‘The Artful Token’ brings the commedia dell’arte experience to a virtual environment
October 30, 2020
“The Artful Token” is a contemporary commedia dell’arte adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s “La Vedova Scaltra” (“The Artful Widow”). The story follows Rosie, a gifted Black university sophomore who is learning to navigate an often racist and sexist world.
Credited with being the first form of professional theatre in Europe, commedia dell’arte was originally a grassroots theatrical movement known for its touring troupes of actors who satirized current social and political events through use of recognizable stock characters and ribald physical comedy. The art form emphasizes ensemble acting, enables the actors to develop the story, and uses the adornment of character masks as dramatic devices.
In this special production, student actor-creators have undertaken a creative-practice-as-research process to explore antiracist theatre principles and the opportunities and limitations of commedia as an antiracist and anti-oppressive form of theatre.
“In developing the production, the students have been guided by several questions,” Rosin said. “What, for example, can they learn about themselves as artists, individuals, and community members through this process? What individual and communal skills, strengths, and competencies are needed to devise a contemporary commedia presented virtually in the current sociopolitical climate?”
Rosin noted that the students have explored established principles of antiracist theatre articulated by actor and director Nicole Brewer, developer of an anti-racist method of training she calls “conscientious theatre training.” These principles include harm reduction, harm prevention, and relationship repair.
Rosin is a director/choreographer, actor/creator, and researcher with experience in commedia dell’arte and devised theatre practice.
“In ‘The Artful Token,’ we’ve created an experience that we hope ridicules systemic racism and sexism,” Rosin said. “We’ve further aimed to uplift and celebrate the voices and creativity of our students as an act of liberation and joy.”
This production is supported in part by an International Initiatives Small Grant from the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
“The Artful Token” will be performed live online on Nov. 6–8 and 13–15 at 8 p.m. To attend this free event, visit the registration page.
Commedia dell’Arte is a centuries-old art form that is uncensored in its delivery. Performances are often bawdy and body-based in humor and involve themes that may be inappropriate for younger viewers. In addition, this show may contain discussion or representation of racist and sexist language and behavior.
If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Susan Sanders as soon as possible in advance of the event.
Written by Trichia Cadette, a graduate student in arts leadership in the School of Performing Arts