Earlier in the semester, undergraduate theatre students Ziggy Schulting (Skidmore College) and Izabel Dorst (Coastal Carolina University) came up with some interview questions for our resident Commedia dell’Arte expert Giangiacomo Colli! Get to know Giangiacomo a little better by reading about his experiences below:
Who is your favorite commedia character and why?
I think my preferences go the characters that I feel I can still play… At the beginning of my career, Arlecchino was my favorite, because of his lazzi and acrobatics, but today I love old masters such as Pantalone, although I am always attracted by the grotesque features of the various zanni: Pulcinella, Brighella, etc.
What brought you to the ADA?
I have spent sixteen years of my life between US and Canada, studying for my MFA and my PhD, and teaching theatre in many higher education institutions. I am therefore well acquainted with the North American educational system. Back to Italy, nearly three years ago, I thought ADA was the ideal place where to convey my theatre expertise, my teaching skills, and my experience within American and Canadian colleges and universities.
If you could only pick one moment in your entire career to relive, what would it be?
1997. An Italo-Canadian friend of mine asked me to perform the supporting role in a play he had written in occasion of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Canada: 1497-1997. In the play, I was the Italo-Canadian father of a teenager coming to term with his heritage. Because of my work commitments in Italy, I memorised the role – in English, but with a few lines in Italian as well – by myself, and I joined the company only a couple of days before presenting the show at a Theatre Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The day after the show, I was awarded Best Supporting Actor.
What was the first commedia character you ever played?
If you had to play a commedia character tomorrow, who would you be?
Like I said in my first answer, I am always attracted by the grotesque features of the various zanni. Probably, I would like to play a middle aged Pulcinella, I have great fun using his Neapolitan inflections.
After doing commedia for as long as you have, how do you manage to keep it fresh?
It really depends from the people I am working with. With American students, for example, it is quite natural to keep it fresh. Initially, there is always a phase of uncertainty, but as soon as they understand the power of a form of theatre rooted in a comprehensive vision of the society, and the technical potential of the kind of improvisation required by Commedia dell’Arte, the initial discovery explodes in a myriad of fresh characters, languages , lazzi, etc.
What is your favorite thing about teaching American students?
Where did you grow up and how do you think that influenced your career?
I was born in Brescia, Northern Italy, but I spent the first five years of my life traveling around Italy with my parents because my father was a theatre director: Torino, Naples, Trieste… When I started to go to school, Rome became our home, but I guess those initial five years, moving from one theatre to another, in daily contact with actors, left me a sort of natural imprint.
What was your first experience with commedia?
In middle-school, with a couple of other students, we organized for the Italian course a reading of a few scenes from “The Servant of Two Masters” by Carlo Goldoni.
What has been your favorite country to perform in?
I honestly don’t have a favorite one, and particularly when it comes to Commedia dell’Arte, a good laugh of the audience has always the same value, regardless of the country.