sound and music designer Ken Palmer and David Robbins
music director David Robbins
masks Erhard Steifel
light designer Bosco Flanagan
stage manager Cihan Sahin
assistant stage managers Dora Kiss, Stehanie Pinnock, Mary Eileen O’Donnell
a production by The Actors’ Gang
artistic director Tim Robbins
co-artistic director Cynthia Ettinger
managing director Simon Hanna
in collaboration with CRT Milano and Change Performing Arts
The Commedia dell’Arte was developing as an art form in the early 16th century, a time that was witness to great changes in religion and culture. Rebels were breaking off from the Vatican in the early years of the Reformation. The African slave trade had begun in Portugal. Religious conflicts led to a succession of wars between Spain and Italy and France.
Amidst this tumult some in this war weary Italian culture began telling the story of the relationship between the wealthy and the poor, the rich Pantalone and his servant Zanni, (later named Harlequino). Along with this came the story of the Innamorati (the lovers), unbridled and passionate, kept from their true love by a business deal between Pantalone and a pompous Doctor or fraudulent military hero.
Hypocrisy was satirized in the town square by roving bands of actors and musicians. Historically we have no evidence of the actual content of these plays. The first written scenarios appear in the early 17th century, and these only the works of the elite companies that performed for royalty. So what about the first hundred years of the Commedia dell’Arte? Who are the unknown players? What was important to the poor and powerless in 1530 Italy? Why in one account was a Duke in Mantua so offended by a Commedia troupe’s performance that he hanged three actors? Who were these daring acrobatic actors that dared to tell truth to power?
Harlequino: On to Freedom asks this question. Set in a time that is both 1530 and 2016, the play tells the story of an itinerant group of actors that hijack a lecture and slide show on the Commedia dell’Arte. The play questions how history is written, what is funny, when is a servant a slave, and why are we still in this discussion today?