Bari Hochwald

Bringing more than English-language theatre to Florence

Melinda Gallo
December 10, 2009

Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves: whether they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the ‘cradle of the Renaissance' for the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking to follow their hearts.

 

 

While working on the set of a popular U.S.-based TV series, Bari Hochwald looked around and suddenly realized that she desired more out of life. She had been working in the States as an actress for the last 20 years, was an active Syracuse alumni and had been involved with a variety of creative projects. However, she felt that there might be more to life than what she was currently experiencing.

 

For her 40th birthday, Bari came to Florence to celebrate with a friend. After only a couple of days here, she had a sense that Florence might offer an opportunity to do something new and different in her life. Upon returning to the United States, she decided to move to Florence to discover what these possibilities might be.

 

Bari moved to Florence in 2005, soon after her first play, Net Worth, premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world's largest art festival. Net Worth is a story about a woman who understands her value by defining her own legacy. The final scene of the play takes place in Florence, which represents the possibility of a different life, and for Bari it certainly has been true.

 

Within a few months of arriving in Florence, Bari created Florence International Theatre Company (FITC) http://florencetheatre.com, and to kick it off, Bari performed Net Worth for two weeks in November 2006. Since then FITC has grown tremendously: its four annual productions are performed at the Teatro di Cestello in the Oltrarno area of Florence.

 

FITC's structure was inspired by that of the American Regional Theatre: not only does it have its annual productions, but it also provides a variety of artistic programs for the community. To date, FITC has created two such programs: Creative Campus and English Spettacolare. The former allows university students to connect to the community through the arts, while the latter offers people the opportunity to experience English through theatre classes and productions.

 

As the producing artistic director of FITC, Bari has also created Late Night with FITC: Teatro Per Nottambuli, which presents after-dinner theatrical pieces for adults. As if FITC's programs weren't enough to keep Bari busy, she has also developed Florence Art Crawl www.florenceartcrawl.com, allowing tourists to experience the artisan center of the city, Oltrarno, at night.

 

After living in Florence for a few years, Bari has found encouraging people artistically and giving them the opportunity to express themselves is what matters most to her. Stemming from that desire is FITC's latest program: Theatre Arts Immersion Program (TAIP). TAIP, which she will launch next year, is an intense, semester-long program that focuses on integrating the many theatrical disciplines into different cultures. This program will be offered three times each year.

 

Bari had an inkling that this new chapter of her life in Florence would allow her to become fully who she was supposed to be. But after having created FITC, which has produced over 50 plays and projects since it began, she has found out that she is not only an actress and writer, but also a director and mentor. ‘Florence inspires grandeur,' Bari commented, which is certainly true of a city where the first bank and official museum were created.

 

However, although Bari knew that Florence would present many possibilities, she probably didn't imagine how busy she'd be juggling them all. The city has not only inspired her with the ending to Net Worth, but it has also inspired her to create programs that encourage curiosity and foster creativity in others. And even though she hasn't performed in any of FITC's recent productions, Bari still plans on returning to the stage because she is still an actress at heart.

 

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