Commedia Maschere Sample

During my second day at the Carnevale, I attended two events: the play “Arlecchino e Il Capitano Mangabambini” (Harlequin and the Eating-children Captain) and the lecture “Il Mascheraio” (The Mask Maker.) Both events were excellent choices to witness.

“Arlecchino e Il Capitano Mangabambini” is a children’s play and, true to commedia, it had lots of audience participation, especially by children, who shouted, pointed, and became “cats” at some point.

Compagnia Lande del Vero

The story revolves around Il Capitano who loves eating children while being in love with this beautiful girl who will only love him if he stops eating them. And of course, battling his urge to eat children and not to eat them is where the physical comedy lies. How does Arlecchino come into play, well, he’s the narrator, who turns out to be a “she.” And she turns out to be the beautiful girl Il Capitano loves. She is dressed as Arlecchino, who happens to be Il Capitano’s servant. Both Il Capitano and Arlecchino “argue” all the time because Arlechinno refuses to bring him children. In fact, he asks the children to act like “cats” whenever Il Capitano “smells” them, that way he can never find them. And when Arlechinno reveals himself as La Bella Leonora, the girl Il Capitano loves, the battle between Il Capitano’s desire to eat children and not to eat them, starts. And the results are hilarious. The show was about an hour and by the reaction of the audience, it was a success. And it really was, the two actors were fantastic. 

“Arlechinno e Il Capitano Mangabambini” was presented by Campagnia Lande del Vero (no website).

Andrea Cavarra, Mask maker

I thought the lecture on “mask-making” was going to be a typical lecture, serious and well, a lecture. Little did I know the mask maker was not only a great commedia dell’arte historian but also a great entertainer. 

The presentation was done in two parts: How masks were originally made and The Origins of the first Commedia dell’arte character. 

Turns out that the original Commedia masks were done of leather and the leather came from the cow. One of the reasons to use the cow was that such animal has a thick skin but not so thick that it can be manipulated easily. The main reason though is because cow is an animal whose meat can be consumed. 

The first Commedia dell’arte character was the zanni and it was born out of necessity, wearing a specific mask. This zanni wasn’t very smart, he came from rural areas and was a servant to many rich people. From the zanni, an improved character was born. He was also a servant but rather than being stupid, he was street smart while not being “educated:” Arlecchino, and of course, Colombina came from here too. 

That’s it, that was the lecture from the mask maker. It lasted 1 hour and 10 minutes and it not only educated people in the roots of Commedia dell’arte, it also entertained us a lot. I mean, the mask maker was able to make two different audience members act with him, improvising lines, and in matter of seconds become commedia actors. It was impressive. 

“El Mascheraio” was presented by Compagnia Zorba Officine Creative.

Here are some examples of the production and the lecture:


Leave a Reply