In Italy, about 500 years ago, the lower classes liked to present plays that made fun of the higher classes.
And the higher classes enjoyed them, too.
Today, five members of Théâtre de la Pastèque (Watermelon Theatre) are borrowing this commedia dell’arte to entertain and, as four of the members of the cast are teachers, to educate.
“There is a practical guide for teachers for follow-up activities and discussions,” says Hélène Saint Onge, the producer and co-founder of the French theatre group that is presenting the children’s play, Mentire (“Lying” in Italian).
They are also borrowing from the typical characters seen on stage 500 years ago. There is Madame Pantalone, an old, rich, grouchy lady; Arlequin, a servant who likes to play tricks and get his master into trouble; Madame Dottore, a joyful, light spirit who pretends to know more than she does; Tartaglia, her servant who tries to find people to try out her new medicines; and Captain, a traveller.
A challenge is added for the actors as each of them are wearing masks, says Saint Onge. They need to act with their entire bodies instead of relying on their faces. Workshops with Anton Solomon gave them some tricks.
The colourful costumes were either borrowed from the Guild Society or made. Masks were either found in Italy or in Montréal or were made in the Yukon.
The French production – starring Monique Levesque, Pierre Gauthier, Amina Boudjadja, Hugo Bergeron and Saint Onge – will be played for the public Saturday, May 23, at 1:30 p.m., at the Yukon Arts Centre.
Tickets are available at the YAC Box Office and Arts Underground.
Schools will see it the following Tuesday.