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27th December 2011

On the Masque and the Sword

A Creative Exploration of Social Status Through Staged Physical Combat and the Commedia dell’Arte
ID Fight Unit member Taylor Hohman recently completed his MFA in Physical Theatre at the Accademia dell'Arte in Arezzo, Italy. His thesis was titled On the Masque and the Sword: A Creative Exploration of Social Status Through Staged Physical Combat and the Commedia dell'Arte.

The thesis was largely based on an original commedia dell'arte canovaccio, entitled Brunch with Pulcinella, which was written, directed, choreographed, and performed by Taylor with the assistance of Robert Shryock. In the canovaccio, Pulcinella and his master Capitano engage in a duel and Pulcinella accidentally defeats Capitano, knocking him unconscious. Having beaten his master, Pulcinella rejoices in his increased status and begins to recount all the things he can do with his newly found freedom. As the list goes on, however, he begins to realize the level of responsibility that is entailed and as Capitano groggily reawakens, Pulcinella reverts to his role as a servant.

The techniques used in the fight choreography are based primarily on Single Rapier, but to embody the difference in social status between the two combatants, Pulcinella fights with a broom. Capitano adheres to a strict, formal fencing style while Pulcinella improvises with more rough and tumble street fighting techniques. As the fight progresses, the duel dissolves into a slapstick brawl mixing acrobatics with unarmed fighting, which plays to Pulcinella’s advantage, allowing him to debase and ridicule Capitano. The physical story contained within the fight choreography and acrobatics was crafted to enhance the plot, add depth to the characters, and personify the social tension between master and servant.

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