Pianist, Music Therapist, and Artistic visionary Rosetta Debattista joined Teatru Salesjan as Programme Consultant a few months ago. She and the team are set to launch the 2019-2020 season next week. indulge.com.mt sat down with her (with her glorious cat Luna looking on) to learn more.
“What intrigued me first when I took on the job is the fact that this is a community theatre’ says Rosetta. “It evoked important reflection on its purpose within this community. What is it there for, and how can it serve?”
Rosetta goes on to explain that the theatre had been used to a system where it was used as a hired venue. It needed more attention to the season’s content, quality, and balance – it needed more structure. Teatru Salesjan wasn’t present enough among people – people didn’t really know it was there and was a working theatre.
“The first thing that Francesca (Zammit, events administrator) and I embarked on was to filter through the applications we received to stage productions onsite. At the same time, we set about building a repertoire of our own in-house productions. This allowed us to arrive at a good balance between the two. It soon became evident that the Sliema people need a place like this – ranging from performances produced by the Sliema Local Council, the Salesian Brigade and Atturi Zaghzagh Slimizi, a wonderful group of youngsters full of enthusiasm and verve for the theatre.”
Returning shows… and new repertoire
The 2019-2020 season will see the return of staples such as the hugely-popular Comedy Knights – which this year will also include a family version of the show – and Ingrid Sciberras’s annual Flamenco show, titled Promesas. Add to that a plethora of new in-house productions and the programme is varied and highly entertaining. New titles include Kantilena, Knock-Knock, Cox and Box, and How to be Lucky, starring London-based actor Nicholas Gauci.
Family shows also form part of the exciting new repertoire on offer during the season with The Grinch in November and Room on the Broom in March.
Arts in Education
One of Rosetta’s long-standing passion is arts in education, and unsurprisingly she brings her ample expertise and experience to Teatru Salesjan. The new season will build on existing programmes. These include Roaring Voices – the Shakespeare company for 16-24 years olds which this season will be performing The Two Noble Kinsmen; Sally Strings, the string orchestra for 7 to14-year-olds; and Sally Sounds, the choir that caters for the same age group.
Furthermore, 2020 will see the launch of two exciting new programmes. The Choir of Nations is a multicultural chorus encouraging people of different nationalities aged 40 and older and who love singing to come together. This will be led by acclaimed soprano Gillian Zammit. “We also have 111, a musical theatre programme offering top-level training and performance opportunities for talented young artists aged 16 and over led by Denise Mulholland,” adds Rosetta. “I must mention with immense gratitude that these educational initiatives are fully supported by the BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation and the ADRC Trust.”
Teatru Salesjan is also currently undergoing the first phase of structural works financed by the Malta Arts Council Fund – Spazji Teatrali. The theatre’s board of directors – Fr Charlie Said, Giselle Grima and James Spiteri Tanti – is overseeing these works. These works are based on exciting plans drawn up by Chris Briffa Architects and are due to start in the summer of 2020. While preserving the much-loved patina of the old building, the theatre will be given a new lease of life, creating a flexible environment that suits the needs of today and answers to the hopes of a new generation. They will transform the theatre building into a more contemporary, and accessible arts space for the community and performers alike.
“The time is ripe for a theatre of this kind to flourish in the heart of one of Malta’s largest communities with such a rich and varied demographic,” says Rosetta. “Our biggest challenge is to get the theatre on its feet with a full-time staff complement that can truly run it on a professional basis. This is an independent theatre, and apart from a cultural partnership agreement with the Malta Arts Council, it heavily depends on the generosity of corporate and individual sponsors.
“The season officially opens on October 4 with Exit Stage Right’s production of hit comedy Certified Male; and the board, the team and I are looking forward to welcoming our audiences as the season unfolds over the next few months, in the sincere hope that they will be as entertained as inspired as we were putting the programme together,” concludes Rosetta.