From Decrepit to Lithe

Dottore Balanzone e Pantalone

Commedia dell’ Arte is a very special and unique art form. It is a style of physical theatre that is not often performed. Commedia dell’Arte is one of the more demanding types of theatre. It demands that the actors hold their bodies in unnatural positions for extended periods of time. Moreover still, they must also accompany these strange movements with ridiculous stream of thoughts to justify their movements.

For instance, in one of our scenarios, I play Pantalone. For those not familiar, Pantalone is the oldest, most decrepit character of all the commedia characters. He is to be thought of as 295 years old; a shriveled old man motivated by money and pleasures of the flesh.

A moment to tell you about myself: I am a 5’ 7” female, not yet 30. The struggle to understand Pantalone is a delicious one. He is rich, yet the gum on your shoe you wish wiped off before entering your home. He gets under your skin, like the smell of an old beggar man wreaking or urine. He will not leave your mind.

Not only is Pantalone old and decrepit but he also walks with a hump. His skin is shriveled like a raisin. He shows every aspect your could possible think of someone who has not aged well. His genitals are only active so that he may perform necessary biological processes. The rest of the time they hang between his legs, like a dead rat. He walks with them limply swinging between his legs, thus his legs are always bowed.

To say that Pantalone is a difficult character to access is an understatement. To consider him human is even an overstatement.

In our show, I play three characters: a narrator, Pantalone and Flaminia, a noble lady. It is a great challenge, both mentally and physically to transition quickly from thinking that my skin is deeply set with wrinkles and fifteen minutes later to imagine that I am graceful, beautiful, 100% woman.

This is the beauty of Commedia. No other experience in life has presented such a great challenge and commanded such an investment of mental and emotional energy to make this transition. When I change from Pantalone to Flaminia, I imagine my wrinkles melting off; as though I am stripping my own skin. I imagine there is a beautiful woman beneath my cloak and she is being born as strap on my corset and dress. I imagine my entire body elongate into a more feminine form. And I become Flaminia.

I hope you will join us on February 21st at Northeastern University’s Fenway Center at 7pm to watch this transformation.

(Maya Attia)

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