Finding Clarity in the Clouds

Recently us Tut'Z have been wrestling with some fundamental questions: Who are we? What do we do? How do other people see us and what we do? Calling it an identity crisis is a little... dramatic. More like an identity adventure. Mainly, we're wondering if calling what we do "Commedia dell'Arte" is a misnomer — if we've wandered past the bounds of the traditional form into something new — and if so, if we need to find new terms to describe what we do so we're not setting up expectations for audiences that we don't end up meeting.

This is a pretty big, broad question, and there are all kinds of ways we're tackling it. One relatively simple one, is to look back in time at reviews for our various productions, and see if there are any insights we can pull straight from the professional critics. The idea of mining a big chunk of text for a little insight hidden in plain sight got me thinking: word clouds! That would be an easy, hopefully interesting way to visualize some of the words and phrases that keep popping up in reviews of our work. The more times something is mentioned, the bigger it would be in the cloud.

Because I'll never settle for the corny heart or America-shaped template, I made my word cloud into the shape of our Arlecchino mask, of course.

And the most common filtered (i.e. not "and", "the", etc.) word, by far? Audience. So that's something! Not a mind-blowing secret, but a helpful reminder of how central the audience is to what we do. One of the unique aspects of what we do is the way we converse with our audiences, how the pace and the specifics of the show can very wildly night to night depending on the mood and ideas of that night's crowd. With our show Love Letter Lost, we realized the audience was such a vital part of our show that we became our own audience, sitting in full view stage left and right, giggling and shouting back at our on-stage company mates, to model the attention, courage to participate, and sense of humor we so desperately needed from everyone to really get our show off the ground each night. Plus we literally had no backstage, so... two birds, one stone.

Other terms that showed up bigger on the word cloud? Phyical, characters, fun, and improvisational. Plot's there too, although in checking back at the reviews, the general feedback is that the plot actually isn't important, it's the relationships and improvised comedy underlying the loose plot that made an impression on reviewers.

A small sample size and critics might not be our core constituency, but another piece we can add to the puzzle in our search for answers to "who are we?" and "what do we do?" and most importantly for us theatre artists, "what are the critics saying?"

On more takeaway: reviewers find Molly as irresistible as we do. Can't blame 'em. Look at that face!

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Acting, Distracted

Have I ever told you about one of my proudest moments onstage? No? Gather round, children, and let me set the scene. It's July 26th, 2014. Tut'Zanni Theatre Company is finishing up a thrilling couple weeks of performances of Love Letter Lost at Capital Fringe Festival in my hometown of Washington, DC. I'm exhausted but relishing hamming it up in my dual roles of Fabrizio, one of the spoiled lovers, and Capitano, the attention seeking braggart who's always a half-step behind his competition. ALi, playing a sneakily-silent Pulcinella and I have just started the strip poker scene (don't ask) and Capitano is down to his strategically-placed red scarf and little else. I'm just about to up the ante when there's a thud from the second row of the audience - someone's cellphone has fallen onto the floor, and it was loud enough for everyone in the small theatre to hear.

In a "normal" show, there's a fourth wall. There are pre-written lines. There's the assumption that the audience and actors will collectively grit their teeth through the awkward interruption and really lean into the suspension of disbelief - unplanned noise? What unplanned noise? But this ain't your normal show - this is Commedia. 

In that moment, as Capitano, I can't NOT deal with the fact that I was just RUDELY interrupted. Without skipping a beat, I exclaim "Excuse me!" as I glare toward the slightly embarrassed-looking audience member. It gets a pretty big laugh! She sheepishly smiles and picks up her phone. ALi, as Pulcinella, immediately plays along, putting down her hand of cards and looking disapprovingly at the noisemaker as well. I tell the audience member to collect herself and facetiously ask for her permission to proceed with the show, and she nods that she's ready.

As I start my line again I immediately stumble over it, so of course I place the blame squarely on the noisemaker in the audience throwing me off. Again, the audience is tickled by Capitano's diva tendencies. I make like I'm resetting the entire scene in fast motion to get things on the right track, and we're finally back up and running. 

What felt so fun and so true to the spirit of Commedia in that brief moment is that rather than ignoring the distraction and letting the audience cringe as I try to pretend like nothing's happened at all, I turned my full attention to what was happening, and through the lens of Capitano, let everyone know how I felt about being upstaged. Feeling free to respond in real time to what was happening in the audience kept me fully engaged and present in the moment, and hopefully reminded the audience that they're not watching a movie - that everyone in the room has the power to affect the events of the show.

Want to see it for yourself? Here's the clip of the moment I'm describing: 

As we prepare to put a bunch of new work on its feet in our upcoming show development period, one of my main goals is to feel secure enough in the characters I'm playing to roll with the punches, to be thrown off course and revel in every unexpected moment. To me, watching how an actor reacts to a complete surprise is as theatre as theatre gets.

- Liam

Punching Up vs. Punching Down

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I thought this was an interesting piece in Buzzfeed about why comedy that "punches down" is basically never funny, and why "punching up" in comedy just works. Feels so relevant to us and Commedia. I would love to have a conversation about that, and like, what *is* power? I think I know the answer but I want to think about it more. How do we know when we're punching up and punching down? Is there like a list you could make of who's who, or is it a "you know it when you see it" situation? Does it change based on the audience? Can a group evolve from being low-power to high-power or vice versa, and how does that change the way we look at comedy about that group? I also wonder about "punching in" (that's a thing I made up) - comedy about "your own" people... how does that compare on the up/down scale? Also, if you identify with multiple groups of people (who doesn't), how does the relative power of those groups affect your identity, especially in terms of comedy?

- Liam

Banish Your Fear of Performing in Public with This 1 Weird Trick

Making theatre isn't the most natural fit for me, personality-wise. I'm normally pretty quiet, mostly introverted, prone to feelings of anxiety in social situations among strangers, and totally happy to spend a good chunk of my days hanging out alone, making art and listening to podcasts. I have a similar relationship to acting on stage as I do to working out - it can take major motivation to get going, but I do it because pushing myself into uncomfortable terrain helps me grow and gain flexibility, and because I feel amazing after.

But it's still scary! On stage, you're under the spotlight and all the attention is on you. What if you forget absolutely everything and just run out the door? How weird is it that humans pay money to sit in a dark room and watch other humans play pretend? Those are real thoughts I've had on occasion. While onstage.

But I have one weird trick for making performing way less scary: put on a mask.

A mask is a fantastic tool that contains a beautiful paradox within it: it's a shield that enhances both strength and vulnerability, it serves to simultaneously conceal one side of you and to reveal another. When I do Commedia with Tut'Zanni, I relish doing scary stuff with people I love; I relish letting the protection of a Capitano or Arlecchino or Zanni mask give me permission to step momentarily beyond the limits of this so-called Liam guy and try out characters who do and say things I never would. It's a hell of a workout, always a growing experience, and an insane amount of fun.

When I found out I got cast in the US premiere of the new Irish play Leper + Chip, here are the things that daunted me: the cast was just two actors, my character, Leper was a wild, swaggering character totally unlike me, it was 60-pages of mostly monologues to learn, there'd be audience on all four sides of the stage, it was a direct address play (i.e. no imagined "fourth wall" separating actors from audience), a minimal set, and I'd need a thick modern Dublin accent. And on top of that, no mask to hide behind and give me courage. Or so I thought!

I discovered one of the keys for unlocking the physicality and confidence of the character was finding new kinds of masks. The biggest one was the accent. After honing (or at least approximating to the best of my abilities) the sound of it with the help of some local Dubliners via YouTube, I realized hearing a different sound come out of my mouth was impacting my physicality. The more I practiced it, it gave me a confidence and even swagger with which to confront a new audience every night. With an accent unlike my own, I felt a new permission to be bigger, louder, more sexual, more profane, and more wild. 

Another more subtle mask I employed was the St. Christopher amulet on a necklace that was part of Leper's outfit. It was a cool little accessory but something I would never wear myself, so putting it on felt like slipping into someone else's skin (okay, that sounds a bit gross). When it was on, it gave me the power to say and do things I, Liam, wouldn't dare but I, Leper, definitely would. 

The accent, the amulet, the power posing in my dressing room just before stepping onstage - these were all just tools I used to muster up the courage to do something daunting. I'm well aware it was all a trick I was playing on my own mind. But that's the truth about any mask, even a Capitano with a crazy long nose. The tanned and weirdly-shaped piece of leather you put on your face is just a bit of imaginary armor, a key that can unleash a character a world away from the actor behind the mask. But as I've learned from my adventures in Commedia, Capitano doesn't exist inside the mask. Capitano was inside me all along. (Gross)

Working title: Peeb & Pob - creating a new show...

It was clear from the moment Liam and I first met - we are a creative force... 

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That is mostly true.  

There are a handful of people in the world that can make me laugh to tears and Liam is one of them. I remember being at the ADA and giving Liam an order to sit in a tiny chair and sing his address, like a large child, and he did it with the perfect amount of terror in his voice and ridiculousness in his gestures - I lost it.  It is one of the reasons I think our company is so amazing, we are generous with making each other laugh. 

This year is complicated for our company.  We are, by nature, a busy people.  We travel, we get married, we have kids, we have jobs, we go to school, we have pets and we will only have more of all these things as time goes by.  When reviewing what our year would look like, it made the most sense for Liam and I to create a new smaller show, following in the footsteps of Ali and Patrick creating Tut’Zanni’s first two person show, Beep and Bop.  When this came up I thought, “fuck yes”.  Now I think, “COMMON”.  

This is hard.

The way we, as a company, have created shows has never been the same twice.  We have no perfect formula to our collaboration.  We are balancing trying to pay close attention to the things that work for us and the things that slow us down.  We are trying to get more organized and intentional, while also leaving space for the unexpected.  You know, follow your impulses.  We do really well (sometimes) when we follow our impulses.  The thing is... that means every time we do something there are parts that feel like the first time.  That means blocks.  For us right now, Liam and I are living in block city USA, population 2 + all our hopes and dreams...

Our first meeting, I was real fired up.

I thought things would flow like molasses, not crazy fast-but pretty consistently.  I was incorrect.  It flowed at an uneven pace and with little to no meaningful outcome.  It is hard to say.  Creativity has a unique quality of being very prolific and very not, and sometimes both those things at the same time which seems impossible - but we are creative so we find a way.  I foolishly thought that because Liam and I have always worked well together and riffed well together and had ideas flow pretty steadily together that this would be pretty easy to start, and harder to refine.  Instead we meet a couple times a week, while he is on a break from work, when I am working in the office late, sometimes on my kitchen floor and in his spare room, and we stare at each other.  We say words, but they could be anything.  We need an idea.  We are getting closer.  We do... pretty ok under pressure.

After talking with Ali and Patrick during one of our full team meetings I could feel the burning fire of embarrassment that I did not have more to present and share with our team.  I hate that feeling.  I hate feeling like you have fallen short and not because you did your best, but because...

what have you done?!

It is shameful, or it feels shameful.  Really, it is human.  It is that thing that makes you pay better attention and that nags you during the day to write more things down and that makes you look at commercials and tv and people on the street and lyrics in songs just a little differently.  Liam and I are getting closer to our show, because as time passes we have a choice to get closer or further from things, and we want to get closer.

After talking with Ali and Patrick the recurring theme was communication, and the more I thought about it, the more I re-watched meetings with Liam and looked at our notes, the more that made sense.  It is so big and there is so much we could do, now the question is - what is our story?  Who are we?  What is life? (That one isn’t necessarily show related, but it is too soon to tell)

So now what?  

Now we start talking and we see how the other reacts, we write down moments, we talk about the pictures in our heads of what the stage might look like.  We make notes to ourselves like, “Humans doing animal courtship dances” so we have things to google and dream about.  Also things to cry and shake your head about.  We think simple and complicate it quickly and then pull back again.  

Now, we try to make a show.

All the little bits in between...

Okay. Patrick and I just had an awesome conversation on the train, and then Patrick looks at me and he says, we should be recording these conversations. I have my phone, so I turn on the recorder and mostly I’m just pretending to talk on the phone so that people don’t think I’m a total weirdo, but really I am talking to myself for 20 minutes... about this:

So we went and saw a Commedia show. I love seeing other shows because I always learn more, or at least I like to reflect on what Commedia could be. Any of these thoughts are definitely not meant to be a critique on the other performers, but a reflection on how I am thinking about my own work.

At the top of the show, they entered from the back of the audience and walked to the front through the audience and it was great. I know, it’s not like that’s never been done before. But with Commedia, it thrives on being right up next to people and walking through them and… well, commenting on them, commenting with them, waving to somebody across the room, they’re there, they’re with you, they’re in it with you.

There was something in their energy, something so tangible there that brought the Commedia to life and I was really excited about it. Thinking back, I also noticed that part of what worked so well was that it's like a big, giant lazzo.

Let me explain - they are there to do one thing, I (as an audience member) knew what their end point was. I knew where they were going, I knew what they were doing. They weren’t just aimlessly wandering through a crowd and being funny, they had to walk from the back to the stage. And in the meantime, they got distracted and they said hello and they liked some guys' beards and they played with someone’s phone and they hit on somebody, you know, it’s all very funny because it’s all a deviance from what you know they’re doing and what they’re supposed to do. As an audience member, I’m not confused.

And that is because in Commedia, especially the way Tut'Zanni teaches, you have to look where you’re going. This is so that your audience knows where you’re going to go, so that they see the goal. So when you first enter a space, that is an opportunity to look broadly at what you’re there to do and where you’re going to go. I’m going to go across this room and sit in the chair. But, because it is Commedia, the characters only think 3 steps ahead. So it’s like, okay, I’ve let the audience know where my end goal is, now I’m just gonna get distracted over here first and you know I’m gonna go find something else right here and then I’m going to look over there and you know what I’m looking at and I’m being clear.  

So all of that was happening in the beginning. It was fantastic. There were more moments like this. Trying to set up a drumset, but knocking things over, asking audience members to hand something to them, and then dropping everything… But again, they were there to do a thing, set up the stage, and all the funny mistakes were deviances from it, and eventually they made their way to where they were going.

This is the concept I’ve been thinking so much about: You have to be constantly looking where you’re going. You have to always let the audience know where you’re trying to go and then you have to let them know what you’re doing right then so that nobody’s ever like, okay, this is cool, but how long are you going to do it for?

There was a bit at the end where one of the characters gets on the tightrope. Well, back up. The character is supposed to put up a sign that says “The End”, sling it over the tight rope, but it’s just out of his reach and he can’t quite get the sign up there. But then he casts the sign aside and he decides, hey, there’s a tightrope here, I could get on the tightrope and be on the tightrope and, like, tightrope walk because the show was supposed to end with a tightrope walk, but the character that was supposed to do it is otherwise disposed.

But the problem with that is, in Commedia when you make something for the sake of itself, as soon as you get there, it’s done. So then when you stay there and you play with it, it doesn’t feel like pure discovery, and the audience begins thinking, okay, you did it, so how long are you gonna keep doing it for?

There was an easy fix in this instance, because there was a missed opportunity. The character couldn’t get the sign up on the rope, so he could have tried to jump up on the rope to get the sign up there. And because the whole bit was him falling off the rope a little bit, and then spinning around it and doing tricks, it would still work. Now, it is satisfying because he’s not trying to tightrope walk, he’s just trying to put up this sign and along the way he’s accidentally doing all these awesome things on the tightrope. As an audience member, I know where he’s going in his larger arc. I know where that section is supposed to end, because it will culminate in him getting that sign up there. That’s what’s pushing him forward. And every time he messes up, he tries even harder. Not just because he’s trying to be there. And then he can revel in it a bit, like, ooh, look at me, I’m on a tightrope. Because the audience knows, haha, he's still supposed to put that sign up there, but he's just distracted.  I know that eventually he's gonna get there. And that makes it even more satisfying if him almost gets it a few times, because when he finally does, it's conclusive and it feels good. 

And then, we were talking about the larger arc of a whole Commedia show. And I was like, actually, it is the same story - you need to let the audience know what’s gonna happen. We are currently working on a Cinderella show, which is a huge opportunity because with traditional stories the audience knows what's supposed to happen. They know the story of Cinderella, they know how it ends, they know where you’re gonna go. So everything else you do is like candy. You know, it’s extra, extra sprinkles.

And it’s even in the structure of the canovaccio. A canovaccio is not just for the performers, when you enter you need to let the audience know what the plot points are. Like: I am… pantalone and I need to give this letter to Arlecchino and send him to go give it to Dottore. That’s the only thing I have to do. So then he can come in and I can try to give him a letter and then he can drop it and then he can see something shiny and run away and then somebody poops and somebody yells and somebody, you know, does a whole dance and breaks out into song and it’s hilarious and wonderful because EVERYONE knows where it's going.

And that’s what can make storytelling satisfying, that’s what can make theatre satisfying. AND that’s what can make it a reflection of life, like, I’m just trying to do a thing. I’m just trying to go from point A to point B, I’m just trying to go to school. I’m just trying to do my job. I’m just trying to finish this task. BUT it’s everything that happens in between that is theatre, that’s what fills up our lives, all the little bits in between. Everything that goes wrong and goes right and surprises us on our way to where we’re trying to go. That’s what makes it all so interesting.

-ALi

The formula for a Commedia character...

Commedia is like baking. There are ingredients that make it work. (I might be watching too much Great British Baking Show)

I want to talk about one Commedia ingredient - the characters. I might say that those characters are the most important part, but... it's more complicated than that. I don't want to argue about the most important part of the recipe, so, I'll get to the point - those characters are also almost recipe-like.

A Commedia character start with two ingredients:

  1. A mask.
  2. An archetype.

From those two things we can build the whole character. An archetype gives us a place to begin the exploration of the personality of the character. The mask gives us a starting point for some more practical things, the voice and the body.

This is where we (the Tut'Z) start. We start with the mask, use that to inform the physical form of the body and how that character sounds vocally. Once we have those two elements we can step into that characters shoes and play (with the archetype in the back of our mind). That step - the play - is really important. It's where we find out all the fun little weird details that make a character whole. 

- A few thoughts from Patrick

2016. A year to capture it all.

When we meet someone after a show or at a conference (or in life) and we tell them about Tut'Zanni we always get the same questions: "How the hell do you do that?" "Why would you continue to work with people that are so far away from you?" And a lot of other hows and whys about our shows and process. The funniest part of this is that until I first heard this question from the outside, I had never questioned it myself. When ALi and I first spoke in 2011 about starting a company, the names of the people that we wanted to be involved came easy and none of them lived in the same place. We didn't know how we were going to make it work, we just knew that out of anyone we had ever worked with or for, these are the four people we trust to go on this adventure with us. And I can easily say it has been quite an adventure so far. 

We have learned a lot about ourselves as artists; about our needs and desires. We've learned a lot about ourselves as an ensemble: What does the most ideal situation look like when we get the best work done? What feels natural and what feels unbalanced? How long we can go without speaking or even without being in the same room together before we feel completely disconnected and unhappy? Basically, over the past 5 years, we've tested the limits of time and space in many ways and found out how we work best. 

It's tricky, it's a balancing act and it's an incredibly human experience. I think we all came to the realization of the importance of this group and this work in our own ways and in our own time. This is easy to do when you trust each other so deeply that nothing can disturb that relationship. This is Tut'Zanni. A group in a constant balancing act that knows the importance of connection and allowing ourselves to be human. This is what we put in our shows. This is how we build. This is how we live.

Now, these are all just words. No one can really explain how this group goes from point A to point B to point C and so on, in a way that anyone can understand. Sometimes seeing is believing and so that is what we decided to do. 2016 is the year of documentation. Tut'Zanni has been documenting every moment of our process and it has been interesting. What we're finding is that sometimes the camera matters. Having a camera on us at all times is an existential experiment that has occasional consequences. We want people to be able to understand this process in a deep way but sometimes it is difficult when you need to have those private moments with your most trusted colleagues. Little by little I think we will find the balance between what needs to be seen and heard for others to understand us and what is just for us... because there has to be something just for us... that is where the magic lives.

-Dory

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A Trill New York Theatre Company

Guess who just became a New York Theatre Companyyyyy?!

Also, in case you were wondering, I am, indeed, the trillest.

BAM. You're welcome.

New Show. Part 2.

So, the drama continues. 

Ali and I continue to wrestle with this new canovaccio for DON'T Save the Princesses!

This week, we had a bit of a revelation. Which, interestingly, coincided with Dory's blog post. I think that Dory sent us some brain waves because we were definitely on the same vibe.

For this show, we had been trying so hard to make the Princess a good example, a positive force within a difficult system, society. We kept trying to make her a character that fights for her rights. You know, a strong positive female example. 

But what we realized is that we need not depict her as a strong, independent princess. We need to depict her as a princess. This came to us as we were on Urban Dictionary looking at the definitions of princess (Ali instagrammed one of her favorite definitions).

On Urban Dictionary, people were heated about their definitions of princess. And for the most part, a princess was not a positive thing. So, what if she starts as that kind of princess. 

That led to another discovery, she could not really be based on other commedia characters - she would have to be a fully original character. Much like El Capitano. She needed to be The Princess.

A new female to add to the Master class.

La Principessa.

- Patrick out

Commedia dell'Arte... Not Your PC Theatre Form

A lot of my students have been concerned with the highly misogynistic, racist and sexist tradition that follows the Commedia dell'Arte. To be honest, I was shocked when I heard their response to the canovacci (the traditional Commedia show structures) they have been writing this semester. Some of them feel they were forced into a direction that they are uncomfortable with only because of the traditional nature of the piece. What they are missing is that Commedia is not misogynistic, racist or sexist... it is actually bringing to light these issues in society through, you guessed it, comedy. In response to this I have had some serious discussions with my students on why Commedia lends itself to this direction. 

Photo by Zach Kronisch at Zach Kronisch Photography

Colombina, played by Allegra Libonati in Art For Sale (left) and by Patrick Berger in Love Letter Lost (above), suffer indignities typically forced upon the traditionally-female servant in a man's world (though she usually gets the last laugh!) 

First of all, it is important to note that the strongest and wisest characters in the commedia are women. For instance, Colombina (whom I like to call the voice of wisdom) is the motherly, feet on the ground character that understands society and uses her brain (and her understanding of the testosterone-driven male - during which it is the attitude of the male we are laughing at not Colombina or her actions) to get what she wants or needs to survive. She also is the only one that can speak to the audience in a rational capacity... with the exception of Pulcinella from time to time. Another later, yet very important character, is the Strega (the witch). Strega doesn't necessarily have magical powers, but everyone believes that she does, so whatever she says is happening in the scene becomes law. For example, if she tells Pantalone that she has turned him into a frog, he believes he has been turned into a frog. This makes her the most powerful character in any Commedia show.

Racism is a hot button topic, especially as of late with the uproar against police brutality and the murders of African Americans across the USA. I can see how someone might be uncomfortable addressing this in their artistic work. Though, I find this a shame. As artists, I believe we have a responsibility to shine a magnifying glass on society. Maybe it is because I grew up around a lot of racism and having to deal with the understanding that there are too many people in the world who believe that the color of someone's skin actually means they are less important, less knowledgeable, less beautiful... lesser... this is an unfortunate part of our society and ignoring it doesn't make it go away, just like erasing the horrors of slavery or the genocide of the Native Americans from our history books doesn't erase our actual history... it just makes us more likely to repeat that history. We are doing a disservice to our audience if we don't tell the truth. 

Careful though... Making a dark comic moment to poke fun at society's views on race is very different from making a blatantly racist moment. It is all in who is the butt of the joke. The joke is a sad one. We live in a community that does not accept people because of the color of their skin... are afraid of people because of the color of their skin... this should be a sad joke because it is ridiculous that this is even an issue. So, as a comic artist, I want to make these snap judgements as ridiculous as possible. How about we stop accepting people by holding up skin color paint swatches... "We will be irrationally afraid of you unless you are lighter than Latte Java." "Uh oh Uh oh... we've got a Toffee coming in!"

One of the best commedia shows I have ever seen had an Italian man playing an immigrant from Turkey. In the middle of the show, this man had a beautiful moment on stage all alone where he spoke about where he came from and the trials he had to endure to arrive in Italy in order to have a better life. During that moment, the rest of the cast were looking out on him, as chorus members from the curtains and you could only see their faces peering around completely listening to his story. All of the gratitude he had for small things he gained as a servant throughout the show began to make sense. He revealed a true, human character and the audience could share in his experience, opening up a universal dialogue of the trials and tribulations of illegal immigrants.

Photos by Zach Kronisch at Zach Kronisch Photography

Zanni (ALi Landvatter) and Rosalina (Molly Tomhave) are two servants in Love Letter Lost who are exploited, abused , and treated like property by the ruling master class. It's hilarious! But you have to laugh, or else you'll cry. Since its inception, Commedia has served to highlight and lend some levity to the daily hardships of the poor and to slyly mock those who wield the power in society. Tut'Zanni aims to continue that proud tradition.

What we have to remember is that Commedia was formed as theatre of the people. Starving peasants related to Arlecchino pretending to eat his own shit or sawing his leg off to roast because they had those thoughts... deep down inside those that are starving have thoughts that we see as outrageous or crazy but they relate to these as survival.

Comedy has always been a way to survive great trials and struggles... to open up dialogue and shine a light in an overwhelming darkness. We need Commedia now more than ever. We need to have a voice that will be heard and accepted. We need to ask the tough questions and make humanity look at its reflection. It isn't easy... it is a big responsibility, but what better than cartoon on stage to pick up that challenge. It is this over the top ridiculousness that can make you recognize the darkest "secrets" in the heart of our society. They are only secrets if we let them continue to hide. I say, pull them out under the sun!

 

Dory

8-bit Princesses and Real Life Barbie

Listen, if I blogged on the day I was supposed to, it just wouldn't be ME.

Working in the 8-bit world of Don't Save the Princesses has been really fun. Here are some versions of the Princess, and a little Hero as well:

I always love adding new skills to my repertoire. 

The Princess also exists in live action, and this has had me thinking a lot about her mask. In commedia dell'arte, the inammorati (the lovers) are examples of unmasked characters, often with heightened makeup, and using their whole body and physicality as their mask.

I am thinking this would be perfect. Firstly, the physicality will have to hint to the video game world, which has been hilarious and awkward to work with, but then I remembered are "real life anime girl" and "real life barbie" girls who use makeup to create a disturbing and mesmerizing effect:

Terrifying, right?! Don't worry, we'll do some practice rounds and share.

ALi out.

New show. New show. NEW show!

New show time!

So, we have 2 shows under our belt, as a company. And the way we built each of those was similar but not equal. And it is time to start running with a few new shows. We created 2 new canovacci when everyone was here in March and a third promptly after the trip. 

The hardest part of it all.

The step, once we have the idea of the show fleshed out; the step right after and right before we put it on its feet and play. This is the hardest part because there is not much that is known. And I know that so much will change and grow as we figure things out. It's the space between known and not known. It's like that moment before you go on stage where you know the journey but don't know where that night will go. 

It's also the most exciting part. 

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If I had to define the steps of this process up until now, it would say:

  1. An idea. Usually the seed of something small.
    1. Art for Sale: how hard it is for an artist to create/share something, all the obstacles.
    2. Love Letter Lost: starting from an old canovaccio.
    3. DON'T Save the Princesses: video games and turning female troupes on their head: a princess can save herself. 
  2. Some moments. We brainstorm some moments that might be in a show of that idea.
  3. We string some moments together into a canovaccio.
  4. We talk through that journey and poke holes and try to patch them up as we go. At this time, the entire canovaccio gets turned around and upside down. We talk about all our choices and try to find the right ones. We think in terms of a journey. We think in terms of possible lazzi. We think in terms of constructs we want in the show. We think in terms of 100 different competing pieces. We slowly find our way to the canovaccio.
 

5. We put it up on its feet. And play. 

We are right now in the space between 4 and 5.
It's exciting and hard.
It feels like a big space. Well, it feels like there is a lot of space to fill.
Oh, the life. 

Oh, lord, I almost forgot the secret ingredient to the process.