One aspect of Oregon Adventure Theatre is the use of Commedia Dell’arte masks.
Our masks are painstakingly and lovingly created by Newman Masks located in Cave Junction, Oregon.
We use the masks for a variety of reasons but primarily we use them to heighten the reality of the actors for those watching the play. Commedia masks often allow a modern actor to relate to unbelievable stakes and for a modern actor to accept the reality, albeit sometimes absurd, thrown at them by William Shakespeare. If noth-ing else it allows a 30 year old the chance to play an 80 year old with no one batting an eyelash.
Commedia Dell’arte was originally a form of masked improvisational theatre used by traveling troupes of fantastic and resourceful performers in Italy. The art both reached its zenith and its demise in the mid 1700’s as arts movements and political leanings changed and the viability of a traveling theatre troupe became more dubious.
What Oregon Adventure Theatre does is not actually Commedia Dell’arte but a wholesale borrowing of those devices that serve us well and a peaceful leaving alone of those devices which do not. It was at the First Annual LaGrande Shakespeare Festival that we christened what it is OAT does. Born out of the improvised antics at a farmers market of several Ore-gon Adventure Theatre performers, Commedia Dell’a Marché was born. Depending on where you put an accent and ignoring its bilingual etymology, Commedia Dell’a Marché is either poorly translated as Commedia of the Market or Commedia on the Go.
For authentic Commmedia Dell’arte, one must accept it has gone the way of honesty in politics or amateurs in the Olympics. We claim to seek its return, but perhaps it was never even there to begin with. Today there are such magnificent Commedia creators as Dario Fo and Newman who through their own type of rebellion bring new red blood cells to the blue and weak blood of an ancient form but even they are not purists. There are also handfuls of pages of modern text illustrating the ins and outs of Commedia available from a variety of University Textbook manufacturers. But it is my belief, if you are a purist at heart, to get the full experience, simply put on an Arlecchino mask oneself, eat pasta and cry.