Story and Pics by Simon Barnett
Italian born Pasquale Palmieri has had an extraordinary journey before becoming one of Melbourne’s leading photographers. But his real passion is to be playwriter and author.
Right from when he was a child, Pasquale new he wanted to write and did something about it. “I wrote my first novel when I was 14,” said Pasquale. “My dream was to be a pilot … I thought a pilot doesn’t fly every day, he might fly for a week, 2 weeks, then he’s got two to three weeks off. So, when I’m off I can write, the pilot [wage] will pay for my life.”
But Pasquale’s parents had different ideas and unlike now, you had to be 21 back then to make decisions that were to impact on you for the rest of your life.
“So, my parents didn’t want me to be a pilot, they thought I was going to die,” laughs Pasquale. “So, in the end my father gave me a choice to either be a priest, to be a doctor, which I couldn’t do, and an engineer. Sorry dad I can’t do any of these. Ok architecture, ok, we shook hands on architecture.”
Pasquale began to study architecture in Rome and finished in Montreal in Canada at McGill University. “I worked in North America for almost 10 years and then I went back to Europe,” said Pasquale. “I actually graduated specialising in designing cities. I’ve been actually lucky enough to have the opportunity to design two cities which doesn’t happen very often.”
The first city project Pasquale worked on was in Montreal. After the expo in 1967,
there was a great deal of vacant land left and developers decided to build a city. After that, there was an even bigger challenge that came his way. Pasquale explains, “I was working with a couple of architects [an] American practice in Rome and so we designed a Military City in Saudi Arabia. Now that was a very interesting project, it was about 270k’s from Riyadh … inland in the middle on the desert and had to house 10,000 soldiers and their families, but had to be completely self-sufficient, so we had water, electricity, everything, they cultivated their own food and they had their own animals, very very challenging [project],” said Pasquale.
Pasquale eventually came to Australia and after some time decided to give up architecture and eventually pursued photography. It was several years when he decided once again his passion was writing and he wrote his first play. At this point, his only experience he had in theatre was being in the audience. “It was an Impossible play, fifteen actors, three acts, three and a half hours on stage, you know,” said Pasquale. “But anyway, I sent it for a competition and I completely forgot. I won. I won this international competition for script writing.”
With a new confidence, $250 prize money and some people he met when collecting his award urging him that it’s up to him now, Pasquale’s direction was set. “I met a director who volunteered to organise everything for that play.” Pasquale decided to utilise his photographic studio for all the rehearsals. Pasquale said, “One-night reading at the café just across the street and it was quite successful, there was a producer there who came and asked me to produce it.”
After more plays and three novels that were published, Pasquale wrote a manual on love and relationships. During his research trying to find the perfect couple, he interviewed hundreds of couples. “Relationships are basically impossible so my thing became to find the perfect couple and that’s how I wrote the manual. In the process I interviewed 622 couples and I wanted to find the perfect couple,” said Pasquale. “Of course, there was a scientific bases to this, they had to have been together for ten years at least, have a child, a child changes [things] a lot and I haven’t found the perfect couple yet.”
He later wrote a play based on what he had learned about a couple. “Benjamin Mary [has] been a study on what happens to a couple from when they meet at 25, the first Mary is 25,” explains Pasquale. “The second Mary is 50, that’s where all the magic has gone and has become almost like a daily confrontation of ego and whatever and then the Mary 75, she has given up all hopes and whatever … and full of sarcasm.”
The other side is men with their egos which is challenged all the time with the constant pressure to perform in sport, in bed, with their friends and so on. This has a long-term effect on their emotions and sensitivity.
“The title is Benjamin Mary and the subtitles [are] ‘Love is eternal for as long as it lasts’ and ‘The naked truth’, so that’s what I tried to do.”
An Animated Reading of ‘Benjamin Mary’ a play by Pasquale M Palmieri is Part of the Alex Theatre Free Public Reading 2019 Series tonight.
Benjamin Mary is directed by Mimmo Mangione.