Paolozzapedia and the fantasticalness of being Italian
By Drew Rowsome - photos by Lacey Creighton
"It's sort of like a fictional autobiography," says actor/director Adam Paolozza of his show Paolozzapedia. "It starts off with a minimal level of theatricality but as we get deeper into the stories it gets more and more fantastical. It's about this phenomenon of when you are second generation, for anybody who has a parent or a grandparent from another country that has more traditional things, things that are lacking in Canada a little bit, it's that feeling of being a part of it but you weren't born there. You want to be a part of it but you feel inauthentic. My dad and my grandparents, when they came to Canada, they really wanted to assimilate. My dad was young, he was about nine, so he quickly learned to speak English. If you meet my dad, he doesn't have an Italian accent. He likes hockey, more than soccer, Maxwell House more than espresso. It was much later on that we wanted to go back and see what being Italian was."
The fantastical in Paolozza's work can reflect his training in clowning, mime, dance and what he calls, "a poetic theatre of gesture." Gesture with a rhythm and melody. "Music is obviously very important in my work. In Paolozzapedia it's another piece of the puzzle of trying to hold on to something a little more Italian. That's one of the ways I learned to speak Italian, learning these songs. I learned some of them from my dad who used to be a singer. Though not like a folk singer, he used to be an R&B singer in Ajax and Oshawa. In the show it's a way I share with the audience the texture and the sounds of Italy. The show is very much about fathers and sons and the difficulty of communicating lived experiences. We're playing a lot with the idea that stories and memories that you hear about your family are something that you need to experience for yourself. You kind of have to jump in in order to become part of the traditions and have your own experience. The music is a big part of that."
Paolozzapedia is being presented by Paolozza's company Bad New Days, as part of a festival dubbed The RISER Project organized by Why Not Theatre. Despite having successes, and Doran nominations, with The Double, Spent, Tools and many others, money is tight. "It's hard for all companies, even bigger ones like Soulpepper and Tarragon. For me, unless you're a company that has annual funding, you're still project by project. The struggle is that it takes so long to raise money, I'd like to do more shows. You have this idea and you're ready to go, that's where I fit into the RISER Project. I had development funding which isn't enough to do a production of Paolozzapedia, the support that the RISER Project gave me allowed me to turn it into a production. Otherwise I would have had to wait, the show happened very quickly from idea to full production."