“You want to learn? Here – carry the bags!”
So began my apprenticeship with Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, master of Commedia dell’ Arte. I was a theatre student at Carnegie-Mellon, and Carlo – brilliant, charismatic and original – had taken the department by storm. Carlo was the real deal. He had played Brighella in Giorgio Strehler’s seminal production of Servant of Two Masters, which signalled the rebirth of Commedia dell’ Arte. Born in Padua, Carlo lived and breathed Commedia, and went on later to found the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, California. Following Carlo around for several years, I learned the masks and archetypes, the workings of ensemble improvisation and the anarchic spirit of Commedia.
Europe called to me, and Carlo suggested I go to study with someone who had served as a movement coach at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan, and become a friend – a Frenchman by the name of Jacques Lecoq. I was fortunate enough to win a Fulbright scholarship to Paris and became the first American to study at Ecole Jacques Lecoq.
Where Carlo was energetic and imaginative, Jacques was austere and analytical. He made a deep study of the neutral mask, a tool for the rediscovery of the true self, and taught us to lose ourselves in the purity of movement. His pedagogy provided a rigorous foundation for an approach to physical theatre.
After studying with these two masters, my own career in teaching and directing has taken me to theatres and drama programs all over North America. My grounding in Commedia has informed my highly physical Shakespeare productions as well as others, including many “collage shows” or devised pieces. From Paris to the National Theatre School of Canada, to Cirque du Soleil, to two more Fulbright grants to teach in Europe, and beyond, the adventure continues. For a view of some of my journey to date, please visit:
To follow some of my recent theatrical ventures in Seattle:
For information on my translations of Moliere, some of my teaching offerings – and even my children’s book – please visit Normandy Press:
And please visit this site often for new posts on Commedia, physical theatre, masks and improvisation – and how important they are not only in theatre but in life.