To The Stage Until Dark: An Interview With Federica Borlenghi

Et Alia Theater and Federica Borlenghi bring Until Dark to the stage in NYC from February 15th to March 3rd.

Federica Borlenghi
Federica Borlenghi. Photo credit: (edited from) Alexia Haick.

Et Alia Theater, a dynamic NYC-based company co-led by Italian actress and producer Giorgia Valenti, brings Federica Borlenghi’s Until Dark to the stage. The new play focuses on the complex realms of sexual consent and sisterhood, pushing boundaries and unraveling ties with compelling depth. Set to open at Out of the Box Theatrics from February 15th to March 3rd, Until Dark promises an unforgettable exploration of how family trauma passes down generations.

At the heart of Et Alia Theater’s mission lies a commitment to providing opportunities for diverse voices, particularly women and immigrants. Through initiatives like their ‘By the Other’ department, the company became a platform for international women artists to thrive. It was through this initiative that Until Dark found its home within the Et Alia Theater repertoire, thanks to the creative synergy between Valenti and Borlenghi. Their collaboration dates back to February 2020 when Borlenghi directed Et Alia Theater’s acclaimed production, On How To Be A Monster. Since then, Borlenghi has become an integral part of the Et Alia Theater community, contributing her talents as a facilitator, costume designer, and more.

In April 2023, Et Alia Theater embarked on the launch of the Et Alia Theater Lab: Art by the Other. This pioneering program invited submissions of work-in-progress pieces centered on women’s experiences, with a focus on projects that could be performed by foreigners. Over the course of three transformative months, guest collaborators Marina Zurita and Inès Braun led workshops for three talented finalists: Federica Borlenghi, Alyssa S, and Manvi. These workshops provided a nurturing environment for the writers to refine their scripts in collaboration with actors and directors. Ultimately, Until Dark emerged as the triumphant winner of the Lab, and was set to being produced by Et Alia Theater.

Giorgia Valenti and Maria Muller on stage
Giorgia Valenti (Jackie) and Maria Müller (Cass). Photo credit: Alexia Haick.

Reflecting on the significance of Until Dark, company member Luísa Galatti shares, “Finding this play was probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to us. Not only does it speak from a place of womanhood, delicately approaching the theme of consent and sexuality, but it also deeply explores the relationship of sisters. Building Et Alia together as friends brought us to a sisterhood relationship amongst each other, so the first time we read Until Dark it fit like a glove; we were gifted with the opportunity to explore our own relationship onstage, and what a wonderful experience we’ve been having!” So we spoke to Federica and Giorgia about the play, their careers, and working in the multicultural environment of Et Alia Theater.

Federica, tell us about your experience writing in a different language once moving to the USA? How different is it from Italian? What does the process look like?

Writing in English versus in Italian is both wonderful and challenging. In Italian, I find my writing to be way more descriptive. In fact, I predominantly use it to write novels and short stories. While in English, I tend to have a way more conceptual and concise style, which I greatly enjoy utilizing when writing theatrical pieces. It’s quite difficult to express myself in English with the eloquence and specificity I once had in Italian. Which is why I’ve been continuously working with Dramaturg Covi Loveridge Brannan to proof-read and further develop my pieces. She puts great effort in understanding my language and the way I express myself. In our collaborative process, she always offers options for me to choose between, so that we can tailor together naturalistic English dialogues, while preserving the core feeling and meaning behind Italian words that might not translate as exactly in English. Tailoring stories together has been so thrilling, and very eye opening. I find studying and understanding languages to be so interesting. The Italian language it’s filled with visuals and metaphors! 

But my favorite thing is to write bilingual stories! I love writing about language, and about communication. I’ve always been in multilingual environments, and I mostly collaborate with multicultural artists, and I care deeply about sharing our experience and our stories. This was one of my very few plays solely in the English language. I am excited to continue exploring it and improving it. 

I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to share rooms with Giorgia, who is bilingual too. Getting to switch between languages is very helpful and comforting, so it inevitably became my preferred way of communicating, especially artistically. You know? 

Giorgia, what’s the biggest challenge of the production?

The primary challenge we encountered in the production of Until Dark has undeniably been prioritizing the inclusion of the artists we aim to champion within our mission. Regrettably, sourcing international women theater professionals presents a perpetual challenge. Whether it’s the limited visibility they have to and in opportunity listings, the time constraints we often grapple with when assembling our production team, or the prevailing dominance of male artists in the New York scene, the obstacles are a lot. Nevertheless, our commitment to this priority remains unyielding, driving us to persevere in our efforts. This commitment is reaffirmed each time we find ourselves immersed in collaborative sessions with international women artists. With Until Dark we are very happy to have a team composed 80% by women artists, and we enjoy witnessing the efficiency and richness this diversity brings to the creative process.

Giorgia Valenti and Luisa Galatti on stage
Giorgia Valenti (Jackie) e Luísa Galatti (Lisa). Photo credit: Alexia Haick.

Can you speak on the impact that you felt like you have made and has been made on you since starting a professional, multicultural environment in the theater?

The profound impact of our work with Et Alia Theater has been most felt in the community we’ve cultivated. As someone who has traveled borders and cultures throughout my life as an Italian living abroad, finding a sense of belonging has often been complicated. This was all the more confusing when I did not find myself looking or resembling the Italian community in New York. Yet, in witnessing the community that has blossomed through our productions and workshops, I am filled with a profound sense of fulfillment. Providing a welcoming space for immigrant artists to connect, collaborate, and create has been a cornerstone of our mission, and seeing these bonds form brings immeasurable joy.

When fellow women artists approach us for assistance in bringing their visions to life and expanding their reach, it sparks a natural and enriching multicultural dialogue centered around the arts. These exchanges are not only a testament to the power of collaboration, but also reaffirm our collective ability as women from diverse backgrounds to effect change and foster opportunities. It instills within us a sense of purpose and empowerment, reminding us that we are not simply seekers of opportunities, but creators and facilitators in our own right.

Federica, what surprised you during the process of working on this play?

I’ve been heartbreakingly surprised by the amount of people that relate to these characters, and this story. I care immensely about representation and validation. I am proud to know that my play is able to provide audiences from various demographics with solidarity, but knowing that it’s due to trauma, it’s a rather painful realization to carry — which is living proof that we need to break these cycles, and address ignorance and traumas, to understand how to cope and deal with them. Which simply start with conversations. I am happily surprised to see that the production seems to be a catalyst, or better, a beginning for those. 

I’ve also been surprised by what you can do if you set your mind to it. I’ve been working on this play for five years. After four, I partnered up with Et Alia, which is ran by four women, for friends. And they are wildly tenacious, caring, and dedicated. Together, they produced a 3-week run for Until Dark, in only 6 months!