Italian Theatre of Western Australia (ITWA)

The Italian Theatre of Western Australia (ITWA) is an amateur non-profit association originally set up in 1978 by W.A.A.T.I. (WA Association of Teachers of Italian) as W.A.A.T.I. Drama Group. Major sponsor since its inception has been the Italian Consulate of WA, in association with the Department of Italian at the University of Western Australia and the active collaboration of Perth’s large and very active Italian community. The aims of this group are:

  • To give students in the Department of Italian & teachers of Italian in general a chance to use and expand their skills in spoken Italian
  • To promote Italian culture using the rich resources of Italian drama (both in dialect and standard Italian), thus making it available to the community at large
  • To give an opportunity to lovers of Italian culture in Perth to learn more about the long and rich history of Italy and its great contribution to our Western culture.

Carmela Briguglio, then President W.A.A.T.I., now Manager CBS Communication Skills Centre at Curtin University, Enzo Sirna (formerly Senior Master of Languages at Penrhos College, and currently President of the Italo-Australian Welfare and Cultural Centre) and Luciano Pinto (Senior Lecturer in Italian at UWA) were founder-members of this group, which adopted the title of the “Italian Theatre of WA” in 1986. All have actively participated, as director-producer and/or actors, in the yearly productions staged at the Dolphin Theatre situated in the Nedlands campus of the University of WA.

Here Carmela Briguglio and Enzo Sirna recall:

Carmela: I cannot believe it’s been 30 years! It all started when I was President of W.A.A.T.I. We were discussing what activities we could do to promote Italian language and culture. Italian was at this time expanding into the schools and becoming very popular.

Enzo: I was at the time involved with the French Department (French Club) plays and thought theatre was an excellent vehicle to achieve our goals of promoting both language and culture.

Carmela: Our first idea was to keep it at an amateur level and perform our plays at various Clubs and Schools, but Enzo, having experience with the French plays, suggested we go a step further and perform in a “real” theatre. This was a very important decision which was to take our amateur productions to a higher level. We approached Luciano Pinto at the Italian Department at the University of W.A. to assist us in gaining access to perform our plays at the University theatres. We first started rehearsing, in the OLD Dolphin Theatre. We then performed our “first” play, Uomo e Galantuomo, at the NEW Dolphin, which had just been built. In fact if I remember correctly, we were one of the first groups to use the theatre!

Enzo: We decided that we could not restrict our theatre experience just to the W.A.A.T.I Drama group but wanted to reach out to the entire community ensuring a wider audience and a wider actor base. Some names to remember from the beginning which are still appearing after 30 years are Luciano Pinto, Nick Cappa, Bill Vocisano and of course Bruno Napolitano who has also stepped into the role of director.

Carmela: We were all extremely excited but worried about the financial side as it was an unknown area we were crossing into. Fortunately Stefano Stefanini, the Italian Consul at the time, was totally committed to our venture. He had arrived in Perth with enthusiasm and was determined the Italian culture and language would make an impression on the Perth scene. When the Italian Spring Festival was born we became part of this festival and were assured of instant exposure and support.

Enzo: We were stunned by the success of our first play and of such an achievement with an amateur, dedicated group of actors. Right from the beginning we were always fortunate to have people around us who believed in our venture. From the Italian Consulate, the Department of Italian at U.W.A. to a devoted W.A.A.T.I committee (including Rita Tognini, Julie Burman, Judy Caproni, Marisa Carnevali and Michelina Currie) to Gary Hodge, a theatre consultant who assisted us in all areas of production, to John Doyle from University Theatres who is still guiding the group, to numerous supporters in the Italian Community and to our very appreciative audiences. . We must also not forget the unflagging support over many years of Ambra Marra and Anna Russocaronte, working behind the scenes with production, costuming, front of house, sponsorships and many other aspects of theatre productions. Nor can we forget the Alteri Family for the many years of support given to our group.

Carmela: It’s been a real journey! A very satisfying life experience. Again I cannot believe it’s been 30 years but I know the best is still to come!

A lot of support has been received over the years from other lovers of Italian comedy, including Bruno Napolitano, Manuela Di Nola, Ambra Marra and Anna Russocaronte. The productions normally extend over a two-week season, playing to good houses and giving a lot of enjoyment to those attending. From the very beginning in 1978, invaluable support and assistance have been generously given to the group by the Italian Consulate of WA, Italian business groups and many other generous individuals from the Perth Italian fraternity.

Looking ahead, our great hope is to continue for the future, expanding our repertoire and continuing to foster and encourage the active involvement and participation of the younger generation of Italian-Australians in Perth. Planned productions for the next few years include another yearly play (on a lesser scale), to initiate younger members of the ITWA group, and include some of the classics of Italian comedy in our productions (Machiavelli, Goldoni, Pirandello and of course Dario Fo).