Comedia Dell’arte- comedy of the artists. Renaissance Italian improvised theatre came to St Ambrose University in April to boisterous laughter.
Comedia Dell’arte was popular from the 16th -18th centuries in Italy, incorporating slapstick comedy with music, dancing, and improvised lines. SAU’s Comedia Dell’Arte included the old jokes that were popular then as well as making modern jokes to fit the present day.
The premise of Comedia Dell’arte is simple: stock characters are placed into a variety of scenarios that they then must act through. Many of these scenarios are commonly used in sitcoms today such as forbidden love or mistaken identities. Shakespeare used these scenarios in his own plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and A Comedy of Errors.
A stage upon the stage was set up, a large curtain with patches set over the smaller stage. The lights did not dim when the show began; the narrator/ Dottore came out to give a bit of history about Comedia Dell’arte and the standard warning of no cell phones. Then the true comedy began.
Classic slapstick comedy is warred with witty jokes, modern pop culture references, and school pride. At one point, as Dottore began speaking of how he’d earned his Bachelors of Art at SAU, the cast all broke into the school’s anthem.
The following week the troupe traveled to area high schools just as the classic Comedia Dell’Arte troupes did, adjusting the skits for each audience.
I found the play thoroughly enjoyable, it being simultaneously exactly what I expected and not at all what I thought. To think that this was once a common thing on the streets makes me wish that it still was in the Quad Cities as I would gladly return to see it again.