Italian commedia; high excitement

Posted by Julia Leef

According to director Alma Becker, excitement was high on opening night of the fall 2010 Mainstage production of Carlo Goldoni's "The Servant of Two Masters," which opened on Nov. 19 in Skidmore's Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater.

The show continues to run Dec. 2-5. All performances are at 8 p.m. except Sunday matinees, which are at 2 p.m.

"The company had been longing for an audience to interact with. The actors love communicating directly to the audience and engaging them with words, songs and lots of comical bits," Becker said.

Indeed, the reactions of audience members feed the actors' energy in this play and boost the overall performance. Feedback from the audience is as much a part of the show as are the regularly scripted lines.

"On opening night a director is always thankful and pleased when that first big laugh is heard or there is applause mid-way through a scene. That says the audience is enjoying the performances," Becker said.

"The Servant of Two Masters" combines the culture of Venice with the comedy of the play's style, with a few dashes of modern, even localized humor thrown in for good measure.The play is very fast-paced and the actors handled the quick changes and flow of the scenes with an ease and familiarity that spoke of long hours of rehearsals and hard work.

The cast portrayed its characters well, each with distinct personalites. One could determine the characteristics of the stock characters, characters with pre-determined personalities and behaviors, that the actors were imitating.

The storyline contains plot twists and turns, with the occasional exposition scene to help facilitate the audience's understanding of the play. Occasional interactions with the audience incorporate its members into the play, making this an engaging and delightful performance.

Tristan Schaffer-Goldman '11, who played Truffaldino, spoke about the joys and necessities of having a live audience. "The energy we receive from the audience fuels us. With an audience we not only rediscovered how funny this show is, but also found moments we didn't even realize were there," Schaffer-Goldman said.

Jaime Martinez-Rivera '11, who played Florindo, considered learning the art of commedia to be an invaluable experience. "The fun part of commedia is that, unlike ‘traditional' theater, everything is on the outside. You start with movement and voice because the psychology is irrelevant. A character is feeling exactly what he's telling the audience," Martinez-Rivera said.

The pre-show performance put on by LoCo, the Lobby Company, also made use of audience interaction. The pre-show performance took place a half hour before "The Servant of Two Masters" to excite the audience for the main performance.

LoCo engaged in a variety of improvisational games that involved interjections from the audience. LoCo continued to entertain audience members during the intermission by talking with people while remaining in character.

Although the two weekend showings were interrupted by Thanksgiving break, Schaffer-Goldman remains confident that the cast will be able to maintain the energy from past performances and will bring a fresh burst of creative energy and perspective to the Dec. shows.

A question-and-answer session that followed the performance on Nov. 20 provided for the benefit of prospective students attending the Performing Arts Open House event.Audience members had the opportunity to speak to the cast and crew about performing in "The Servant of Two Masters." This promised a great opportunity for incoming students to learn more about the arts offered at Skidmore.

The cast welcomes everyone to join in and be a part of the last few performances of this modern-day Italian commedia.

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