The Scapin cast learns new skills. A pre-rehearsal workshop in physical theater and mask performance led by the director.
A diary of a production of MOLIERE'S SCAPIN. November 2004
Produced by Radiant Theater
Direction and Mask Design by Alyssa Ravenwood
Performed Feb. 2004 at disjecta theatre in Portland OR
Winner of the 2004 Portland Theatre Drammy Award
for Outstanding Achievement in Mask Design
to: December | to: Masks and Costumes
Scapin is a physical comedy. It’s characters and plot are taken from the boisterous and bawdy street theatre style of Commedia Dell’Arte. We are performing in mask. We are using slapstick violence, improvisation, and tango dancing as forms of everyday conversation. We are acting in a physical style that has more in common with Bugs Bunny than with Marlon Brando. These are all special skills that require advanced performance training.
I knew I would need time to take the actors through a physical theatre and mask performance workshop. I was happy to find that all of the actors were enthusiastic about attending this workshop.
November was a fun month for us. We had a lot of good, silly times. Everyone accepted the challenge of learning new techniques and excelled in their work.
Commedia is passionate comedy, there are no small emotions.
In everyday life we are forced to keep our passions contained. If our darker emotions show on the surface there are severe social consequences.
It is the same for Commedia characters but they are not very good at containing themselves. Their passions are volatile and it doesn’t take much to set them off. Many of our improvisations were about finding the balance between a character’s social mask and their erupting volcano of violent emotion.
This string improvisation (photo) was just one of the inspired moments that were created in November.
This prop-based improv is an exercise in learning to respond and react instead of trying to create or act. This often creates panic in an actor, “I am in front of an audience, I have to be entertaining, I have to be funny!” After the panic goes away you find you can just BE. You can connect to the audience with an intimacy that is surprising.
Two of the actors, Toby Lawrence and Amy Jo McCarville are also mask makers. All three of us brought in our masks to use for the mask performance workshops. It was a treat to have so many masks available to play with. The mask workshops were full of energy and creativity.
Pictured top to bottom, left to right: 1. LaDawn Sheffield, Aaron Martin, Beth Peterson 2. Izzakate McGowan 3. Beth Peterson and LaDawn Sheffield