Laugh on autopilot

Two youngsters meet and fall in love; soon, they face parental opposition and get separated. In the end, love reigns supreme and they reunite.

This might sound like a plot straight out of a Hindi movie, but in fact, theatre aficionados will get the opportunity to see this act performed by actors using masks and indulging in physical comedy today at Prithvi Theatre, as part of the International Commedia Day: India 2013.

Commedia Dell’ Arte, translated as comedy of craft, is an Italian form of masked theatre

Commedia Dell’ Arte, translated as comedy of craft, is an Italian form of masked theatre that originated in the 16th century. Apart from using masks and a lot of physical comedy, it was the first form of theatre that allowed women to perform on stage.

Vikrant Dhote and Cathryn Tabone Doshi

It also features a set of characters (classical archetypes) such as young lovers, greedy old men, know-it-all professors, sneaky servants, and boastful heroes, who represented the prevalent hierarchy of the society in a humourous tone.

Entertain, educate
February 25 is celebrated as International Commedia Dell’ Arte Day across the globe each year, and this will be the first time that it is being observed in India. The festivities, which began from February 23 with a two-day workshop at Prithvi House, will conclude with a series of platform performances today.

Organised by Madball Productions, Dur Se Brothers and Silverfish Events, the festival aims to familiarise the form with Indian audiences, highlight its success as a means of universal entertainment and demonstrate its use as a practical tool of craft for all kinds of theatre practitioners.

Deepal Doshi, one of the organisers of the festival, who has trained extensively in Commedia Dell’ Arte, says, “This form of art is resonant with Indian culture due to typical characters like trophy wives and servants being oppressed by their masters, who exist in our society even today. Also, it is a great training ground for actors as it demands so much physical comedy and acrobatics.”

Character sketch
Doshi, who also conducted workshops at Prithvi House along with wife Kathryn Tabone Doshi and actor Yuki Ellias, taught participants the basics of character study, introductions to Commedia archetypes and plots, and how to use masks effectively.

The participants of the workshop will showcase their learnings at the platform performances along with professional actors already trained in the art of Commedia. The performance will also feature excerpts from A Tale of Two Treaties, a one-man show by Doshi where he will essay 10 different characters. Doshi says, “We hope to make this event an annual feature, with a full-fledged international festival of Commedia culture from 2014, when we will take it to different metros across India.”

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