By Isaac Carreon, MA 2014-15
Naturally, museums are places of scholarly pursuit and to some degree a visitor is expecting to learn something they did not previously know. One of the unique facets of museums is their dexterity of how a visitor may learn a museum’s content. Always trying to separate themselves from the ridged approach of taking a college course on a topic, museums often offer visual interpretations and in most cases, the freedom to view any object in no particular order. In this sense, learning in a museum is a very relaxed and hopefully enjoyable pursuit. Pushing this feature further in a more entertaining way is Museum Theatre, something that the members of Palazzo Vecchio’s staff are masters of.
A growing medium in the world of museums, Museum Theatre is an alternative and innovative way of teaching historical context from a visual and theatrical representation. When an actor is in the role of a historical identity, they create an aura of suspended belief and can truly enthrall an audience. Palazzo Vecchio offers three types of performances of Museum Theatre, a guided tour with Giorgio Vasari, a guided tour with one of Duchess Eleonora’s handmaids, or an audience with the first Grand Duke and Duchess of Tuscany. The tour of the palazzo with Giorgio Vasari immediately immerses visitors into believing they are in the 16th century with Vasari full in costume and questioning visitors of their strange garments. The tour leads visitors all around the palazzo with Vasari informing the group of the wonders that the palazzo holds. Another performance offered is the intimidating audience with the first Grand Duke and Duchess of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’ Medici and Eleonora of Toledo. Often appearing to the audience late, the illusion of royalty meeting commoners is made all too real. Never breaking out of character, these actors “remain” in the 16th century to relay historical context to contemporary museum visitors.
While Museum Theatre is particularly captivating with audiences of a younger age, the performances at the Palazzo Vecchio are enjoyed by visitors of all ages; altering the performance accordingly to the age group of each audience accomplishes this effect. The use of the actual locations of historical significance these actors use, coupled with the elements of museum theatre prove more affective and visually appealing to any visitor.
In a city that is already saturated with historical significance, reenactments like the ones performed at Palazzo Vecchio can create a newfound admiration of this historical city. Palazzo Vecchio may be the old palace but it still has much to offer Florentines and outside visitors alike. If you would like to attend one or both of the highly entertaining museum theatre performance, visit the INFO POINT inside the palazzo for more information on setting up a tour. If you don’t speak Italian, the fun can still continue as both performances are also conducted in English per request. Take a step into the past and see just how fun an old palace can be.
Photo by Allison Boyd