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Courtroom theater in surreal saga of the Costa Concordia

Captain Francesco Schettino waits for the start of his trial in the court room of the converted Teatro Moderno theater, in Grosseto, Italy, on July 17, 2013. The trial of the captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner has begun in a theater converted into a courtroom in Tuscany to accommodate all the survivors and relatives of the 32 victims who want to see justice carried out in the 2012 tragedy. Andrew Medichini / AP
The Moderno theatre in Grosseto, Italy, on March 3, 2012 for the Costa Concordia shipwreck initial evidence hearing. Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images, file
Chief prosecutor Francesco Verusio gestures as he leaves at the end of a hearing of Captain Francesco's trial, in Grosseto's converted Teatro Moderno, Italy, on July 17, 2013. Andrew Medichini / AP

The Costa Concordia shipwreck was a surreal drama from the beginning. The sinking cruise ship off the coast of the idyllic Italian island of Giglio was an unbelievable sight, and still is more than a year-and-a-half later as Italian sunbathers cover its shore with the looming shipwreck nearby. The disaster evoked images of the Titanic tragedy a hundred years earlier, scenes that were recreated and immortalized in the 1997 movie.

It seems fitting that the trial for the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is being held in an Italian theater in Grosseto. Schettino faces multiple charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship, after 32 people died.

A sign reading “the law is equal for all” acts as the title of the production, hanging prominently center stage over a tribunal of judges in dramatic lighting. The protagonist, Schettino, sits in the front row, while other key players occupy the audience seats. Even the name of the theater, Teatro Moderno, meaning modern theater, seems appropriate. The trial was moved from a traditional courtroom to a theater in order to accommodate for the huge interest in the case.

The trial is now on summer break after only two days of hearings. This was after its initial start date of July 9 was postponed for eight days due to a lawyers' strike. This seasonal intermission will last until Sept. 23, at which point the drama continues.

Court President, Judge Giovanni Puliatti, sitting at center, is flanked by judges Sergio Compagnucci, right, and Marco Mezzaluna, left, are seen on the stage for the start of Captian Francesco Schettino's trial, in Grosseto, Italy, on July 17, 2013. Andrew Medichini / AP
Captain Francesco Schettino talks on his phone during a pause of his trial, in the court room of the converted Teatro Moderno theater, in Grosseto, Italy, on July 17, 2013. Andrew Medichini / AP
Domnica Cemortan, a young Moldovan woman who says she was called to the bridge of the stricken Costa Concordia to help evacuate Russian passengers, right, shows an unidentified lawyer a daily newspaper article regarding the trial, during a pause of the trial of Captain Francesco Schettino on July 18, 2013. Andrew Medichini / AP
A television journalist stands outside the Costa Concordia trial on July 17, 2013 in Grosseto, Italy. Gabriele Maltinti / Getty Images

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