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The Drive to Communicate—The Use of Language in Commedia dell'arte

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2009


Ophaboom Theatre was formed in 1991 with the aim of developing, researching and performing a contemporary version of commedia dell'aite to provide humour and resonance for a modern audience. By returning to the roots of commedia, on the streets, Ophaboom's performances, we hoped, might recapture its popular appeal, and be accessible to as wide an audience as possible. In doing this we have questioned many of the traditional ideas associated with this form, and also its contemporary relevance. Our approaches to each mask or character type, such as the Zanni (servant), the innamorata (lover), and Pantalone (old man), are tested in live performance in turn, and only when satisfied with it do we move on to the next mask. This return to the roots is aimed at invigorating the form methodically through an evolution possibly analogous to that of the original commedia. Our belief is that the eighteenth-century manifestation, which is often the only perception and thus representation of commedia today, does not appeal to a wide public. At its height, commedia owed its vitality to its wideranging appeal, and by rediscovering its spirit we hope to revitalize this popularity.

Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 1998

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