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Isabel Piedmont
Department of French and Italian

Last modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2008

'Commedia dell'arte' performance at IU Bloomington

Feb. 20, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Classically trained actor Mace Perlman will bring to life the traditional masked characters of the Italian commedia dell'arte in a performance on the IU Bloomington campus on March 4. The Department of French and Italian and the Department of Theatre and Drama, along with the Department of Western European Studies, are sponsoring the performance, which is free and open to the public, at 6 p.m. in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center's Grand Hall.

Historical insight and theatrical entertainment go hand-in-hand in Perlman's show. He explores the commedia dell'arte as one of the most influential cultural phenomena of modern Europe, whose archetypes are universal and whose myth and legacy are still with us today.

The audience may not be familiar immediately with the larger-than-life commedia dell'arte characters, but it will recognize the classic character types upon which the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Shakespeare, Molière and even the actors in Seinfeld based their own performances.

Take, for example, comedia dell'arte's Pantalone, a fool whose character traits were echoed by Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and George in Seinfeld. And the slapstick Arlecchino, the merchant's servant "just off the boat" from Bergamo, is considered a forerunner of Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character and of Harpo in the Marx Brothers.

Perlman also will introduce the audience to Brighella, Arlecchino's wacky compatriot from the hills of Bergamo, the pompous Dottore from the famed University of Bologna, and various bombastic Captains from lands real and imaginary through interpretation and the use of masks.

Perlman's performance has been praised as capturing both the humor and humanity of the characters.

An example from Robert Henke, chair of the Performing Arts Department at Washington University in St. Louis: "The humor elicited by his interpretations was extraordinary: a laughter both side-splitting and humane."

The Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center is located at 275 N. Jordan Ave. Parking is available nearby in the Jordan Avenue parking lot, across from the Musical Arts Center. For more information, please contact the Department of French and Italian at 812-855-5458 or