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Goldoni in the Grove?

ARTFARM's 2016 Shakespeare in the Grove production is Carlo Goldoni’s "The Servant of Two Masters".
Hold on. Wait just a minute. How did an 18th century Italian playwright get invited to Shakespeare in the Grove? He is not Shakespeare. He’s not even English. He did not live in the Elizabethan Era. What do the two possibly have in common, and why is ARTFARM not doing Shakespeare this year?
As to what they have in common, the answer is Commedia dell’ Arte. Commedia was an outdoor, masked, improvisational popular theater form which emerged in Italy in the early 1500’s and became a sensation throughout Europe over the next two centuries. Italian Commedia companies toured the continent throughout the 1500s and 1600s, performing for everyone from street audiences to Kings and Queens. They had a great influence on writers and actors of the time, including Shakespeare in England and Moliere in France. Commedia players performed in London in the 1580s and ‘90s, when Shakespeare was active, and he almost certainly witnessed their performances. The Taming of the Shrew, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, The Comedy of Errors and other comedies are directly influenced by the plots and archetypal characters of Commedia.
Goldoni wrote in the mid-1700s, aiming to preserve the tradition of Italian Commedia (which by then was in decline) while honoring his French idol Moliere, who had absorbed much of the structure, spirit and characters of Commedia while making it more appropriate for sophisticated French audiences. Goldoni, under Moliere’s influence, moved the style indoors, removed the traditional masks, and generally gentrified the form, removing much of the bawdy and scatological humor and revolutionary spirit of original Commedia. In doing so, he both preserved and led to the demise of Commedia.
In our production we are using an adaptation of Goldoni’s script, but, given our outdoor venue, doing it as it might have been done in Shakespeare’s time. Masks, broad comedy (slapstick and zany both entered the English language through Commedia), a little bawdry and crudeness, and a traditional cast of iconic characters that have survived and influenced comedy into the modern day.
Shakespeare will be back in the Grove. This year, however, we wanted to share another side of classic European theater with our audiences, and I personally wanted to share my passion for and training in Commedia with our fans in the Grove. Shakespeare still keeps his name on this Grove, but – who knows? – Moliere might visit one summer, maybe even Aristophanes…
For this summer, however, Italian comedy carries the torch in the Grove at MxCC, and ARTFARM has assembled a fantastic company of players. Come see! July 13 - 17 & 20 - 24. ARTFARM.
Opening night cast photo by Bill DeKine

servant of two masters poster
artfarm servant of two masters cast