The theme of ‘fear’ was seen by the Teatro Povero as an all-embracing topic, which could be explored in relation to its own peasant past, to its wartime experiences, and also to the present and the future. Research made it possible to enhance individual memories with the help of anthropology and the study of folklore. Superstitions, rituals, nightmares; but also very real threats imposed by the unjust social and economic system of sharecropping, which was still vivid in the memory. So, as usual, there was interplay in this autodramma between the remembered past and the more or less invented present.
On the one hand, a man who wants indeed to mount an Exhibition of fears in Monticchiello’s central square: the concept was supported by inventive scenography devised for the Teatro Povero by the designer Aleardo Paolucci.
On the other hand, a sequence of fears from past times, real and imaginary. Fear of ghosts and witches, fear of snake bites, fear of the Nazi SS troops who threatened to shoot the whole population in 1944. Fear most of all of the possibility of being evicted by one’s landlord, of being left with no home, no work, and no means of survival. The only person who might avert this threat was the local ‘fixer’ or go-between, Balzellino: the Teatro Povero’s home-made comic mask, but a man who could not entirely be trusted.
In a revived piece of ‘mumming’ folk drama, all fear was encapsulated in the single figure of an ugly old woman, ‘la Vecchia’, who could be ritually (and comically) destroyed and replaced—winter giving way to spring.