The 220th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  September 4, 2018 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, room UL 105 (lower level). Free and open to the public.

Arne Zaslove: From the Art of Italian Commedia to the Art of Cartooning and Stand-up Comedy.

Almost 500 years ago, a satirical, acrobatic kind of theater spilled into the streets of Italy.  Commedia dell’Arte featured professional actors on outdoor stages, improvising on well-known scenarios that mocked the social hierarchy of the time.  The actors wore leather half-masks distilling stock characters (the miser, the Doctor, the clever servant, the braggart soldier), and women made their appearance on stage for the first time.

Commedia spread through Europe, and its influence was felt by Shakespeare and Moliere, and eventually seen in English panto, Music Hall, burlesque, silent cinema, circus and today’s standup comedians.

Arne Zaslove has been exploring the expressive physicality of Commedia in theater productions and classes for the past five decades.  Arne demonstrates the stock characters, using his own extensive collection of authentic leather masks. He then goes on to show, with visuals and film clips, how the paradoxical archetypes of Commedia continue to live in our popular culture.  Lively and irrepressible, the spirit of Commedia is as fresh now as it was when it first appeared.

As a student at Carnegie Mellon, Arne Zaslove met the brilliant and mercurial Commedia dell’ Arte master Carlo Mazzone-Clementi.  Arne’s apprenticeship with Carlo started with the immortal words: “You want to learn? Here, carry the bags!” Carlo later headed west and founded the Dell’ Arte School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, California.  Arne headed east, winning a Fulbright to become the first American to study at Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris.

Having imbibed deeply from the European traditions of mask and physical theater, Arne gained inspiration from approaching Shakespeare as a living playwright, and from his own passion for American popular culture.  These influences have fueled a directing career marked by the physicality and imagination of Arne’s productions, and a parallel teaching vocation that has launched several generations of students into successful careers in theater and film.

Arne’s work has taken him from the National Theatre School of Canada to the Stratford Festival in Ontario and Cirque du Soleil, with stints at Seattle Repertory Theater, his own Bathhouse Theatre in Seattle, and countless theaters and training programs throughout North America and Europe.  More recently, he has been a Fulbright Senior Specialist at the Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.

IMG_1220 (1)