This event is free and unticketed
Performance Documentary

Figli d'Arte Cuticchio

April 16, 2023

This event occurred as part of the 22/23 Hop Film Event season. This is an archived view.

Go behind the scenes of the Sicilian puppetry company's work in this eclectic docu-film. A live Q&A with the artists follows.

22/23 Hop Film Event

Based on Dante's Inferno, Sulle Vie dell'Inferno (On the Pathway to Hell in English) was a one-time performance created by Figli d'Arte Cuticchio for the 700th anniversary of the Italian poet's death in 2021. The performance is conceived and directed by master puppeteer and company founder Mimmo Cuticchio.

Sulle Vie dell'Inferno is an example of how Cuticchio has sought to re-energize the popular theatrical tradition of Sicilian puppetry that he was born into.

The film is in Italian with English subtitles. The screening is followed by a live Q&A with the artists.

This event is free and unticketed.

The film is part of Figli d'Arte Cuticchio's residency at the Hop. Learn more about their performance La Storia del Soldata, showing at the Hop April 1819, and Sicilian puppetry here.

Co-sponsored by the Leslie Center for the Humanities, the Department of French and Italian and the Program in Comparative Literature

For over 50 years, Mimmo Cuticchio has carried forward his family's commitment to Sicilian puppet theater—proclaimed by UNESCO as belonging to the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity—but also pushing its boundaries into new territory by engaging with other literary and performative traditions.

Originating in the late 1700s, Sicilian puppet theater allowed artists to re-enact epic battles and depict contentious social matters with detachment and comedy, inviting its audiences to critically engage with controversial issues. Today, Mimmo and his company keep this tradition alive by adapting narratives and stories from other cultures and heightening their contemporary relevance through improvisation. The themes of Stravinsky's Soldato, which was conceived just as World War I was coming to an end and while the Spanish Flu pandemic spread throughout the world, speak directly to our world today.

About the Figli d'Arte Cuticchio

The Figli d'Arte Cuticchio is the most important of the surviving companies of Sicilian puppeteers. Created in 1977, its evolution is closely tied to the artistic arc of its founder, Mimmo Cuticchio.

Born in 1948, Mimmo Cuticchio's childhood was marked by the fantastical world of the opera dei pupi (the traditional term for Sicilian puppet theater) and his early formation took place through an apprenticeship with his father in this tradition. But as he grew up, Mimmo found himself facing a social and political reality increasingly distant from the values inscribed in traditional Sicilian popular culture, and in 1969 he made the momentous but fraught decision to break with his father and established a small puppet theater in Paris.

The rupture with his father led Mimmo to another Sicilian master, Peppino Celano, who saw Mimmo through a second apprenticeship, in the earlier tradition of cuntastoria (a Sicilian form of partially improvised solo narration whose roots reach back into antiquity), more intense than the first but one that opened up new artistic horizons. Following Celano's death, Mimmo opened a puppet theater in 1973 in the heart of old Palermo on via Bara all'Olivella, the Teatrino dei Pupi di S. Rosalia, where he and his company still work today. Mimmo founded the Associazione Figli d'Arte Cuticchio in 1977 in order to consolidate his company's varied activities.

In the workshop of the Associazione, puppet armor is embossed, puppet's bodies are carved from wood, scenic backdrops and banners are painted, and costumes are constructed—all by the very same performers who stage the company's extensive repertory. Three principles govern the group's artistic vision: the revival of traditional techniques of Sicilian puppetry; profound research into the origins, both oral and literary, of these performing traditions; and experimentation. Mimmo and his collaborators have been engaged for over 40 years now with the search for an expressive performative language that in presenting anew an older and more static cultural form aims to create an original kind of theater of truth and poetry, and it is this continual process of exploration that has made the Figli d'Arte Cuticchio so enormously appealing to theaters and festivals throughout Italy, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, where the company has been regularly invited to perform for more than three decades.

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