Nicoletta Braschi, Convocation 2015 Honorary Degree recipient

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President Gertler, Professor Saini, distinguished
members of the platform party, honoured guests, and you my dear graduates of Class 2015, I’m
truly grateful to the University of Toronto’s Governing Council for bestowing this tremendous
honour on me. And to Umberto ?, Professor Lateri and Professor Kapotzi, who nominated
me for this prestigious honour. Thank you Professor Lateri for you kind words today. Thank you all for this unexpected gift, for
this great tribute that I must be sincere. It’s a tribute I thought I could never dare
to strive for. Not even secretly. I would dare to say that this is something that I
could not even imagine to receive even subconsciously. I’m 55 years old and this is my first University
degree. I’m so excited, so thrilled and so moved. Unlike all of my high school classmates
I didn’t go to university. I decided instead to take a stab at acting and attended the
Academy of Dramatic Arts. My first hope was to be able to take simultaneously at a university
courses in literature and philosophy. However, my profound love for theatre and theatre studies
ended up taking all of my time. For this reason also I am so grateful for this great honour.
I thank you again today a million and one times. Why did I decide to get into acting? Why did
I decide to study theatre? Theatre is what best allows me to delve deeply into the human
core, to communicate to other human beings about how content rich and varied our inner
core is. You may ask how was my passion for the study of the Sorbonne. I was a rather
solitary child but I did have friends. However, my best friends were books, novels in particular.
It was a wonderful secret bond between me and the books. Just imagine numerous intelligent
people, writers – both female and male writers who were born tens, hundreds, thousands of
years before you, all these writers communicate with you fully, profoundly and intimately.
They converse with you at the same moment and in the same place you find yourself to
be, erasing the distance of time and space, newly find even death itself – that is truly
a miracle. These writers unselfishly allowed me to live my own life through the lives of
the characters they had so skillfully created. These writers initiated me into a world of
wonders. Later I discovered poetry, which to me is both a divine illumination and a
slice of life. I also discovered that music, painting and sculpture are all paradigms of
beauty, just like philosophy and literature. The arts help us understand the world we live
in. To lose and immerse myself in the arts has always made me re-emerge as a person transformed
and grateful, happy or anguished. At 19 years of age I knew that I wanted the arts to accompany
me in my life’s journey and in my work. I wondered how I could in all honesty fulfill
this wish. I realized that I could only achieve what I desired by being a servant to the object
of my desire. In my case I could best serve masterpieces of the art through theatre, by
reading a text, by attempting to understand it, to perform it, to share it with others.
I considered it a privilege to be intimate with the text, to tirelessly read it, study
it, rehearse it, and devotedly appeal to it. Knocking on its door, asking each day for
permission to comprehend and to grasp all of its words, its pauses, its silences. All
the while trying to convey all the beauty of that text, all of its complexity, all of
its comprehensiveness. The written text conceived by a human being in the metamorphosis of the
theatre becomes a human being. Through the actor’s interpretation, their thought, their
reflection, the voice become the very flesh of a new human being. In the darkness of this
transition I embrace and thank the writer with heartfelt admiration. My fellow graduates, you are all here today
because without any doubts you have loved and love books. My advice to you is to find
a way, your way, to remain loyal to them all your life with that same loyalty, that same
openness and that same generosity that one devotes to great friendship. Thank you. Merci. Gratzi. Now I will read to you in Italian a brief
section of the beginning of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days. The text is comprised of the place
lines – 25 of them – and very detailed stage directions of about 200 words from the author to the actress. [Italian reading] Thank you.

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