The other day I took some images of the masks my students and I constructed for their Commedia dell'arte play this past Spring. These were the back-up masks— they were set aside in case the one entirely crafted by the student got damaged in a rehearsal. As the students were understandably swamped with polishing up their slapstick routines it fell on me to do most of the paper mache work. I can take credit for a bit of the painting as well, but most of that was done by The Company, who took pity on me twenty four hours before opening night.

The mask pictured above was for the winsome Giovanni; an Innamorato, or Male Lover, who cares only for loving a woman pretty enough to compliment his own dashing features.

This beakish mask belongs to miserly old Pantalone. Ceaseless worrying about his precious lucre has puckered Pantalone's face, and his beak of a nose prevents him from bestowing unsolicited kisses on the servant girls.

Columbina is one of those unfortunate servant girls who must be constantly on guard around the lecherous old Pantalone. She is a Zanni, or servant character, of Panatalone's who ends up setting all wrongs to right with her quick wit and soothing words.

Stupino is another Zanni, but he doesn't possess one tenth of the intelligence of Columbina; a fact clearly illustrated by the grotesque size of his probiscus. Stupino is the stereotypical dullard who cannot think beyond the grumbling of his perpetually empty stomach.


By way of contrast there is the Zanni called Arlecchino, who is the jester character common to theatrical comedy. Arlecchino is an acrobatic servant who takes joy in playing tricks on his masters. You can see by the diminutive size of his nose that he possesses a quick wit to match his reflexes.

While Commedia dell'Arte originated in Italy during the Renaissance it proved so popular that many of the conventions it compiled can still be seen in screwball comedies made today. In fact, the author of our next play owes a considerable debt to dell'Arte despite being held in a class all his own. It seems only fitting then that these masks will eventually get the Etsy treatment in order to help fund A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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