Italian puppeteer Laura Bartolomei is exploring her own consciousness and sleep world with her show that also investigates the universal experience of dreaming.
She will perform her show, “Dorme,” at Branch Gallery at18 Holden St., on Monday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. as part of the MCLA Puppet Fest.
“Dorme” follows the dreams of a little girl and was inspired partially by the sight of her own children sleeping, as well as her own specific dreams as a child.
“There were certain dreams that I had as a child that keep coming to me in images, in dreams,” Bartolomei said. “Like, I often dream of a house, and it’s always the same house, no matter how many years have passed. That’s the feeling I have, of a place that I have known. It always seems like it is this, let’s say, a green water hose and there’s always bamboo. Certain things always come. There’s always a dresser, sometimes I take fabrics out of the dresser, some times I take candies.”
Bartolomei says certain images that appeared in her childhood dreams have continued to haunt her well into adulthood.
“Certain things always come, like me walking on dead cats,” she said. “Many, many times, I dreamt this, many times. Cats keeping coming into my dreams- alive or dead. Sometimes cats become little babies or babies become little cats, this kind of thing. It was easy for me to remember those dreams because those are the ones I kept having over the years.”
Bartolomei traces the disturbing cat dreams back to actual events in her childhood “The only one I can really recall as something that was my fear as a girl was about dead cats, because I’ve seen kids, other kids coming into my neighborhood, killing cats with stones,” Bartolomei said. “I had a cat. I’ve always been one of those girls that has animals around, so I think I was very afraid of my pet dying or something.”
“Also, what I remember is that they didn’t clean up very much, so the cat would stay there and get rotten day by day. As a girl I was very curious, so every time I’d walk by, when I went to school, I’d look at it, and it’s always a little bit worse and reveals a little more of what’s inside. I was very fascinated and very curious about this, but at the same time, very scared.”
What lies behind many of her dreams, though — their meaning, purpose, origin — originally ignited her interest, but it soon became apparent to her that their purpose in her creativity was probably more crucial than any other revelations.
“At one point, I attempted to know more about it, like more out of curiosity,” said Bartolomei, “but soon I realized that, in a way, it’s more important that they are there, but it’s not so important, where they come from.”
Having lived with these images in her head for so long, the first challenge was to understand that the way she saw these things internally could never be reproduced faithfully, but rather in a way appropriate to the materials and the tone of the production itself.
“I had to separate myself from it and make it — I don’t want to say more palatable, more acceptable, but it’s not so detailed or described, it’s not so graphic, like the way I see it in my dreams,” Bartolomei said. “The cats are almost like a girl’s toy that are ruined. I couldn’t make cats that look like real cats, with eyes out. I decided not to go into horrors. That was a choice. That, still, is the scene that is most difficult for me. That one, for some reason, I always have a little bit of problems doing it.”
Bartolomei conceived of and began writing “Dorme” during a hard professional period of her life, working for a theater in a small town in Italy in the middle of what she says was a “nasty” situation.
“I was very angry,” she said. “I needed to do something for myself, so I started writing, and I had to decide where do I write from. I decided to start looking into myself to try and understand why what happened in this situation happened, so I went way back and wrote these stories about my pet, the way I started feeling when I was little, growing up, feeling with my family, with my parents, with love, all those things.”
“I felt I got to go back and look at where were you when you were little and why these things happen to you and you’re never prepared. You keep falling into this, there must be a reason. It helped me discover what kind of a person I was, I am.”
“Dorme” is the first part of a trilogy. The second, which she is currently working on, is a study of love. Bartolomei’s hope is for that production to come to fruition in Brazil. The next one is about family.
“After you work on certain things that you think are very personal, you find a lot of people have similar feelings,” she said. “Everybody can relate to dreams, I guess, or everybody has experienced things about love or feeling refused. They’re very, very general, but you feel very personal about it.”
Bartolomei looks at the process of creating these works as a self-reflective one that offered the revelations she needed to move on with her own life, a sort of therapy through creation.
“I learned mostly about being good with yourself, being like, okay, that’s what you are,” Bartolomei said. “Just take it and just start from there. All the time I tried to be the best mother, the best woman, the best whatever you can have around. I always set my goals so high, so I’ve always been very hypercritical of everything. I think what happened with me building this show, it was so personal.”
“The first thing I had to do was say, okay, that’s what you are, and mapping out the best way, so it was very important for me, I guess. It’s very important, also, in the way I feel like I can promote my work because I don’t have the kind of feeling that I can’t reach the point that is going to be good enough to share with other people.”