by Patrizia Vicinelli

In May 1978 the Rebibbia women’s prison allows for a break with the strict rules of detention that takes the guise of a theatrical performance. It was created and organized by Patrizia Vicinelli, a poet from Bologna protagonist of the exhibition dedicated to her in the ARITHMICS section, who was sentenced to one year for “conspiracy to sell” a gram of hashish. The inmates were involved in the entire production process, from the creation of the costumes to the creation of the sets, to memorizing the scripts and acting in a show made for a crowd of two hundred inmates.


Vicinelli spent the first five months of her prison stay writing the script for this show, entitled Cenerentola, Cinderella, the outline inspired by Perrault’s seventeenth-century text.


The introduction to the show as it was written by Patrizia Vicinelli:

Since its introduction, this theatrical text reveals a push towards happiness, it is a force of escape that highlights a simple and didactic writing practice dedicated to the collectivity of the Rebibbia Prison inmates. The protagonist is a woman in a stage of transformation, in search of an emancipated life similar to that found in the figure of Cassiopeia, a young girl who is an independent and solitary traveler. Each scene represents a different phase of change in Cinderella’s personality, marking her liberation process from conflicting and problematic experiences. The children’s story is adapted, without any intent to impose a moral, becoming a political tool to react to the female condition of the author’s time time.

The ending can only serve as a model, and therefore is far from the stereotypical and bourgeois story as told by Walt Disney: prince charming simply becomes the icon of a destiny to be rejected in the name of a life dedicated to emancipation, to freedom, to self-esteem.

The show took place in the Rebibbia prison behind closed doors. In this EXTRA therefore it is possible to find a selection of quotes taken from some articles that appeared in newspapers at the time about this event.

To Cassiopeia […] the task of representing a positive character also for the inmates. Foreigner (like many in prison and for drug charges) emancipated from the family structure (like few in prison), independent and imaginative and free from the petty-bourgeois complexes of this society. (F.S.) 

La Repubblica, Tuesday 30 May 1978 



Patrizia Vicinelli […] says that after the first fifteen days of bewilderment, they were difficult (“entering a prison – she says – is like entering a digestive system, with long pipes, like corridors, which divide this population of prisoners”) she began to write. […] 

All female characters, in this Cinderella there’s not even a trace of prince charming. […] 

“Writing this work” – says Patrizia – “was a pretext to talk about the problems of women who think they can fulfill themselves with a man.” […]

“Aren’t you afraid of traveling alone?” Asks Cinderella when she meets Cassiopeia. “Fear? – replies the foreigner – “of what?” “You don’t have a boyfriend to accompany you, to help you, let’s say … something happens?” “A boy? If I was expecting a boy I never would have left!” (Norma Rangeri) 

Manifesto, Thursday 25 May 1978 



“Underground” is a term that is often misunderstood. But, for this story, there are no more adherents, to indicate something that is born, is carried out and finally realized outside the traditional channels. An autonomous initiative that does not obey any canon and which, above all, has nothing or almost nothing behind it. As in this case, of a play, written by an inmate, presented by inmates, with music composed by inmates, with sets painted by fellow prisoners and, finally, staged at the Rebibbia women’s prison. (Gianni Barrella) 

Corriere Della Sera, Thursday 25 May 1978 


The press was notified after the show took place. 

l’Unità, Thursday 75 May 1978 



“It was a very important moment,” says the director of the prison, Elda Sensale. “In here we have the big problem of the inmates’ apathy. It is difficult to convince them to do something to pass the time, but this initiative managed to awaken them, at least a group. It was a kind of occupational therapy, in a psychological sense. If only there were stimuli similar to this.” […] 

it cannot be ignored that for the first time, even if through the stage, the theme of women’s liberation has entered a prison. A place, among other things, where a woman often ends up precisely because she made a mistake “chasing after” a man. […] 

Only at a certain point, where a refrain spoke of freedom and meant liberation from the conditioning that has oppressed women for centuries, did the inmates misunderstand, they stood up and applauded, shouted “Amnesty!” The refrain said: “How I wish, how I wish – to merge with the sky in its blue – an immense desire for happiness – the strength to obtain freedom.” C. S. M. 

Annabella, June 29, 1978