Commedia Dell’arte is widely reputed as one of the earliest forms of professional theatre. Commedia Dell’arte had its early start in Italy. The comedy theatre enjoyed peak popularity in Europe between the 16th and 18th century.

Commedia Dell’arte is also referred to as commedia improvviso, commedia alla Maschera, and commedia dell’arte all’improvviso.  Commedia instigated the emergence of several model entertainers and artistes of the 17th century. This form of act was famous for its creative performances based on life situations or emerging societal issues.

The lazzon in Commedia Dell’arte

Commedia dell’arte owes its early popularity to the Lazzi. By description, Lazzo is a compilation of beautifully arranged humorous and entertaining scripts. Arlecchino famously brought the pantomime life in Commedia dell’arte. Commedias like the famous Tooth Puller are well acclaimed for the brilliance in the scripting and the presentation.

Commedia dell’arte entertainers often dressed in Commedia masks that interpret everyday characters and enigmatic social charismas in their display. This includes dishonest and deceitful servants, foolish aging men, or fake agile military officers.

The interpreted roles are mere inflated characters which falsely appear real. Typical among this is the self-acclaimed doctor known as II Dottore. This character typifies a greedy old man called Pantalone. Il Dottore can also symbolize a fantastic social relationship called innamorati.

Clothed in masks, these actors work out an excellent comedy performance and a well- organized creative presentation. In this form of art, actors characteristically show desperation, with exaggerated emotions like fear, starvation, and hunger. Such theme was well in line in those ancient times when Europe was waking from the dreadful scourge of the Black Death.

All these emotions are depicted humorously. Such is the elegance of this theatre art; conveying the darkest facets of human nature in laughable and entertaining presentations. Themes centered on calamity and misfortune, and fear (the fear to die, to be alive, or even fear for everything) is brought forward intriguingly. It depicts cruelty, both in the present and without regrets or guilt.

The Commedia in its masked form buttresses on the resolve for survival at all cost. This is the reason Jacques Lecoq inculcated the Commedia mask work into his grooming structure for actors under his tutelage. This role is often interpreted with a very high level of passion and force, at a level that surpasses laughter and fun, and also above horror.

According to Lecoq, the Commedia dell’Arte is a creative system where the “play is in the play”.

Let us learn a bit about the Commedia masks

These masks reflect the historical essence of Commedia Dell’Arte. There are beautiful sculptural works that enable the actor to improve the presentation of his character and story.  These masks have evolved as well adding a touch of modern sculpture.

Worth noting is the rhythmic sculptural form these masks are famed for. Actors can pick from a variety of colors and styles befitting the character they portray in the script. These masks also aim at creating inspiring visuals while the artist is performing in full glare under the stage lights.