Year-long festival marking the 150th birthday of Luigi Pirandello DONATE

Pirandello150 is a festival being presented by the newly-formed Helluva Theatre Company in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Luigi Pirandello. So far, we have presented:


  • A Pirandello Potpourri on his 149th birthday (June 28, 2016) at the Italian Cultural Institute;

  • A reading of RIGHT YOU ARE (IF YOU THINK YOU ARE) in a new translation at the historic Cherry Lane Theatre with a cast of Broadway veterans headed by Brian Murray and Lynn Cohen;

  • A reading of his rarely performed comedy CAP AND BELLS;

  • A highly successful series of Pirandello on Film at New York’s Film Forum. This week-long presentation included a newly restored version of KAOS by the Taviani Brothers, the rarely seen 1926 silent version of THE LATE MATHIAS PASCAL, a special showing of the 1976 television production of SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR followed by a Skyped conversation with producer Norman Lloyd and director Stacy Keach, and 6 other films.



His influence on the drama of the 20th century is immeasurable.

The playwrights who follow Pirandello are frequently better artists, but none would have been the same without him. In his agony over the nature of existence, he anticipates Sartre and Camus; in his insights into the disintegration of personality and the isolation of man, he anticipates Samuel Beckett; in his unremitting war in language, theory, concepts and the collective mind, he anticipates Eugene Ionesco; in his approach to the conflict of truth and illusion, he anticipates Eugene O’Neill (and later, Harold Pinter and Edward Albee); in his experiments with the theatre, he anticipates a host of experimental dramatists, including Thornton Wilder and Jack Gelber; in his use of the interplay between actors and characters, he anticipates Jean Anouilh; in his view of the tension between public mask and private face, he anticipates Jean Giraudoux; and in his concept of man as a role-playing animal, he anticipates Jean Genet. The extent of even this partial list of influences marks Pirandello as the most seminal dramatist of our time.

Robert Brustein, “The Theatre of Revolt,” pg. 316

Helluva Theatre Company

Helluva Theatre Company is a new company dedicated to producing the finest plays of American and world literature and developing the new work of playwrights carrying on that tradition. Our productions will give actors the opportunity to perform in rarely done plays of the theatrical canon and to experience the various styles of play (Greek tragedy, Jacobean, Restoration, et al) that they are rarely given a chance to do. We are also dedicated to the development of the next generation of theatergoers. We commit to doing this through free or heavily discounted tickets to our productions and events, special student matinees of our productions followed by discussions, and by bringing the theater to life in classrooms through performances and workshops. Our first production, George Bernard Shaw’s MAJOR BARBARA opened on November 11, 2016 at the Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble.

Our Future Plans for Pirandello150

FALL 2017


  • A Gala celebrating the 150th Birthday of Luigi Pirandello;


  • Performing three one-act plays by Pirandello (The Vise, Chee-Chee, The Man with the Flower in His Mouth) in Toronto and presented by The Pirandello Theatre Society in Canada. They will perform The Imbecile, The Licence and Sicilian Limes.


Throughout this year and into 2018:


We hope to present productions of at least three full-length plays and all 14 one-acts. In addition, we also plan:


  • A series of lectures and panel discussions on all aspects of Pirandello’s life, work and influence;


  • Readings of as many of the full-length plays as possible that are not being given full productions;


  • Podcasts of noted actors, writers and other individuals reading selected short stories, plays and segments of novels. These are scheduled to will be available on our website at Pirandello150.org starting in Fall, 2017;


  • An outreach to high schools and colleges in the tri-state area through lectures and workshops.


Our Advisory Board provides artistic direction and advises on the selection of works, venues, casting and scheduling. These noted actors, authors, producers, directors and scholars help us engage a cross-section of NYC organizations.

Eve Best
Robert Brustein
Lynn Cohen
Angelina Fiordellisi
Mario Fratti
Bruce Goldstein
Andre Gregory
Joe Grifasi
Italian Cultural Institute
Judith Ivey
Stacy Keach
The Living Theatre
Norman Lloyd
Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble
Fabrizio Melano
Sherrill Milnes
Brian Murray
Pirandello Society of America
Bill Pullman
Tony Roberts
Annabella Sciorra
Martin Scorsese
John Turturro

This festival is dedicated to the memory of Ben Gazzara.


John Martello (Artistic Director)

Artistic Team

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John Martello

Artistic Director

John Martello has been an actor, producer and director for over 35 years. As an actor, he has appeared in regional theaters and Off-Broadway in everything from Shakespeare to “Sugar Babies.” He starred in the Off-Broadway production of “The Lodger” at the New York Workshop Theatre and received critical acclaim for his solo performance in Conor McPherson’s “St. Nicholas.” at the Irish Repertory Company. As Artistic Director of the Double Image Theatre, Mr. Martello produced, wrote and starred in the acclaimed one-man show “Damon Runyon’s Tales of Broadway.” At the Double Image, he also produced the musical revue “Daugherty & Field Off-Broadway” which ran for a year and was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award. He produced Simon Gray’s “The Old Masters” starring Sam Waterston, Brian Murray and Shirley Knight at the Long Wharf Theater.

As Executive Director of The Players for 20 years, Mr. Martello produced hundreds of presentations, including evenings honoring Jason Robards, Julie Harris, Christopher Plummer, Gregory Peck, Marian Seldes, Peter O’Toole, Tony Bennett, Carol Burnett, Gerald Schoenfeld, Angela Lansbury, Edward Albee and dozens of other theatrical luminaries. He was the recipient, in 2001, of the Pirandello Medallion presented by the Pirandello Society of America to acknowledge his performing, producing and directing the work of that great playwright.

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Zoe Anastassiou

Associate Artistic Director

Zoe Anastassiou is a current working professional actress. She has worked in Theater, Film, TV, Online and in Voiceover, within the USA and Europe, professionally over the last 13 years. Zoe studied acting and theater in the UK with honorable awards from LAMDA and within her GCSE and A-Level degree examinations. She was also awarded the Theatre Cup of Excellence upon graduating Wycombe Abbey School. She then came to the USA to further her education with a Double BA in Theatre and Psychology at Middlebury College, in VT, and an MFA in Acting from The New School for Drama, in NYC. During and after schooling, Zoe performed in many notable projects but also produced a number of productions she became involved with. She was selected by The 24 Hour Plays Company and Kevin Spacey’s outreach program to be a member of the first Old Vic New Voices group in NYC. She was also selected as a TS Eliot US/UK participant to perform in the UK at The Old Vic. Through acting and producing, Zoe became a founding member of At Play Productions and today is a member of the Old Vic New Voices, the Cry Havoc Theatre Company, and Loom Ensemble. She is also on the artistic and advisory board for the Medicine Show Theatre. In addition, Zoe is also a professional dialect coach and a 365 blogger with video blog selections being broadcast on networks in NYC and London. More of Zoe can be seen at www.zoeanastassiou.com.

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Luigi Pirandello


Luigi Pirandello was born in Agrigento, Sicily on June 28, 1867. He studied philology at Rome and at Bonn and wrote a dissertation on the dialect of his native town in 1891. From 1897 to 1922 he was professor of aesthetics and stylistics at the Real Istituto di Magistere Femminile at Rome. Pirandello’s work is impressive by its sheer volume. He wrote a great number of novellas which were collected under the title Novelle per un anno (15 vols., 1922-37). Of his six novels the best known are Il fu Mattia Pascal (1904) [The Late Mattia Pascal], I vecchi e i giovani (1913) [The Old and the Young], Si gira (1916) | [Shoot!], and Uno, nessuno e centomila (1926) [One, None, and a Hundred thousand].

But Pirandello’s greatest achievement is in his plays. He wrote a large number of dramas which were published, between 1918 and 1935, under the collective title of Maschere nude [Naked Masks]. The title is programmatic. Pirandello is always preoccupied with the problem of identity. The self exists to him only in relation to others; it consists of changing facets that hide an inscrutable abyss. In a play like Cosí é (se vi pare) (1918) [Right You Are (If You Think You Are)], two people hold contradictory notions about the identity of a third person. The protagonist in Vestire gli ignudi (1923) [To Clothe the Naked] tries to establish her individuality by assuming various identities, which are successively stripped from her; she gradually realizes her true position in the social order and in the end dies naked, without a social mask, in both her own and her friends’ eyes. Similarly in Enrico IV (1922) [Henry IV] a man supposedly mad imagines that he is a medieval emperor, and his imagination and reality are strangely confused. The conflict between illusion and reality is central in La vita che ti diedi (1924) [The Life I Gave You] in which Anna’s long-lost son returns home and contradicts her mental conception of him. However, his death resolves Anna’s conflict; she clings to illusion rather than to reality. The analysis and dissolution of a unified self are carried to an extreme in Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (1921) [Six Characters in Search of An Author] where the stage itself, the symbol of appearance versus reality, becomes the setting of the play.

The attitudes expressed in L’Umorismo [Humour], an early essay (1908), are fundamental to all of Pirandello’s plays. His characters attempt to fulfill their self-seeking roles and are defeated by life itself which, always changing, enables them to see their perversity. This is Pirandello’s humor, an irony which arises from the contradictions inherent in life.

Pirandello was nominated Academic of Italy in 1929, and in 1934 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature after he had been nominated by Guglielmo Marconi, member of the Royal Academy of Italy. He was the last Italian playwright to be chosen for the award until 9 October 1997. Pirandello died in his home at Via Bosio, Rome, on 10 December 1936.

Support Pirandello150

Share in the excitement of the re-discovery of Luigi Pirandello by the theater-going public


  • Help us introduce this important and influential playwright to students through workshops, seminars and highly-discounted student tickets to all of our events and productions


  • Enable some of New York’s most talented and accomplished actors and directors to delight in the creation of Pirandello’s world on stage in new and actable translations


  • Become part of an event that will be an important step in the renaissance of high Italian culture in the capital of the American theater.



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