Background – Commedia dell’Arte
Masquerade! has been written and composed in the style of Commedia dell’Arte, a theatrical style developed in Europe in the 17th century by troupes of travelling players. It was a very ‘portable’ type of street theatre, playing mainly to the working classes in villages. A prop basket would contain a few props and garments and changes to character or scene happened before the audience’s eyes. The players would use stock characters, such as Arlecchino, Pulcinello, Columbina and Scapino to improvise amusing comedies or social satires, adapting to the current events of the village. Music and sound effects were provided by a drum, a tambourine, a flute, a fiddle or whatever else was to hand. Popular dances of the day would also be included. The use of leather masks, covering the eyes and nose and signifying the characteristics of the stock characters was a trademark of Commedia.
Masquerade! is set in a European village during the renaissance. It was during this time that the princes became more interested in knowledge than money, and so brought about great social change. Our story is about the dawning of this time as it occurs to a young prince. He is to become king and is convinced that the old ways of his kingdom (as embodied in his tutor, the old fashioned Linguine) are not necessarily the best ways. The tale has been adapted from Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. In true Commedia style, the story of his enlightenment takes place over a single day – a day in Paradiso.