By Joan Schirle
HISTORY! What a malleable, sketchy, dodgy thing, so dependent upon who's telling it, the accuracy of their memory, and their allegiances then and now. If you want the 'official' version, it does not exist, at least not for long. It has morphed each time we put on a face to meet the faces that we meet....
There are so many stories that make up the history of Dell'Arte--as many as the number of amazing artists, teachers, staff and students that have been "La Famiglia" since 1971--and eventually we hope to have many of their wild and wonderful stories here.
Meantime, I offer you a brief accounting, what I know of who we are now and how we got here. As for the future, we are ever changing, re-inventing ourselves and returning to our source, like the steelhead in our beautiful Mad River...
Who We Are Now...
Dell'Arte International is the U.S. center for the exploration, development, training and performance of the actor-creator. Its mission is to employ and revitalize the traditional physical theatre forms to explore contemporary concerns.
Dell’Arte is made up of a professional touring company; a fulltime professional training school offering MFA and certificate programs; the annual summer Mad River Festival; a youth academy; and study abroad programs.
As one of a handful of rural professional ensemble theatres in the United States, Dell'Arte is internationally recognized for its unique contribution to American theatre via its non-urban point of view, its 30 year history of ensemble practice, its work to push the boundaries of physical theatre forms in professional productions, and its actor-training programs.
How We Got Here...the Short Version, the Bare Bones uncolored by Opinion, Conjecture, Sentiment, or even an Excess of Facts*
Dell'Arte International was founded by Carlo Mazzone-Clementi and Jane Hill in Berkeley in 1971 to bring the European physical training tradition to the United States and to develop actor-creators through training in mime, mask, movement and ensemble creation.
A native of Padua, Mazzone was a childhood friend of sculptor Amleto Sartori, and Marcel Marceau's first Italian partner. As Jacques Lecoq’s assistant for eight years during Lecoq’s Italian sojourn,
Carlo was part of the nucleus of artists who reinvented the Italian theatre, commedia, and mask work after WWII in Italy. He came to the US in 1959 and introduced Sartori's masks to America, conducting demonstrations with a young partner, Hovey Burgess. Carlo developed his teaching philosophy over many years, counting as his chief mentor/influences Jacques Lecoq, Marcel Marceau, and Jean-Louis Barrault.
Jane and Carlo moved to Northern California in 1972 in order to raise their young family in a non-urban setting. They started a summer Grand Comedy Festival in Eureka, California and held performances at the College of the Redwoods, while searching for a building to house the school.
The Dell’Arte School opened its doors in Blue Lake, California in 1975 in an old Odd Fellows Hall, and in 1976, Mazzone and actors Joan Schirle and Jon’Paul Cook founded the Dell’Arte Company with the goal of establishing a company/school-school/company along the lines of Jacques Copeau’s Vieux Colombier, and the hope to create a resident ensemble, the Dell'Arte Players Company, The first tour was mounted in 1977. Artists engaged for the first production, "The Loon's Rage," included director and co-author Jael Weisman, designer Alain Schons, and actor Michael Fields (now our Producing Artistic Director), who continued as the nucleus of the new company.
Originally called the Dell'Arte School of Mime and Comedy, the School’s name was changed to The International School of Physical Theatre in the late 1980s as a result of the narrowing definition of 'mime' and a desire to investigate a broader vision of theatre and the work of the contemporary actor. The School now offers a one year certificate program in Physical Theatre, a NAST-accredited three year MFA in Ensemble Based Physical Theatre, plus summer workshops, and residencies in Bali and Denmark. School Directors have included Carlo, Jon'Paul Cook, Alain Schons, Ralph Hall, Peter Buckley, Jane Hill, Daniel Stein, and Joan Schirle.
Current School Director Ronlin Foreman joined us first as a guest artist in 1982, and became resident faculty with the start of our MFA program in 2004. Graduates of our program have now come into their own as next-generation leaders of DAI--Stephanie Thompson (Executive Director) and Joe Krienke (Associate School Director) are now part of the artist/manager core of our ever-changing organization.
*You can learn more about us on the Carlo page, the About Us page, Timeline (under construction), and Production History.