Female Detectives in 1950s Salesian Educational Theatre

Daniela Cavallaro


This article considers a little-known type of gialli: those staged by all-women casts in educational theatre performances in Italy between the early 1940s and the early 1960s. It shows how the Salesian priests and sisters who authored educational gialli focused not so much on identifying and punishing the culprits as on proving the innocence of previously suspected characters and restoring those who had strayed from the right path. The article looks at both professional and amateur female detectives of Salesian gialli, their credentials for being called to solve a mystery, and their investigative techniques and success rate. It claims that the amateur detectives on the Salesian stage were often characterized as comical or incompetent, while the professional detectives, even though they were more successful, were foreign and unfeminine, concluding that Salesian authors often exploited the popularity of the giallo genre to put forward conservative role models for young women on the stage and in the audience.

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