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Farcical comedy opens BHT 2011-2012 season
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2011 10:00 AM
It’s curtains up for the University of Manitoba’s Black Hole Theatre Company on November 15, and a contemporary reworking of a classic commedia dell’arte scenario.

In Don Nigro’s version, Isabella and her servant Pedrolino return to Naples after ten years and decide to impersonate gypsies in order to find out what has happened while they were gone. An outrageous farce ensues, complete with “slapsticks” and all of the usual commedia dell’arte characters. This is a journey through love, identity crisis, insanity, the secret of life, and a very unfortunate recipe for magical cookies.

Playwright Don Nigro is known for a highly diverse body of dramatic literature, work that is often mysterious and unclassifiable, work like The Gypsy Woman. The play is a contemporary take on a story of “love,” yet influenced by commedia dell’arte, a physical improvisational style first performed by the Gelosi troupe 400 years ago in Italy and France.

Jaclyn Kozak will take the director’s chair for this racy production. “Forms of comedy owe much to commedia dell’arte and some of the conventions were utilized by playwrights such as Shakespeare and Moliere,” notes Kozak.

She adds that the play is highly-imaginative, original, smart, and more importantly, funny, promising to be a crowd pleaser.

The BHTC produces a season of five noon-hour and three main stage productions every year between September and April. Noon-hour productions are free and run in the Theatre Program’s Black Hole Theatre, an intimate 120 seat thrust theatre located in the basement of University College.

The three main stage productions run over a two week period in the months of November, January and March with 10 performances each. The November and March performances take place in the Black Hole Theatre while the January performances take place in the 230-seat Gas Station Theatre in the Osborne Village as part of the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Master Playwrights Festival.

The origins of the Black Hole Theatre Company begin with the formation of the U of M Dramatic Society in 1915 and a first production at the Walker Theatre. By the late 1960s, the Dramatic Society had evolved into the U of M Theatre Group with financial support from the University of Manitoba Student Union.

The company performed in many venues around the campus and city, with its home base being the Studio Theatre, a former floor hockey room in the basement of University College. By the early 1980s, this location had evolved into the current Black Hole Theatre.

With the exception of the Theatre Program teaching and support staff, the BHTC is made up of and staffed by roughly 140 students who are currently taking part in Theatre Program courses. The company's executive board is made up of current theatre students and faculty.

This year, Gypsy Woman and Other Lazzi takes to the stage to kick off the 2011-12 season until November 26. In the new year, Arms and The Man by George Bernard Shaw runs January 20 to 28, followed by The House of Blue Leaves, by John Guare and directed by George Toles, which runs from March 13 to 24.


What is commedia dell’arte?

According to director Jackie Kozak, it is physical and farcical comedy that originated in Italy and flourished during the early 1500s to about the 1750s and involves masks, improvisation, stock characters and tricks, routines, stage business, gags, stunts and action bits called lazzi. It is impossible to summarize commedia dell’arte in a sentence, she says; to understand it, it must be seen.

Commedia dell’arte is important to stage history for it marks the beginning of theatre as professionalism. The actors who played the stock characters such as the zanni (servants), innamorati (the lovers), vecchi (old creepy men) and the Captain were masters of their trade.

“I did not aim for an authentic historically accurate reproduction,” she says, “because who’s to know what commedia dell’arte in the time of Renaissance Italy? I chose an already-scripted play by a modern playwright Don Nigro, though the scenario hundreds of years ago. Jacques Lecoq’s The Moving Body was an invaluable resource. As he says, ‘No reading or reference books can substitute for creative work .… And this creative work must always be of our time.’"

Kozak notes that to develop the play, “We did much investigating.”


Gypsy Woman Showtimes:
Tuesday, November 15, 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, November 16, 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 17, 8:00 p.m.
Friday, November 18, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 19, 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, November 22, 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, November 23, 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 24, 8:00 p.m.
Friday, November 25, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 26, 8:00 p.m.

>>For more information on the Black Hole Theatre Company’s upcoming season see the link below.
For more information, contact:
Mariianne Mays Wiebe
Editor, The Bulletin
Marketing Communications Office
Phone: (204) 474-8111
Fax: (204) 474-7631
Related Links (Internal):
  •Black Hole Theatre