Studying at Verscio
Studying in a small village like Verscio is an unusual experience. The village of Verscio, located in a magnificent and inspiring setting, enhances working without distractions. Outside of teaching hours, the studios and classrooms are available for student use. Also available are: a communal cooking facility, a computer room, a library, a variety of musical instruments (including several pianos), a large costume wardrobe.
A unique theatrical world
by Dorothea Marcus/Badische Zeitung
It seems incredible that one of Switzerland’s best-known theatre schools should be located here.Verscio is a small village at the foot of the Onsernone Valley and the Centovalli. Not far from Ascona and Locarno, it has fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, not counting the 40 students of the Dimitri Theatre School.The village square is surrounded by mountains and cliffs, from the top of which you can catch glimpses of Lake Maggiore. Your heels get caught between the cobbles of the streets, and you can hear the river running nearby.
The School is world famous, like Dimitri, who founded it in 1975 with his wife Gunda and the Czech actor Richard Weber. Nowhere else had Dimitri found a place that taught all the techniques required by his art: music, dance, acrobatics, pantomime and the use of masks. At Verscio, the emphasis is on providing a thorough basic training, providing the student with a gigantic toolbox for later use. The School does not identify with any particular genre, but makes room for them all.
Unlike other drama schools, the Dimitri Theatre School does not base its teaching on the spoken word, but on movement, even though the curriculum includes voice training. Given its uniqueness on the European scene, it is not surprising that the School attracts students from all parts of the world and as far away as Japan and Brazil. The courses are taught in Italian, which can be learned by attending dedicated language classes. A hundred or so candidates sit the entrance examination each year, but only 12 are admitted. Some of the School’s students have become famous, such as the actress Marie Bäumer and the celebrated director Christoph Frick, founder of Switzerland’s well-known Theater Klara, not to mention artists performing with the Knie and Monti circuses. Some graduates have joined independent groups, such as the “400 Asa”, while others have preferred to pursue more traditional theatrical careers.
Recently, “Spectators”, the final piece of work produced by the third-year bachelors’ course students, won great acclaim. It was produced for the first time by a Czech director, Pavel Stourac, and won several prizes at the Rome and Bratislava festivals.
At the centre of the brightly painted inner courtyard of the Dimitri Theatre are eleven heavily made-up actors. They are doing their level best to sneak in without paying, and the bouncer catches them a number of times. Finally, they hide on the stage. As nothing is going on and they are bored, they pretend to be musicians, improvizing with watering cans, bicycles and megaphones. They dance and tell love stories, sleep-walk, climb the walls and trip over one another.
With the sketchiest gestures, they tell complete stories: a man kisses a woman, and only his insecure, trembling hands reveal the tragedy of a love that is not returned. An evening of real poetry; the standard of choreography and acrobatics is very high. The audience is enthusiastic, the seats sold out.
The School’s success is explained in part by its isolated location: “At first, being surrounded only by mountains and meadows came as a shock”, says Marie Joelle Wolf, who comes from Cologne, where she will soon be involved in a number of independent projects, “a real university of life”. Several times she was on the point of throwing in the towel, fearful of not getting through. “The only way was to work day and night”, explains Nina Pigné, from Lille, who plans to undertake additional training in acrobatics after graduation. The close relations between teachers and students blurs the traditional boundaries and create a very special theatrical world. It is a bit like belonging to the Monte Verità community in the last century. Strangely enough, the legendary “artists’ hill” is only five kilometres away.