Having fun on stage
Theater director Zita Valsecchi
It is dark in the community hall in Samnaun-Compatsch, except for the stage, which is illuminated by several spotlights. All attention is focused on two gentlemen. In the "Goldene Harfe" funeral parlor, mortician Herbert Schmid is discussing with his good friend how he could undermine a deal he made with a mafia boss on his bachelor party, when suddenly the lights start to flicker. An electrician has to be called in so as not to jeopardize the cooling of the corpse. Time for Zita's grand entrance as a representative of Elektro Imhof AG. She enters the living room, or rather the stage, and proudly presents the company slogan SFS - Safety for you, printed on her shirt. The audience laughs. And not for the only time that evening in the 2022/23 winter season, because the pitch-black comedy "Not my corpse!" with increasingly abstruse tall tales and swapped corpses is full of humor. Zita and her theater group know how to give locals and guests a hilarious winter evening.
From Italy to the Grisons high valley
Zita grew up in the neighboring Vinschgau Valley and came to Samnaun in 1993 thanks to friends. After completing her training and working in the South Tyrolean hotel and catering industry, she started working in sales at one of the many duty-free stores in the valley. Over the years, she worked in other stores and restaurants and took a break from parenting before starting as a part-time letter carrier for Samnaun in 2018. She starts work at 8 a.m. when the post arrives. They then fan and pre-sort the mail before setting off for delivery an hour later. The four of them are responsible for the two routes in the village. They need around two hours for the larger one in Plan/Compatsch/Laret and around half as long for the smaller one in Ravaisch/Dorf. As these are relatively short routes, they deliver letters and parcels by private car. Zita likes working in the fresh air and looks forward all the more to the encounters during her delivery tour.
I couldn't sit in an office all day. Movement and being on the move are good for me.
Out in the fresh air every day
What particularly fascinates Zita about Samnaun is the winter, when the valley sinks under a thick layer of snow. She was also infected by the warmth of the local people, which led, among other things, to her marriage to a local. Apart from acting, her hobbies include hiking and skiing. Her favorite place is the Grübelekopf, which she climbs several times every summer. She enriches social life in the village through her voluntary work as a member of the school council and church board.
Hand-wringing search for volunteers
As is usual with voluntary work, for example in associations, the Samnaun Theater is always on the lookout for reinforcements. However, the acting enthusiasts have not formed an association, but simply act as a group, without statues and the like. They have been doing this for over 40 years now; some of them have been there from the very beginning. Nevertheless, they have a president responsible for the overall organization, Zita. She joined the theater group in 2009 after she was almost begged to join by one of her husband's colleagues. Originally, this was not for her, although her brother and sister were already acting. In order not to jeopardize the play season, she finally agreed to join from one day to the next and did such a good job that she took over as director just two years later.
Busy all year round
The group meets around 50 times a year, whether for performances, rehearsals or a social outing. Over the summer, a handful of members work on selecting the play for the coming winter. They have to be guided by the number of players taking part, which means that the ensemble has to be in place by August at the latest. Things then really get going in September: roles are assigned, play dates are defined, sponsors are sought and flyers are created. Rehearsals start in October; generally only once a week, but if necessary the cadence is increased in December. During the performance season, the group cannot count on outside help; everyone in the team lends a hand with cashiering, serving drinks, applying make-up and setting up the stage.
Every performance and every audience is different. It's exciting to see how people laugh in different places from week to week.
Appearances with recognition value
For Zita, acting in the theater is a welcome balance in a harmonious team. She particularly appreciated this in the past, when she didn't get out of the house much with small children. Her twins have since moved out, but Zita still enjoys facing the stage fright that she gets especially before a premiere. It makes you concentrate particularly hard. The 100 or so people at each performance clearly enjoy it. The weekly performances are always well attended, primarily by vacation guests in the valley. Not surprisingly, Zita is often referred to by her name from the current play in the village. Regular guests also ask her whether she will be performing in the play again this year - always a big boost for Zita. It fills her with joy to share many more special moments with other theater enthusiasts in the future, whether on, behind or in front of the stage.
Pictures and text: Roger Kreienbühl