Have You Met?

Someone once advised: “Find your passion, and go out and make it happen.” Smart, strong and ready - at the drop of a hat - to talk about her passion is the incomparable Suzy Bassani, the Founder, Producer and Artistic Director of the Colorado Festival of World Theatre based in the splendor of Colorado Springs. Suzy is a woman who is making it happen and in an area she is most passionate about.

Suzy, who was born – and trained as an actress - in Johannesburg, South Africa was always clear about wanting to be in the theatre. Ms. Bassani was invited to appear on the stage in London and became active in the London theatre community. Suzy went on to organize theatre and music festivals on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Bassani’s then moved to Dayton, Ohio because Suzy’s husband, Pino, an executive with NCR, accepted a transfer to oversee a new division. There, Suzy is credited with creating some of the most innovative theatre and art programs in the country aimed at introducing teenagers to the arts. Aside from being irresistible, energetic, and unstoppable, Suzy always brings the best of herself to everyone she meets, and in-turn brings out the best in them. With her “We’re going to make this a reality” spirit, she motivates everyone around her. Suzy Bassani, a legend in many circles, is hard to say no to; when Suzy approaches someone she would like to collaborate with, they usually give her a resounding “yes”.

A recent quote from an article in the “Ohio Oakwood Register” stated: “When discussing past Ohio “theater greats”, Suzy Bassani would lead any list. She has enriched the arts in Dayton from the Dayton Opera, the Human Race Theatre Company, The Muse Machine and the countless times a phone call from Suzy meant that you would be working hard on one of her many projects.”

Suzy Bassani is one of the most interesting people I have met. Her life has been an adventurous journey. She is courageous and has the strength to move mountains – and to know exactly when she has reached her own personal destination.

What do you think was the best thing you had going for you at a very young age? That I was a passionate, determined child.

How has that ability helped you today to achieve your goals and live your dreams? It has given me the strength to persevere.

Have you always been pretty clear on what you wanted to do with your life? Yes, I always knew that I wanted to live my life in theatre.

Why did you pick Colorado Springs to live in and as the place to start the CFWT? My husband, Pino, came to CS to give a speech. I accompanied him and fell in love with its natural beauty. I stayed for the weekend; bought a piece of ground; later met partners Carol Sturman and actress, Linda Purl; and we started the Colorado Festival of World Theatre.

What social impact does the festival have on Colorado Springs – and on our State? The festival is still young, this is only its 4th year, but already it is able to bridge diversities and allow all the people near and far to have a better understanding of each other - and to give others a chance of understanding us as Americans.

What do you wish more people understood about the purpose of the CFWT? That it was created for people to have enormous fun! It’s inspiring to try something new even if it is something unknown. You learn so much about other people that come here from all over the world. You enjoy all the variety you can night after night. As much as this is about attracting out-of- town visitors, the festival’s success depends just as much on local support. If you don’t have the “home troops” behind you, it’s harder to be successful. We need people in Colorado to come join us and embrace us at the Colorado Festival of World Theatre – right here in your own beautiful surroundings.

What was the defining moment that “lit the fire” in you to move forward with the Festival? When I met my Co-Founder, Carol Sturman, and she said her dream has always been to have a Festival (like the CFWT) on her property. I looked at the beauty all around this area, its great accessibility, and what an ideal location it would make for an international gathering place. I knew this would be the perfect place.

Aside from honoring Stephen Sondheim this year with the “Donald Seawell Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre Award”, you are bringing in the groundbreaking “Truth In Translation” production from South Africa which tells the story of the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”. The play touches on many of the issues we face in the world today. How would you sum up what people should come away with after seeing this moving production? It comes down to knowing the importance of diversity, understanding each other better, and learning to say “I’m sorry”.

Can you mention some of your favorite Theatre/Music Festivals held elsewhere - such as in Europe, etc.? Spoleto, Rome Europa, Autunno Musicale in Como, Italy.

Was that your inspiration? Yes, especially the Autunno Musicale held each year in the Fall in Como, Italy.

You are so worldly and have met so many people during your travels, etc., who is the most interesting person you have ever met? I would have to say my husband, Pino Bassani. He’s a forward-thinker. He’s interesting because he has a brilliant mind, and he is innovative and adventurous.

Who do you consider your mentor? The brilliant Actress/Director Ruth Oppenheim, who came to South Africa right before WWII. She literally created theatre in South Africa. She brought us European Theatre, and I studied under her and was fortunate to get an education from someone with her experience and talents. We remained friends until her death in the early ‘90’s.

What is your pet peeve? Negativity.

Where is your favorite vacation spot in the world, and why? Sardegna, Italy. It has some of the most beautiful sea & beaches in the world.

Who is your favorite actor/actress of all times? Eduardo De Fillipo. Simply known as “Eduardo” in Italy, he was a well-known actor, playwright, author & poet. I was such a big fan; I was invited backstage to meet him. What a thrill for me. He later in his life was appointed to be a Life Senator in Rome.

You have seen CFWT go through several changes in the last few years, how have you kept your cool (and sanity) as things continue to evolve? Just by knowing that new organizations need nurturing. It’s like a new baby, it takes diligence, time and patience - and there’s no magic bullet, just persistence, effort, and commitment.

What’s in the future for Suzy Bassani? What’s in the future for CFWT? To continue to follow my passion. The CFWT has a tremendous future, but it will take time and a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot of people who believe in our dreams and can make it theirs.

Tell us your vision for CFWT five years from now? People throughout American will recognize that the CFWT is something they cannot afford to miss each year; and that talented artists throughout the world will want to be a part of it.

How to do you want to be remembered? What do you want history to say about you? She lived her life with passion….

(The impressive Colorado Festival of World Theatre takes place this year September 20 – 30 in Colorado Springs. Check out the best Colorado has to offer in music & theatre at: www.cfwt.org.)