This book discusses the evolution of Commedia dell’Arte in the Asia-Pacific where through the process of reinvention and recreation it has emerged as a variety of hybrids and praxes, all in some ways faithful to the recreated European genre.
The contributors in this collection chart their own training in the field and document their strategies for engaging with this form of theatre. In doing so, this book examines the current thoughts, ideas, and perceptions of Commedia – a long-standing theatre genre, originating in a European-based collision between neo-classical drama and oral tradition. The contributing artists, directors, teachers, scholars and theatre-makers give insight into working styles, performance ideas, craft techniques and ways to engage an audience for whom Commedia is not part of their day-to-day culture. The volume presents case studies by current practitioners, some who have trained under known Commedia ‘masters’ (e.g. Lecoq, Boso, Mazzone-Clementi and Fava) and have returned to their country of origin where they have developed their performance and teaching praxis, and others (e.g. travelling from Europe to Japan, Thailand, Singapore and China) who have discovered access points to share or teach Commedia in places where it was previously not known.
This book will be of great interest to students and scholars in Performing arts, Italian studies, and History as well as practitioners in Commedia dell’Arte.
Table of Contents
Part 1: In Education
1. Flaminio Scala in Hong Kong
2. Commedia in Australia: advocating for a key role in tertiary education
Corinna Di Niro
3. Teaching in Singapore: context and Commedia in Musical Theatre
Pavan J Singh & Nicole Stinton
4. A Commedia Night’s Dream (in China)
5. Igniting Commedia in Secondary Schools in South Australia: a drama teacher’s perspective
Part 2: In Conversation
Chapter 6. It Was, and It Wasn't Commedia dell'Arte: a conversation about Leilani by Mahuika theatre company
7. From Taranto to Bali
Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Confessa & Carmencita Palermo
8. Commedia, Comedy and Clowns in Queensland
Tony Kishawi, with Clint Bolster (Interviewed by Olly Crick)
9. Arlequin in Asia-Culture
Enrico Bonavera (Interviewed by Olly Crick)
10. Theatre Hotel Courage's Journey in India: a family of masks on the road
Giulia Filacanapa & Katrien van Beurden, with Chandana Sarma
Part 3: In Practice
11. When Harlequin Met Hanuman
Marco Luly (Translated by Francesca Bernardi)
12. Making Commedia Happen in Aotearoa
13. Indianizing Commedia
Kathryn Doshi & Manyuu Doshi
14. Tackling Commedia with Young People
Steven Gration & Nicky Peelgrane
15. Commedia in The Land of Smiles
Part 4: In Context
16. Reconstruction and Re-Mediation: performing Commedia across cultures
17. A Commedia Mask Maker in Bali
A G Newman
18. Protest, Pedagogy, and Identity: Commedia dell’Arte in Aotearoa
19. The Bridge and The Mirror
Corinna Di Niro
List of Contributors
Dr Corinna Di Niro
Affiliation: Stage Secrets and University of South Australia, Australia.
Corinna Di Niro is a lecturer, performing artist, director, and creative researcher. In 2004 she studied Commedia and Comic Acting with Antonio Fava in Italy, after which she established her own theatre company, in Adelaide in 2005. For years she has performed Commedia in schools, provided professional development workshops for Drama and Italian teachers nationally and internationally, and has presented at numerous education and theatre conferences. After completing her PhD in Commedia for a 21st century Australian context in 2016, she broadened her creative research interest to include social issues affecting women and incorporating AR/VR in theatre which led her to become a TEDx speaker in 2019. In the same year she began guest lecturing in Commedia at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, Sydney. She has published several articles and chapters in areas including Commedia, Theatre, Creative Writing, and Tertiary Education and co-edited a special issue for the journal Writing from Below. Her research interests include Commedia dell’Arte, Theatre to activate change, and Women in Academia.
Dr Olly Crick
Affiliation: The Fabulous Old Spot Theatre Company, UK.
Olly Crick has taught Commedia dell’Arte, masked theatre, clown, and circus skills for a wide range of ages, from infant to tertiary education and professional. He has taught at RADA, LAMDA and Fooltime, the UK’s first circus school. He has performed professionally as a juggler with duo ‘The Long and the Short of it’, and Commedia with ‘Unfortunati’, as well as performing with TAG Teatro di Venezia for Venice Carnival in 1990. He has studied Commedia with Barry Grantham, Ferrucio Soleri and Carlo Boso; Masked performance with Trestle Theatre and John Wright and Improvisation with Ric Morgan and Ben Benison, late of Keith Johnstone’s Theatre Machine. He successfully defended his PhD thesis at Edge Hill University in 2019, researching dramaturgic practice in contemporary Commedia dell’Arte; is the co-editor, with Judith Chaffee, of The Routledge Companion to Commedia dell’Arte (2017) and co-author with John Rudlin (2002) of Commedia dell’Arte, a Handbook for Troupes. His research interests are in typologies of performance, early modern dramaturgy, blending improvisation and scripted performance, the neuroscience of masked performance and Commedia dell’Arte. His PhD thesis will soon be published by Routledge.
Affiliation: E15 Drama school, Loughton, UK.
Geoff Beale was a founding member of Ophaboom Theatre which toured nationally and internationally from 1991 to 2007, including five visits to the Venice Carnival. He has published various chapters and articles on Commedia. He is a regular teacher at the East 15 Acting School and has taught in Portugal and in China.
Katrien van Beurden
Affiliation: Director of Theatre Hotel Courage, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Katrien van Beurden is the founder and artistic director of the international theatre and film company Theatre Hotel Courage, with which she plays and creates films and performances.
This company explores Commedia in today's society, and her theatre and film work is inspired by the spirit of Commedia, creating unique contemporary theatre with and without masks.
It is made up of actors, musicians, and film makers from around the globe: the Netherlands, America, Palestine, Ghana, India, Iran and the UK. The company is also well known for the international workshops for professional actors, directors, and filmmakers and van Beurden has taught at the Dutch Film Academy, the Freedom theatre in Jenin and the Tish university in New York. As a solo actor, she appeared in the film Tom Adelaar by Gonzalo Fernandez and Ashar Medina, in Nora by Ibsen at the Pacific Resident Theater in Los Angeles, and in the film The Resurrection of a Bastard by TopkapiFilm. In 2022 Hotel Courage will start touring their new show ‘Pop Up Courage’, van Beurden will feature in a new TV series Swanenburg, and in Autumn 2021 she will premiere her first one woman show, aimed at international touring.
Affiliation: Independent theatre Artists, Queensland, Australia.
Clint Bolster is a Clown, Physical Actor, Mask Theatre Specialist, and a former performer in Lightwire. He regularly performs in Australia and overseas, notably with the outdoor interactive Mask Family production. He is a Member and Mentor for The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, and Board Member for Indel-Ability Arts.
Affiliation: Arlecchino in Arlecchino servitore di due padroni, The Piccolo Teatro di Milano, Italy.
Enrico Bonavera trained at the Teatro di Ricerca in methodologies set up by Eugenio Barba and Jerzy Grotowski. He is a former apprentice of Ferruccio Soleri. From 1987, he performed the roles of Brighella and Arlecchino in Goldoni’s Arlecchino servitore di due padroni by Giorgio Strehler and toured globally with the play. In 2007 he was honoured with the Golden Arlequin award in Mantua, which had previously been bestowed on actors such as Marcel Marceau, Dario Fo and Ferruccio Soleri.
Affiliation: Artistic Director at Funny Business, Aotearoa.
Lisa Brickell has a BA degree with an Italian/English double major and an MA (Hons) in Drama from Auckland University. After training at the Jacques Lecoq Drama School in Paris, she specialised in Commedia dell’Arte with Giovanni Fusetti at the Kiklos Theatre School in Padua, Italy. She has also completed Antonio Fava’s International Commedia dell’Arte course in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Lisa has given keynote speeches on Commedia dell’Arte and runs Commedia workshops for drama teachers. She has taught Commedia at many schools and universities and performed extensively throughout NZ, Australia, Asia and Europe.
Affiliation: Independent Theatre Artist, Bali, Indonesia
Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Confessa is an interpreter of the Commedia dell'Arte has lived in Bali since 1980 where he has taught at the College of Indonesian Arts of Denpasar and has worked as a research assistant and translator for various Italian and foreign directors and theatre actors. His work involves the introduction of the Pulcinella mask and other Commedia masks into Topeng. He transforms his mask art by interacting with the Balinese Bondres performers, using new comic masks and participating in the performance of traditional stories. Pino is currently an honorary Italian consul in Bali.
Dr Teresa Crea
Affiliation: University of New South Wales, Australia.
Teresa Crea works as an interdisciplinary artist, post-doctoral researcher and academic. She co-founded and was Creative Director of Australia’s first professional bilingual theatre company Doppio Teatro. She is recognised as a pioneer in the field of live and multicultural arts and has received several awards, including the Sidney Myer Company Award for her seminal contribution to the Australian Performing Arts.
Affiliation: Independent Theatre Artist, Mumbai, India.
Kathryn Doshi is an actor, teacher, and director living in Mumbai, India. She completed her MFA in Ensemble Based Physical Theatre from Dell Arte International School of Physical Theatre, California. She is also a certified Michael Chekov Teacher from the National Michael Chekhov Association, USA.
Affiliation: Dell’Arte school of Physical Theatre, USA.
Manyuu Doshi is an actor-creator and teacher based out of Mumbai, India. He trained in Commedia dell’Arte both in Sweden and at Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre where he also earned his MFA in Physical Theatre. He is a visiting faculty member at several prominent schools and universities in India, including The Drama School Mumbai, Mumbai University, and the National School of Drama.
Dr Murray Edmond
Affiliation: University of Auckland, Aotearoa.
Murray Edmond taught drama at the University of Auckland during 1985-1990, and then was the Associate Professor in Drama while running the Auckland University Drama Programme during 1991-2014. He is a poet, dramatist, fiction writer, critic, actor, and has been a dramaturge for Indian Ink Theatre Company since 1997. He has published in the field of drama in several journals.
Affiliation: The Cheeky Monkey, Sydney, Australia.
Tim Ferguson began as a member of comedy trio Doug Anthony Allstars (DAAS); he is a widely acclaimed comedian and screenwriter with outstanding book and performance credits. He has toured the world performing stand-up and musical comedy, co-writing dozens of live stage comedy shows and light entertainment programs and has taught Comedy Screenwriting in universities internationally. He is a patron of MS Australia and national advocate for employment of people with disabilities.
Dr Giulia Filacanapa
Affiliation: Université Paris 8 Saint-Denis, France.
Giulia Filacanapa is the Associate Professor in Theatrical and Italian studies at Université Paris, France. She carries out her teaching and research activities on the function and uses of the theatre mask from antiquity to the present day and on the social and educational function of the theatre. She currently co-leads the international research project Stage and robotics: interactions and interrelationships, funded by Eur ArTeC (2021-2023). Her publishing contributions include A la ricerca di un teatro perduto: Giovanni Poli e la neo-Commedia dell’Arte and Le masque dans l’antiquité gréco-romaine: pratiques scéniques antiques et contemporaines, with G. Freixe, B. Le Guen.
Dr Steven Gration
Affiliation: Independent Theatre Artist, Queensland, Australia
Steven Gration holds a Bachelor of Education in Drama/Media Studies/Music (Melbourne) and a PhD in theatre/performing arts from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (Griffith). He has taught in schools and universities across Australia and has worked as an Artistic Director at Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre, Darwin (1989–90) and Magpie Theatre, State Theatre of SA (1991–93). Steve is the co-author of Commedia Oz: playing Commedia in contemporary Australia, Currency Press (2008).
Dr Pedro Ilginfritz
Affiliation: Unitec Performing and Screen Arts Department, University of Auckland, Aotearoa.
Pedro Ilginfritz is a senior lecturer at Unitec - Performing and Screen Arts Department and theatre director of Mahuika Theatre Company in Auckland. His work is centred on the investigation of acting training methodologies and researches the popular forms of theatre such as clowning, mime and mask training. His PhD investigates the genealogy of Jacques Lecoq acting methodology in New Zealand and Brazil.
Dr Peter Jordan
Affiliation: City University of Hong Kong, China.
Peter Jordan worked as an actor in Britain and Italy, where he was a member of TAG Teatro of Venice, touring classic Commedia dell’Arte scenarios throughout Europe and elsewhere. He relocated to Hong Kong 20 years ago and became the Head of Acting at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. He also directs productions for the local drama community, including a Cantonese version of Flaminio Scala’s The Tragic Events. He is the author of The Venetian Origins of the Commedia dell’Arte (Routledge 2014).
Affiliation: Independent theatre Artists, Queensland, Australia
Tony Kishawi graduated from of the Victorian College of Arts, Melbourne in 1980. He has studied with Philip Gaulier (UK), Antonio Fava (Italy), Eves Marks and Clare Hagen (Amsterdam). He founded Lightwire theatre in 2006 and has taught Commedia at several Queensland based universities and national drama teaching conferences. In 2010, he curated the International Commedia Festival at Queensland University of Technology.
Affiliation: Commedia Actor and Theatre-Maker, Italy.
Marco Luly founded Luoghi dell'Arte in Rome in 1990 and is the company’s Artistic Director. The company specialises in Commedia dell’Arte, Medieval Theatre and the plays of Carlo Goldoni and has toured extensively in Southeast Asia supported by both the Italian Embassies and the Italian Cultural Institutes. He is an award-winning director, having won Best Show and Best Director for the production, Doctor Harlequin, The Imaginary Autopsy, at the Mostar International Festival (Bosnia-Herzegovina), 2003, among others. He conducts classes on Commedia dell’Arte history and techniques.
Affiliation: Accademia dell’Arte, Tuscany, Italy.
Fabio Mangolini has dedicated his entire life to theatre as an actor, director, pedagogue, author, translator and, finally, as a manager. He graduated in Philosophy at the Bologna University, and he trained at the Ecole Internationale de Mimodrame de Paris Marcel Marceau. In 1985 he performed with Les Scalzacani directed by Carlo Boso in Paris as the young Harlequin. In 1991 he left the company and continued to bring the Commedia dell'Arte to the world. Between 1992 and 1994 he was a fellow of the Japan Foundation and the International Theatre Institute and studied Kyōgen and Nō in Tōkyō. He is currently Artistic Director of Cornucopia Performing Arts Labs.
A G Newman
Affiliation: Mask Maker / Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre, Bali, Indonesia.
Newman originates from Shoreditch, East London. In 1974 he apprenticed with a leather worker in San Francisco. In 1989 he travelled to Bali in search of a mask making teacher. In 1994 he enrolled in the Physical Theatre Program at Dell’Arte International in California, and in 1995 he studied leather Commedia mask kaking with Donato Sartori in Padua, Italy. He has established an online business making and selling leather Commedia Masks and in 2009 he moved his home and studio to Ubud, Bali.
Dr Carmencita Palermo
Affiliation: L'Orientale, University of Naples, Italy.
Carmencita Palermo is a researcher, a community theatre deviser and an intercultural masked dance performer, specialising in Indonesian Performing Arts. She holds a PhD on Balinese mask dance-drama Topeng from the University of Tasmania (Australia). Her performance and teaching practices explore the dynamics of interaction between body, masks, music, audience and environment in different cultural and performative contexts. Her work is in facilitating encounters between artists, communities, teachers and students from different cultural backgrounds in Indonesia, Malaysia, Europe, Brazil and Australia. Her has published in several international academic journals.
Affiliation: Independent Theatre Artist, Queensland, Australia.
Nicky Peelgrane holds a BA (UQ) and a Grad. Dip. Ed. Secondary Drama & English (QUT). She has 24 years of teaching experience in early education, primary/secondary school and in the university sector. As a teaching artist, she has worked with students from Middlemount (Qld) to Muswellbrook (NSW) and many places in between. Nicky has performed in a variety of touring productions for Commotion Theatre (Qld), including playing the roles of Brighella and Pantalone in Gration’s Commedia dell’Arte production, Stardust. She is the co-author of Commedia Oz: playing Commedia in contemporary Australia, Currency Press (2008). As a playwright, she was awarded a UQ Creative Writing Fellowship in 2019 for Prospero’s Dukedom and she has written numerous plays for and with students, all of which demonstrate Commedia influences.
Affiliation: Concordia College, Adelaide, South Australia.
Gaenor Roeger completed her education degree at Sturt College of Advanced Education (now Flinders University). She has taught extensively across numerous secondary schools and is currently teaching at Concordia College. Teaching highlights include being the co-director of the grand final winning entry in the Rock Eisteddfod; teaching Drama at two Winter Schools in the Kalahari Desert; Project Officer in the State Education Literacy Curriculum Division; School Musical Director, actor in a film short, and maintaining a passion for drama teaching in the classroom. In 2011 and 2013, she was involved in hosting Antonio Fava Commedia masterclasses for Drama teachers, with Corinna Di Niro.
Affiliation: Commedia performer and Manager of Khaosan Comedy Club, Bangkok, Thailand.
Jonathan Samson, proprietor of the Khaosan Comedy Club in Bangkok, is a noted comedian and actor, with over 200 appearances on Thai television and several movie roles. He also a drama teacher and theatrical director, holds a degree in Theatre Studies from Emerson College, and has been performing and teaching Commedia dell'Arte since studying with John Rudlin in 1997. Jonathan has presented Commedia on television in both Thailand and Cambodia, and has performed with troupes including i Sebastiani, Commedia Della Maschere, and Commedia del Siam.
Affiliation: Performer in Theatre Hotel Courage, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Chandana Sarma is a Physical Theatre performer and dancer. As a performer she researches presence and an artist she approaches the body as fluid. Her point of curiosity and interest is how the body moulds, reshapes, solves, evolves taking in new forms, identities, qualities moment to moment, context to context. She has trained in Kathak Dance, Vaganova method Ballet, Jazz Dance, Kalaripyatt Martial Art and Bharatnatyam Dance, as well as in Butoh, Yoga and Feldenkrais.
Pavan J Singh
Affiliation: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.
Pavan holds a BA (first class) in Acting from LASALLE College of the Arts, as well as a BSc in Information Systems and Management from the University of London, and a Diploma in Economics from the London School of Economics. He is a Singapore-based actor and theatre artist with almost 20 years of experience. He is a part-time lecturer and director of student productions, working mostly with LASALLE College of the Arts. Since 2011, he has taught subjects such as comedy, improvisation, acting or research & writing to students of the Diploma in Performance and BA in Musical Theatre Programs.
Affiliation: National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), Sydney, Australia.
Nicole Stinton has worked in the theatre industries for more than two decades across Australia and Asia, specialising in theatre-with-music as a director, vocal coach and actor.
She has taught singing and acting across her career, including at LASALLE College of the Arts (Singapore) and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). A PhD candidate, she is researching acting-through-song at WAAPA. She is currently the Head of Music at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Australia.
Dr Francesca Bernardi
Affiliation: Antonio Gramsci Society, UK.
Francesca Bernardi is a researcher, writer, public speaker, advocate, artist and creative coach. Founder and Chair of the Antonio Gramsci Society UK, and fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts. Her work focuses on disabled childhoods, rights-respecting research, art, autonomy and creative approaches to dialogue and sense making. She most consistently engages in critical participatory research with marginal communities and is currently developing chapters for publication in two handbooks by Routledge, one on Disabled Children's Rights and the other on Critical Autism Studies. Her latest co-produced project is an interdisciplinary activity on paediatric mobility and children's participation in an industrial design process.
Corinna Di Niro is a Commedia practitioner, independent theatre-maker and lecturer at the University of South Australia.
Olly Crick is a Commedia enthusiast, an independent researcher and theatre professional, based in the UK.