New Company Brings Ancient Performance Art to Life in Kansas City

Brittany Strelluf

  • OnStage Kansas City Columnist

Kansas City artists are bringing an essential piece of theatre history to the 21st century with Commedia Kansas City.  

Patrick Rippeto Director of Commedia Kansas City had a great deal to say about the subject.  “Commedia dell'Arte is a deeply important genre and time period for all of modern theatre. It was the time where we saw the first truly professional troupes and the first time in western culture women were allowed to be on stage.” 

Commedia Kansas City is KC's newest theatre company. Under the direction by Patrick Rippeto, a student of Maestro Antonio Fava; C.K.C. is aiming to introduce and produce plays in the traditional style of the old Italian Commedia dell’Arte. 

Commedia, began between 1530 and 1550 in Northern Italy. It is a masked, physical style of farce and many credit Commedia for introducing the idea of professional theatre. It also allowed women to become an important part of the stage.  It continues to influence comedy today, in both modern theatre and television sitcoms.

Modern actors looking for a challenge might consider looking more deeply into this art form.  “As far as the actual study of Commedia; you can see some of the benefits from what the Lecoq School of physical acting puts forth. In learning the stock characters and their very specific physicality and sets of gesture, these can grant the actor studying a greater awareness of their body and even more control over the way they move.” Actors like award winning Robert Carlyle has credited commedia dell’arte for having a part in his memorable portrayal of Rumplestiltskin on Once Upon a Time. 

 Rippetto also brings up improvisation. “The improvised nature of Commedia can be probably the biggest tool an actor can acquire. They way Maestro Fava teaches the Commedia teaches the actor to play and write very quickly and efficiently.” Improvisation is a subject some theatre teachers feel overwhelmed by, Commedia dell’Arte can prove to be an excellent catalyst for the honing of improvisational skills.

 “While you're in the thick of study there, creativity sparks and comic lazzi are never in short supply.” Commedia Kansas City will be giving a performance of The Treasure of the Golden Monkey King at 2016's Fringe KC Festival. 

The passion that Commedia KC members have for the art form is intoxicating. “Commedia dell'Arte is a style of theatre that I believe can speak to universal ideas even if the action on stage seems a little anachronistic. I hope with Commedia Kansas City, we can show audiences and members of the theatrical community that Commedia dell'Arte belongs on the contemporary stage and is not just a thing to be used as a tool, or a bit of historical recreation.” 

This deeply passionate and motivated company is comprised of Beth Byrd-Lonski, Kait Dowling, Jordan Fox, Cooper Hart, Philip Hooser, and Patrick Rippeto  The original masks that are used onstage were created by Josh Christ, with costume support by Lisa Bakely.
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