The sixth floor of Lawrence’s historic Everett Mills was transformed into a one-of-a-kind theater on November 23, as Italian theater company Teatro del Loto performed “The Walker’s Auto-Da-Fé” — a dramatization of Arturo Giovannitti’s 1912 address to the jury.
The event marked the 100th anniversary of the passionate defense, given by Giovannitti during the trial for the death of Anna LoPizzo, a striking worker during the Lawrence Bread and Roses strike.
The Lawrence representation was the last of an extensive U.S. tour for the Ferrazzano-based theater group represented by five people, including director Stefano Sabelli and actor Diego Florio.
The play’s unique setting was a wooden cage, from inside which the audience observed Giovannitti’s tormented days in prison and his vibrant and brilliant argument in front of the jury, in which he defends the cause of the workers on strike.
“We wanted to finance this tour to shine a light on the man that was Arturo Giovannitti,” said Rosario De Matteis, president of the Province of Campobasso. “Perhaps he is better known here than back home.”
Giovannitti moved from his hometown of Ripabottoni, in Molise, in 1900, at the age of 16. Today, Giovannitti’s name is honored with a national poetry award assigned by the Arturo Giovannitti Cultural Association in Campobasso, Molise.
Among the audience were Consul General of Italy in Boston Giuseppe Pastorelli and wife Lilla, as well as Silvana Mangione, deputy secretary general of the Consiglio Generale degli Italiani all’Estero and co-organizer of the representation’s U.S. tour. Another organizer, Professor Robert Forrant of Umass-Lowell, also attended the evening’s show, alongside David Giovannitti, Arturo’s grandson.
“It was incredibly moving,” said Giovannitti, “I’m thrilled beyond words. Such a brilliant actor.”
Diego Florio, the only actor on stage, was visibly emotional by the end of the performance.
“Before walking into this place I wanted to spend some time in the chambers where the workers that Giovannitti defended had worked,” said Diego. “Although the machines have not been here for a very long time, I could still sense the sounds, as well as the voices of the workers.”