy for occupants to show up that they are doing something GOOD for the community, reopening a space or giving back to this space its cultural role:keep in mind that most of the occupants are actors or somehow related to what in english is called show business but should  be called  show world (it’s not about business, is it?) so they actually occupy the theatre and then open it to people.

Well about HOW you do it I would say “as you occupy anything else”: you finf a way to open the doors, you come in and you occupy.

Concerning HOW LONG: well it depends on the context: usually if after a month or two you are still here it’s easier to keep it longer. The most difficult weeks are always the first ones. But still it depends on how media, citizens, public react to the occupation. Now it would be relatively difficult  for the authorities to clear the Valle since media, famous artists, politician have taken a position about it, and a lot of events (including inviting people from europena associations, institutions, acrivists…) have been done there; probably it would be easier to clear the Teatro Garibaldi (since it is a recent occupation) or the cinema palazzo (since it’s less famous).

The last question is the most interesting one, I can give you a short answer because I am still working on this topic and I don’t have all the data: the way these people deal with authority might be related to very idea of commons.  At Teatro Valle they are even trying to create a Foundation based on the idea of “commons” to manage the theatre. The point for me is: which one is the result and which is the cause? What I mean is: do people have somehow the idea of commons and they decline this idea about theatres or they need to manage an occupation and they “meet” the idea of commons finding something useful in this?

I don’t have an answer, not yet, but I feel like in this answer ther could be a key to interpret what is going on and maybe what will happen later on.

Hope my answer has been interesting and exhaustive.


Outside the WE

hey there, thanks that was enlightening!

Well, about the facilitators, I also believe that no matter how horizontal the movement and “leaderless”, it needs some key voices that the crowd alligns to. Actually, maybe the voice is the same but it needs a clear, spelled out message and some people are better  amplifiers than others.

The weird thing that happens especially with politically driven movements is when voices outside the WE start making individual claims and affliliating with the movement to find a space for making those claims, now those facilitators we need NOT :slight_smile: I’ve seen it at a March in Cluj, where I’m from, and alongside claims related to the internet freedom you would see people asking for the full reform of our political system - going from a republic to a monarchy and things like that. It’s actually very counterproductive and disrupts the whole WE thing… but then again since the movement is self organized and with no leaders per se, those guys end up being tolerated.

An outsider’s first impression

It is great that you are posting from an occupied theater, Elisabetta! If this is not riding the Edge, I don’t know what is :slight_smile:

We met in Teatro Valle. And here is my impression of why there might be a disconnect: at least in the case of the Valle people, as much as I like them, there is a very clear emphasis on the concepts of “Primacy of culture”, “artists and other culture as workers” and “workers rights”. Taken together, those concepts seem to imply a claim that the rest of us should stand up for the rights of culture workers to get on with their life - which, in the current Italian context, means to leave well alone public spending on culture, because the public sector is the main buyer for theater productions (unless you are Compagnia dell’Arancia and you are doing Mamma mia! The musical at Teatro Nazionale in Milan).

Now, there is no problem with such a claim. It is legitimate and reasonable. But most people - including those that participate in social movements - don’t go to the theater, and they have other problems on their hands. We are asked to show our solidarity with trade unions, FIAT workers, teachers, even (as you remember from that meeting in Valle) journalists working for official organs of political parties. Everybody is competing for our attention, and actors are pretty low in the pecking order (I don’t say this out of disdain: I used to be a professional artist myself). Also, it is not clear whether this solidarizing will actually come back to benefit me as a free agent with no affiliation (as the vast majority of Edgeryders. I am told I should stand with the trade unions to protect the ban on unjustified firing. Fine. But will the trade unions stand for me when my pension contribution as a freelancer (=  someboby who is unlikely ever to get a pension) is moved to 33%? Unlikely.

So, I think the Valle people are dead right when they try to leverage the availability of a space, the theater itself, as a capital asset to generate revenues that can engender a sustainable culture business. With all my heart I hope they succeed. Because solidarity is a pretty devalued currency these days, especially if you are not doing something absolutely essential like being a doctor or a teacher. Too cynical?


Yes! too cynical…but correct!

By the way unfortunately I am not posting from  a Theatre (I would like to be there, honestly!). If they resist I might do so in a couple of weeks. Sprry for disappointing you :slight_smile:

I agree with what you wrote! But probably it’s beacuse we are both Italian and we know (too) much about our social movements’ context.

I am wondering if people from other countries have ideas about it!


ps: being a teacher is not considered essential anymore, in Italy :frowning:

from almost inside

dear Betta,

your mission opens a debate very important for me.

In the last month I was in all occupied spaces you mentioned because I wanted understand better what is happening and I wanted write about: I interviewed some people and I spent some days in all spaces also participating to the assemblies. I’d want to write a mission about my experience, but in these days I haven’t the time. I hope to write it the next week, but after reading your mission I want to anticipate something.

First of all I have to do a clarification: inside these spaces there aren’t only visual and performing art workers, but also students, inhabitants of the neighborhood and people who work with cinema, publishing, translation, radio, journalism, technicians, researchers, cultural managers etc ie the so-called “knowledge workers”.  Someone defines himself as “immaterial worker”.

why people here decided to take the theatres instead of taking the squares?

I think that all the occupied spaces are symbols. Let me explain better:

  • Nuovo Cinema Palazzo (Rome) occupied in April 2011 because it had to be transformed in a sort of casinò (slot machine, night club) giving it in the hands of organized crime (? malavita) so the inhabitants occupied the cinema. After almost 1 year the judge declared legitimate the occupation against the owner company.

  • Teatro Valle (Rome) occupied in June 2011 because it risked to be closed for the suppression of ETI (public institution that dealt with the promotion and distribution of the Italian theater , also abroad).

  • Teatro Marinoni (Venice) occupied in September 2011 during the famous Festival of Cinema because it had been allocated 37 million euros to build the new Cinema Palace. it was only a speculation and the palace was never built, while in the same area fell ruined the beautiful Marinoni theater.

  • Teatro Coppola (Catania) occupied in December 2011, the first municipal theater in the city, turned into depository/stockroom, closed since II World War.

  • Ex Asilo Filangeri (Naples) occupied in March 2012. It isn’t a theatre, but a renovated palace investing millions of euros to be the location of the Universal Forum of Cultures in 2013. Until the great event the palace would hosted and produced cultural events, but after the opening is no longer used except as a place of some administrative offices of the Forum

  • Teatro Garibaldi (Palermo) occupied 4 days ago, a renovated theater, inaugurated twice in the last year and inexplicably closed

These spaces are symbols of a catastrophic cultural politics and of rhetoric of the great events in a time when social policies make work and life extremely difficult not only for knowledge workers.

And so is from these symbolic spaces the occupiers protest against  cultural policies, in particular against the financing procedures, the carelessness of spaces and ask a welfare system that recognizes the value produced by knowledge workers.

With the help of lawyers and economists it is developing a proposal of welfare inspired by the French system and they are designing and testing new forms of legislation and administration of the spaces in which culture is understood as a commons.

do people have somehow the idea of commons and they decline this idea about theatres or they need to manage an occupation and they “meet” the idea of commons finding something useful in this?

The idea of commons more generally is related to culture, not only to theatres. From interviews and from life in these spaces I understood that what they define culture as a common is the recognition of a broader participation of the citizens, of the workers in governance and management of cultural policies and more transparency in the allocation of funding. The experimental forms of legislation, administration and sharing of means of production mentioned above could be tools to begin this new era.

and why they don’t feel related to the ones who did take the streets? I don’t know :slight_smile: but I’ll think about and I’ll ask to some occupants

Probably I haven’t a clear idea yet, but I think that this a good moment to change.

The greatest difficulty is to endure this participation and this ferment, to test the new tools to make these experiences sustainable in the long run. Tonight we talked about this in the Coppola theater (yes, when I’m in Catania it has become my second home).

I could still write a lot about how the spaces are crossed by very different people, about the proposal of welfare that is being developed and my doubts about it, about the impact on the territory. I have so much stuff about…

but I hope to make more clear the ideas


Thank you the clarification above all for people who don’t know about these italian occupation (I had not enough time and I even didn’t know every experience so deeply).

Just some brief comments:

  • I am not convinced that the French system is so strong and so inspiring: as someone (who belongs to the Council of Europe) said precisely at Valle french are more public-oriented than commons-oriented even if for some arguments they can provide good examples (I am trying to develop a research about it).

  • About commons: I feel like the very definition of commons is quite fluid so it’s not so easy to define the relationship between occupation and commons in terms of cause-effect…I basically agree with what you wrote but I’d like to explore the issue more deeply

  • i definitely agree with you on the last poiint…me too i’d like to ask some occupants about it (I tried at at Teatro Valle but I know I was too provocatory-I am not sure it is the right word but being italian you will understand what I mean-…)

Sorry for stealing the argument… =) I wait for more news!


if we share the argument we can go more in depht :slight_smile:

Betta, I’m happy if someone shares with me the interest for this matter!

I’ ll post the mission with a synthesis of all the materials picked up as soon as possible in order to confront our opinions with a deeper vision.

some others anticipations:

  • of the French social politic is considered inspiring the recognition of the intermittent work dating back Mitterrand

  • I drew a definition of culture as commons from all the interviews to make more clear the idea, but I agree with you about the fluidity of the concept. To explore the issue more deeply is interesting the connection between culture as commons and water as commons because from the interviews is clear that the conception of culture as commons derives also from the struggle to block the privatization of water through the referendum of june 2011. But is also interesting read the statute of the Foundation Teatro Valle, ongoing in creation (it is also possible on the website read and propose editing).

  • about the relation with ones who did take the streets, I’m thinking about: Occupy is a movement, these occupations derive from a network of different kinds of groups that I don’t know if is possible define a movement. Do you think that this could be a reason of the lack of relation that you mentioned?

happy to share

I am sure you are :slight_smile:

I still see a difference between the fight for water (as a common) and the Statuto (btw are you a member too? do you have any idea about where they are with signatures?) even if I know that there is a very strong connection! But this difference might be, I think, extremely fruitful and productive…

May be you are right about the fact that they cannot be defined as a movement but I am feel like there is something else…something I’d like to understand better and that is, somehow, very “italian”! I am not saying it’s negative, maybe even the contrary…but still something interesting!

occupy as a business model - bauwen’s article

I‘m in a hurry, but I’d like to share with you this article written by M. Bauwens “Occupy as a business model: The emerging open source civilisation”

I’ d like to know what do you think about.


I will read it soon! and I will let you know…thanks



The whole argument hinges on the final distinctions between “networks” (weaker ties, cooperation infrastructure provided by third parties, no business model) and “communities” (stronger ties, cooperation infrastructure provided by the participants themselves, viable business model). I am not sure this is a robust anaytical distinction. Hmmm…

What do you think?

too optimist

I agree with you! In this article Bauwens is too categoric from one side (networks) and too optimist on the other side (communities).

It is interesting his vision of a new civilization model generated by Occupy in which co-exist democratic life, commons productions and an alive market. And this is true, it’s really happening for the first two elements, but I think that the problem is understanding how keep alive the market or how create an alternative market and so an alternative economy to keep alive this new civilization model. It’s very hard! My experience is related to the largest network of cultural occupied spaces and the problem is understanding how live on the long term of the commons production.

Markets are additions

the problem is understanding how keep alive the market or how create an alternative market and so an alternative economy to keep alive this new civilization model

My personal point of view on this: markets of exchange are nice additions, but the stability of a movement or a civilization should not depend on them. High autarky levels in small “tribe-sized” communities are key to stability.

There are not too many examples to prove my statement … Open Source Ecology fits the modern world well but is still in the making, the Amish are far off by their own intentions, and the only other large example that I know (Oekopolis Tiberkul: 5000 people in Siberia) is based on a wonky belief system. But I have to admit, they somehow find the time to do all their work in high, artful quality … it’s just astonishing, given that they are autarkic.

to keep alive

Yes, the problem is how to keep alive in the long term. and the strategy is related to the diverse situations:  for the occupied theatres the challenge is to legitimize the illegal actions with a new and more efficient system of production and distribution. The network of the spaces is the keyword, in my opinion.

I write more about this in 2 missions posted some days ago. If you are interested you can read more here and here