Casa Firenzi Story Episode 3

Casa Firenzi Story Episode 3:

Sophia and Manus are now married, and successfully gathering information throughout Florentine society for the Marchesa Firenzi. Manus continues correspondence with other naturalists throughout Europe, and Sophia continues to attend social gatherings with the Marchesa. Their next assignment is to attend the international Pennsic fair in the Kingdom of Aethleamearc. The Marchesa Firenzi is concerned that rumblings and rumors of rebellion in the Kingdom of Atlantia might have an effect on her friend, the Queen of Atlantia, so she is sending her people to gather information at Pennsic fair.
As luck would have it, Sophia and Manus have been building another method of expanding their spy network. They have built a troupe of actors to perform the Italian Comedy plays popular in Florence nowadays. The troupe, i Firenzi, performs at private and public events to both entertain and also gain access to social gatherings. When the troupe members listen carefully to the conversations around them, they gather information about who’s doing what in Florence. Now that the Marchesa is concerned about what’s happening in her friend’s kingdom of Atlantia, she is sending her spies to Pennsic.


Casa Firenzi Story Episode 2

Casa Firenzi Story Episode 2:

Sophia has been working as a dance and music tutor for the Marchesa Firenzi in Florence for about a month now. She’s learning that life in the household of a powerful merchant family means more than just teaching the children dance and music. Survival among the powerful families of Florence means staying informed, and that means listening carefully. In this episode, Sophia is launched into the society of Florence beside the Marchesa Firenzi. Romance blossoms between Sophia and Manus, the Firenzi Master Gardener, but societal norms require discretion.

Casa Firenzi Story – Episode 1

The Casa Firenzi Story and origin of i Firenzi, the Commedia dell’ Arte Troupe – Episode 1 – A letter to my sister

London, England, March 3, 1590

My dearest sister Lucia,
Today is my final day in London. Tomorrow I begin my journey to meet you in Florence. I cannot believe my good fortune! I hope this letter reaches you before I do!

Please express to your dear friend, the Marchesa Firenzi, my eternal gratitude for bringing me into her household. You have spoken so well of her and the family Firenzi for so long that I feel blessed to be included by her. After our parents went to God, I never dreamed we would be part of a large family again.

And how large! The Marchesa’s ten children simply must be overwhelming to keep up with. No wonder you need help with tutoring them. I promise I will provide them focused lessons in dance and music. I will naturally focus on the popular Caroso style, but I hope the Marchesa doesn’t mind some English style dance from the Inns of Court to ensure her children are well rounded. Don’t worry, I won’t mention that man, Arbeau. And your secret fencing lessons for the girls are our precious secret. Maybe you could teach me some fencing when I arrive?

To be part of one of the most powerful families in Florence is a little intimidating. Everyone knows the Medici, Sforzas, Gonzagas, Firenzi, and other powerful Italian families are always at each other’s throats. I pray we don’t get pulled into any political adventures. It’s far too easy to find oneself dead or missing in a country full of assassins. Of course Elizabeth’s England is not much better. At least in Florence I will live with the protection of a powerful household.

Speaking of protection, please send thanks to the Marquess Firenzi for sending the kind gentleman to escort me all the way to Florence. I never thought such an act of chivalry would focus on me, but I am grateful for the company. Traveling on my own terrified me.

My escort is an enchanting and well educated man. He was apparently meeting academic colleagues at the University of Leiden when he got orders from the Marchese to travel through London on his way home. He has collected me and we will travel together home to Casa Firenzi in Florence. I’m certain the conversation will continue to be interesting. He is a brilliant naturalist with a deep facination with roses. He worked with the Master Clusius on building that famous garden in Vienna a few years ago for the Holy Roman Emperor, Maxamillian II. But I’m sure you know that already since he’s been part of the Firenzi household for 5 years by now, and he’s a talkative fellow. He’s extremely proud of the garden he’s built for the Marchesa. I just hope the travel conversation may cover more topics than the many varieties of roses he’s grown. Roses all look the same to me, but the differences between rose varieties is extremely important to him. I wonder if he knows anything about tulips? At least he’s handsome, so if the conversation gets boring, the scenery is pleasant.

Once I get to Florence, the first thing I want to do is see the Italian comic actors! It’s been very hard for me to see them when they occasionally come to a London house. I never seem to be invited to the right dinners. I’ve heard wonderful stories of their high energy comedy. And they include women in their troupes! I would just die of joy if I were ever allowed to perform with a troupe of men and women who get paid to enchant their patrons with humor! I have heard that these troupes of actors actually earn a living. Just like The Queen Elizabeth’s Men, but with women and high energy comedy!

You know I love that incredible new writer, William Shakespeare, but there is no possibility I would be allowed to perform his works being a woman in Elizabeth’s England. At least not anywhere respectable.

Dear sister, my new life in Florence will have everything I’ve ever wanted! I will live under the same roof with you again. I will see comedy in the streets. I will teach young people the beauty of music and dance. I will be part of a large family with reliable protection. And I might even catch the eye of the handsome rose master. Don’t tell him I said that.

With deep love and great excitement,
Your eternally loving sister,


Commedia All Stars troupe at Pennsic

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:  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:

  1. Pennsic 43 – 2014 – The Power of Negative Thinking
  2. Pennsic 44 – 2015 – The Long Lost Treasure
  3. Pennsic 45 – 2016 – Arlecchino of La Mancha
  4. Pennsic 46 – 2017 – The Philosopher’s Brick

All the videos can be seen on this page:

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:

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