Tracing A Sicilian Love Story Through The Centuries

Trinacria Theatre Company brings together three tales of interracial romance, in a production that unfolds through the streets of a small Sicilian village.

Sicilian Trinacria Theater Company during a play
Photo by Tom Grace, courtesy of Trinacria Theater Company.

“… A small but vibrant arts collective is reviving Sicily’s rich tradition of myth and legend.” 

— Zachary Vogt, Italics Magazine 2021

Trinacria Theatre Company, birthed by Boston-Sicilian Artistic Director Mariagrazia LaFauci, pioneered to house brilliant theatre experiences and create international exchanges with Pezzolo, a small rural mountain village in Southern Messina. International artists mingle with locals and reinvigorate the village’s creative heart with original performance projects, primarily rooted in local myths. The company’s next legendary production will be The Hades & Persephone Project, an immersive and site-specific performance running for three days. This new production features a mash-up of classic love stories set in Sicily, inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the beloved Sicilian folklore of Mata & Grifone, and Lisabetta & Lorenzo’s tale from Boccaccio’s The Decameron. Shows will take place August 18 – 20th 2023 during the Trinacria Arts Festival, a three-day extravaganza packed with workshops, events, and additional performances by local artists, all hosted in the enchanting village of Pezzolo.

The Hades & Persephone Project first began in 2019, when director La Fauci stumbled across a book of Sicilian folk tales that recounted the story of Mata & Grifone. The large papier-mâché statues of the couple, lovingly called “the Giant and Giantess” by locals, process through the streets of Messina every August as part of the Ferragosto celebrations. Says La Fauci: “As a child, my family would spend every summer in Messina and during Ferragosto, I always looked forward to seeing the Giant and Giantess. They were mysterious and wonderful, and when I started Trinacria, I knew someday I wanted to tell the story of the Sicilian princess who fell in love with the Moorish conquerer.” This particular book called Mata & Grifone “a reincarnation of the Hades & Persephone myth” compared them also to the iconic Sicilian “testa di Moro” ceramic heads, often said to be inspired by the tragic love story of Lisabetta and Lorenzo. Suddenly, a narrative emerged: three stories told in parallel, each recounting the complex love story between a white, Sicilian woman and a foreigner who struggled to find acceptance from his beloved’s family.

Work began on the project in 2019, with rehearsals in London followed by a short work in progress showing that summer in Messina at the Villa Melania Cultural Re-factory in Pistunina, an old bottle factory recently converted into a contemporary art space. After a hiatus due to the pandemic, the team in London continued the project in 2021, this time proudly produced using funds from National Lottery Project Grant through the Arts Council of England. The team presented three work-in-progress performances to audiences in London at the Drayton Arms theater, with support from several local Italian organizations such as COMITES Londra, The Italian Cultural Institute of London, The British-Italian Society and The Italian Bookshop.

The challenge of this summer? To create a piece of theater that takes place most just across through time, but quite literally across space. “This summer’s production will take place all across the village,” says director La Fauci. “The idea is for audiences to be led on a journey throughout the village. We won’t be performing in a theater, but in the streets and corners and alleys and piazzas of Pezzolo. Audiences will follow a mysterious narrator and guide who will show them the secret love stories unfolding all across the village.” Like Persephone, who left Sicilian meadows for the fields of the Underworld, audiences will leave the village they know to be transported into a transformed world.

Additional community-focused events will take place over the course of the three-day festival, such as performances by kids musicians, art workshops, and even a village-wide game of Capture the Flag. All Festival events are free and open to the public. This year’s Trinacria Arts Festival is produced with the patronage of the Commonwealth of Messina.

Audiences are welcome to enjoy this engaging, heartfelt and community-focused three day festival by making their way to a central Sicilian destination such as Catania, Taormina, or Messina. From there cars can be rented at a variety of organizations. Trinacria is sponsored by Autojonica HSA. Public transportation to Pezzolo is available and routes can be found on the Azienda Trasporti Messina website.

For prospective audiences who cannot attend this year’s performance but are keen to engage with Trinacria, they can donate directly here or apply to become a Trinacria Cultural Ambassador by emailing and writing “Cultural Ambassador” in the subject line.