The Street as Venue

Vulgar Comedy has its roots as street theatre, or at least outdoor theatre. Long before the Greeks began building theatres for their dithyrambs and plays there where Thespis and his cart. One can still trace much of business onstage to the needs for outdoor acting, such as the fast tempo, the big size and physicality of the acting, the crude content, the audience participation and so on.

When we play in the street we preferably want to have a stage to be seen over a distance. First of all the actors will be seen in full body, and not only as a couple of heads sticking out over the audience. Second, if the masks get too close and therefore became too small they will lose their power and their force.

The stage has to be at least 1 meter tall over the ground, preferably taller, for the actors to be seen. They have to be seen over a distance also to attract a crowd. But even with a stage taller than a meter one has to be careful with actions and acrobatics that are too low (under ones navel), like sitting or lying down on the stage, going down on ones knees or doing a somersault and so on.

I do prefer a small stage, even that small that the actors feel like they can’t move during the first rehearsal. Most important is that it is not too deep, especially when using masks. It will force the actors to turn away with the back of their heads to the audience or walk backwards to do each exit. A small stage also helps to speed up the performance since there is not a lot of walking on stage.

The stage is getting ready

One thing to think about that is often overseen is that is important to build the stage so that it is easy to set and strike. It cannot take more energy to set the stage than it takes to play, especially since it may be necessary to play several shows a day. When we went touring Europe with Kompani Komedi, we simply built a stage on the platform of a pickup truck with a crewcab. In that way we could have both an easy built stage and transport (sometimes also lodging) combined in the vehicle.
It may also be a good idea to set the stage in character or in mask to attract an audience. Then it is not possible to fuss with tiny little screws and other stuff.

The stage is ready

In practice most shows are played without a permit. Therefore it sometimes can by handy to do a “hit’n run”, in other words strike and vanish fast before the police or other authorizes shows up.

Got to Part 2

See also:
The language of the marketplace
Disciplines in Commedia dell’Arte
AAARRGH! ! – Capitano Catastrofo Collosalle

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  1. Pingback: Playing Commedia dell’Arte indoors - Commedia dell'Arte & Vulgar ComedyCommedia dell'Arte & Vulgar Comedy

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