Commedia dell’arte may sound intimating but according to Kentwood resident Tim Corbett, who is the founder and playwright of Hole in the Wall Theatre Company, it really is not.
It is has been awhile since Corbett has performed commedia dell’arte but this weekend he brings back the troupe, Hole in the Wall Theatre Company, as part of the Lake Effect Fringe Festival taking place at downtown Grand Rapids’ Dog Story Theater, 7 Jefferson Ave.SE. It’s a group he helped establish while attending the University of Michigan Flint but it went dormant as the members graduated and went their individual ways.
After graduation, Corbett moved to Kentwood to be closer to his son, eventually getting married and settling in. But there was always an inclination to bring back Hole in the Wall Theatre, which mostly presents commedia dell’arte. This year, it all seemed to align as the other founding member, Jordon Climie, had moved to the area. Add in returning member Ryan Moya, along with Corbett’s wife Lauren Booza, Lauren Greer, Samantha Klaskow, and Tamar Erickson — and well, the “Hole” gang was back together.
“Well, it is basically what all comedy comes from,” Corbett said. “It is what our modern television sit-coms are based off of.”
Commedia dell’arte or “comedy of art” is a form of theater that was started in the sixteenth century in Italy and quickly spread throughout Europe, creating a lasting influence on Sharkespeare, Moliere, opera, vaudeville, contemporary musical theater, sit-coms and improv comedy. The form is credited for the creation of actresses (versus male actors portraying females) and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. “Often we are given the direction and what is going on, but have to come up with the dialog and actions ourselves,” Corbett said.
The theater form is also know for its masks in which the actors/actresses use to create their characters, characters who represent fixed social types such as foolish old men, devious servants or military officers. The masks, according to Corbett, serve as a way for the actor to become fully immersed into the character and accents the character’s extremes making, in the end, for good comedy.
Which, according to Corbett, making good comedy is what it is all about in Hole in the Wall Theatre’s upcoming production, “The Whole Vine Yards.” The diVonstro family vineyard has been going bankrupt over the last three generations and Modestina, the current head of the estate, is at about the end of her financial rope. That is, until a mysterious box is discovered and inside what appears to be a treasure map. Now Modestina has to outwit and out-run her nosey neighbors, crafty servants, and love struck youths to find the treasure to save the family’s vineyard.
Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb 25, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26. For more information about Hole in the Wall Theatre, visit the company’s Facebook page. For more information about the Lake Effect Fringe Festival or LEFF, visit www.dogstorytheater.com.