What is the Commedia All Stars troupe?
At Pennsic 43 (2014), I created the first production of the Commedia All Stars troupe at Pennsic. It was a significant experiment. My goal was to gather anyone who wanted to play commedia at Pennsic and produce a Commedia dell’ Arte play entirely *at* Pennsic. No rehearsal ahead of time. The goal was to see if we could do it.
I did get a lot of help.
We gathered 18 players from 4 different kingdoms and 7 different commedia troupes!
It took a lot of work.
The folks that created that first All Stars production were all gambling that it would be successful. We had no guarantee we’d be able to have fun as well as produce a high-quality commedia dell’ arte play. And it had to be funny. It’s no fun if the audience isn’t laughing.
We did succeed! You can see the result on this You Tube video: https://youtu.be/sXf1abi2zok Watch until the end to see the long list of credits!
That first scenario was titled “The Power of Negative Thinking” written by Lady Luceta di Cosimo of I Genisii. Luceta went on to write all the following All Stars scenarios:
- Pennsic 43 – 2014 – The Power of Negative Thinking
- Pennsic 44 – 2015 – The Long Lost Treasure
- Pennsic 45 – 2016 – Arlecchino of La Mancha
- Pennsic 46 – 2017 – The Philosopher’s Brick
All the videos can be seen on this page: https://www.ifirenzi.com/pennsic-commedia-all-stars/
As we have developed the All Stars program over the past 4 years, we have grown. All the participants in the All Stars troupe are also contributing to spreading commedia by teaching, running more commedia at home, or publishing written works on commedia. This group exists for more than just doing commedia for fun. We support the expansion of commedia by modeling excellence in commedia and helping others learn commedia too.
The name “All Stars” began as 100% marketing. I was making a significant gamble that first year trying to create a Pennsic-only commedia troupe, so I used every tool in my toolbox, including branding. Of all the possible names, “All Stars” was the most catchy and attention getting. Other possible names considered include the following:
- Known World Commedia Players
- i Sophini
- i Arancioni
- i Rosi Lioni (This would have been a continuation of a series of Pennsic-only commedia plays I did within my household, Red Winged Lion, for a few years.)
The name “All Stars” has taken on additional meaning over the years. This troupe is not populated by the most talented, ranked, vetted, or perfected Commedia players in the world. This troupe is populated by the most teamwork-oriented players that can be gathered at Pennsic. Each one of the players in All Stars is a uniquely contributing member who also supports their fellow commedia players. They also take on the extra task of supporting commedia by teaching, running, or writing about commedia. They do more than just let the Capocomico take them on a ride of fun. They all pitch in, give back, and support each other. Each one of the All Stars players is a star in their own right but part of a team. There are no divas that float above the rest. Every single person’s contribution is part of a magnificent collaboration. That’s what makes this group All Stars.
This year, 2018, I am stretching again and using online auditions to get a head start on seeing the players in action. We’re also going to have some online rehearsals using Zoom conference calls. This year’s scenario writing is underway with the magnificent Honorable Lady Luceta di Cosimo, and auditions will begin soon.
This year, rehearsals are moving from the Pennsic Amphitheater to the Atlantia Royal Encampment. The Pennsic Performing Arts program has grown so much that the huge chunk of time that All Stars needs for rehearsal just wasn’t practical to keep in the Amphitheater. So, the current Majesties of my beloved Atlantia, Detrich and Una, granted us permission to set up a rehearsal tent in Atlantia Royal camp for Commedia All Stars. Thanks again to their most magnanimous Majesties of Atlantia! Vivant! (Thanks also to Detrich’s squire Carrick for working out the logistics with me!)
This year, rehearsals will be carefully scheduled in order to allow players to also participate in the fencing activities during the day. (There is a mysterious connection between commedia and SCA rapier fighting that has yet to be understood.) We have a 3 hour block for rehearsals between 9:00am – 12:00noon. Each player will be expected to be there during 2 of those hours depending on their role. Some will be there from 9:00 – 11:00 and some will be there from 10:00 – 12:00. This is intended to reduce the amount of time each player is sitting around waiting for their turn to rehearse as well as allow more flexibility for players to participate in other Pennsic activities. The exact schedule will be determined after auditions and casting. Rehearsals are still a total of 6 Pennsic days: Middle Saturday through and including War Thursday. The show is War Thursday night, 9:30pm, at the Performing Arts Tent.
If you’re interested in auditioning for the Commedia All Stars troupe 2018, please email me via orangesophie AT gmail DOT com and let me know what kind of role you’d like to play. I’ll also ask you how you’d like to contribute back to the commedia community: teaching, directing, or publishing. I will be asking you to fill out this form to kick off the process: https://goo.gl/forms/ShKEgBpfiDJcm7Ac2
This project could not be as much fun and as successful as it has been without the significant support of two amazing people: Luceta di Cosimo and Manus MacDhai. Luceta not only writes all our scenarios but she also has helped me research period commedia deeply and repeatedly. She’s incredible at helping me understand the sources we have to figure out what commedia was like in the 16th century. Manus is my beloved husband who has neglected his rose garden way too often to come play commedia with me. He is the Logistics & Technical Manager for our marriage and our commedia troupes. I couldn’t make commedia happen without him. So, I publicly thank Luceta and Manus for their unique and critical contributions to the All Stars troupe!
Additional loving thanks go to members of the i Sebastiani troupe who have served as coaches for All Stars over the years: Master Anton of Winteroak, Mistress Rhonwen ap Glonwy, Master Frtiz, and Lord Harold Longfellow. Super huge thanks also to Duke Steffan Glaube of Lochac for priceless directing assistance! We have also benefited from classes taught by Lady Katrusha and Lord Tristan, so thanks to them too!
A final thank you to the audiences that come to the All Stars shows at Pennsic! Without an audience, it would just be another rehearsal!
With mountains of gratitude,
Baroness Sophia the Orange
Founder and Capocomico of the All Stars Commedia Troupe