When Carolina de Castiglioni penned Syrma, she had no idea it would land her an opportunity to participate in the New York Theatre Festival in June 2020. The contemporary, Greek mythological, tale is Castiglioni’s debut play; though as an actor, she’s no stranger to the theater world. Following a reading of Syrma at the Center for Italian Modern Art on May 20, The Knocktural was able to chat with the NYU alum and hear how Syrma came to be.
Q: What made you start writing Syrma?
A: As an actress, I didn’t really stop and think about the complexity of my career before I graduated. Up to that point, I had lived in a world where I had control: if I studied, I’d get good grades, if I showed up, I’d get to act in a show. When college was over, so was this safe zone. I entered the real world, where finding work is really challenging; more so if you are an immigrant artist. Writing Syrma was a way, for me, to get back a little control, to say: this is what I want to act in and I will do it.
Q: What are your hopes for the story?
A: The plays and movies I find most compelling are the ones that raise questions. I hope Syrma offers the audience members the chance to investigate their deepest dreams, especially the repressed ones.
Q: What’s your favorite part of the story?
A: The play changed a lot since I wrote it in 2019. I think my favourite part now is the final scene, because it is open to interpretation. When we did a reading of it at CIMA (Center for Italian Modern Art) I was so excited to hear people come up with their own version of how the story ended. I think that’s why I love this play so badly: people can see themselves in the story.
Q: When it comes to writing a piece you star in, did you write keeping yourself in mind or did you resonate with your character after the piece was complete?
A: A little bit of both. Syrma stems from my personal experiences more than other works I’ve written, so in this case I draw from my experience much of Petra’s character. Which was really challenging, because theater is a part of me that doesn’t want to be seen. For other projects, I resonate with the characters during rehearsals or on set. That’s where my acting background steps in.
Q: What’s next for Syrma?
A: We have a new reading at the ICC by Park Avenue on July 12th and then we are talking months of production. Hopefully we’ll see you at one of our shows in 2024!
Q: What can we look forward to next? Will you be focusing more on acting or writing?
A: Both! They are interconnected to me at this point. I am working on a couple of projects in Italy as an actress and taking some time this summer to experiment with my writing.
Q: How would you say being an Italian, living in America, affects your writing style?
A: These two languages express two sides of myself so they serve different purposes. English to me represents the side I choose to present to the world, it’s the language of appearance, of ambition, of ideals. So the lines of my characters, how they interact with others, are always written in English first. Italian, on the other hand, is my messy side, my raw self. So, while I’m delving into the character’s emotions, wants, needs, secrets, much of the background work I do or the unspoken words are in Italian. Keeping the two languages alive within one piece allows me to gain a 360-degree view of the characters.
Q: What does your artistry advocate for? What is Syrma’s role in your advocacy?
A: I do a lot of work that aims to spread awareness on gender inequality and violence against women. Syrma is probably the less political work I’ve done so far. However, I do think that living in a world where everything is pre-determined and no one is able to create their own path can parallel the experience of many discriminated people around the globe. Changing the world is really hard, but (and I’m going to get very cheesy for a moment), as Elenor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. I think this quote resonates perfectly with what Syrma tries to convey.
For more updates on Syrma and more work from Carolina, visit her website.