ABSTRACT

Where to play? Well, I think that choice leads to the most common error made today, one which is informed by a kind of neo-romanticism in those who aspire to become actors. That is to say that one performs where destiny provides, or the wind blows you. This principle, if one can call it that, has nothing to do with the kind of theatre that can be called commedia dell'arte. Definitely, no-no listed! Before becoming a genre, something which took time – it didn't happen straight away – commedia dell'arte was a brutally commercial proposition, a product for sale. It had to please; otherwise, it wasn't saleable. And today, if it's not saleable, if you can't please the majority of people with it, you have no market. And if you have no market, then people don't know of your existence, and you have no chance to please them. You need a system which will bring both sides into organised contact, and the question of place is crucial to that systematisation. As I've said already, the first plays, known as zannata or zannesca, existed before the advent of the commedia dell'arte proper with the coming of the actress. The Comedy of the Zannis, if we can call it that, had to find its spectators where they already were. But they also had the other option: themselves to propose playing somewhere where they might be accepted, somewhere where their theatrical ideas would be welcomed. Those Zanni actors were known as ‘professors' at the time – professore dell'arte, professors of their art…