amarosa and amaroso - the female and male young lovers respectively, another term for the innamorati.
battacchio - the Italian name for the wooden bat Arlecchino and other characters used, made of two wooden slats that when struck will produce a loud slapping noise without applying a striking blow. Variants can have a hinge or a third board so they can make noise by shaking them in the air; these are also called a musical whip. In English it is called the slapstick. Would often be used as a club, sword, or other tool in farcical situations.
Bologna, the University of - a famous academic institution in Renaissance Italy that Dottore often claimed to have a degree from and/or teach at. It is possible the English phrase "full of balooney" is derrived from the fact that the pompous Dottore claimed these credentials.
buffoni - Italian for "buffons", "clows", or "jokers". Can be used to describe early stand-up comedians (especially street performers in duo acts) and is used by our troupe sometimes to describe a group of players or crew for performances.
buon giorno - Italian for "good day" (specifically morning and early afternoon) and is often used as a term for the opening, boastful speech of a commedia play directed at the audience to summarize the characters and plot they are about to see and brag about the troupe itself. Commedia actors and characters will often say "Buon giorno!" or "Buonasera!" ("Good evening!") as a greeting when starting shows or demonstrations to encourage the Italian history of the art.
canovaccio (pl. canovacci) - in its original Italian, it meant "that which is pinned to the canvas" as the sheets of paper it was written on were affixed to the back of the canvas made scenery. It can have the same meaning as scenario - the brief outline of the plot. However, it is also used as a term for the summary of just a short scene (for improv exercise or example purposes) or a one-act play while scenario is maintained for the full length performance.
capocomico - Italian for "head comic" and often used today as the title for the current head of the troupe.
commedia - Italian for "comedy", it also is the widespread short name of the artform originated as masked, semi-improvisational street theatre with stock characters.
commedia dell'arte - Italian for "comedy of the profesional artists", the full name for the artform, given centuries after it was born. This temr specifically highlighted the actors of commedia were paid professionals. Also called commedia improvvisa because of its improv nature or commedia mercenari because of the paid status of the actors. Outside of Italy it is also simply called "Italian Comedy".
commedia erudite - 1) contempary comedic style to early commedia dell'arte but the actors were not professionals and did not have elaborate masks or costumes and memorized dialogue from a written script; 2) modern term to describe scripted and memorized plays that use classic commedia dell'arte characters and situations.
concertatore - the director of a commedia production, whose stage direction is called concertazione. Corago is another term with the same meaning. Our troupe use these two expressions for the offices of "president" and "vice-president".
Doge - the elected magistrate of certain Italian Renaissance states and often depicted as the highest governing authority in commedia.
en travesti - crossing-dressing in the attire of the opposite gender; going in drag. Though commedia allowed women to act in the female roles, sometimes (especially in the earliest years), men would play the older female roles with masks. Throughout all of commedia's history, male and female Masks would often disguise themselves as a member of the opposite sex during the course of the plot.
fantesca - the early commedia maids played by female actors as opposed to the earlier zagna. Could be considered another term for servetta but here the fantesca implies the clumsy, baudy, and more simple maids of early commedia.
first zanni - also called the primo zanni, these were servants of the highest rank, most power, and often most intelligence. These were the "straight man" of the classic comic duo. See also second zanni.
harlequin - a term and proper name derrived from Arlecchino usually meaning representing a clown, pantomime, or lovable tramp. Because of Arlecchino's brightly colored costumes over the centuries, this term can also describe such clothing.
harlequinade - derrived from harlequin, a comedy featuring pantomime clowns or another term for commedia dell'arte.
improvisation - creation of dialogue and action by the actor at the moment of performing instead of recitation from a memorized script. In commedia, the improv is guided by the summary of the scenario.
innamorati - the plural form of the innamorata (female) and innamorato (male), the young lovers present in most scenarios. It is their desire to be with each other that most of the other plots revolve around. Individuals can also be called amarosa and amaroso.
intermezzo (pl. intermezzi) - short, unrelated and independent performances done between the acts in some commedia productions. These can be musical numbers, dances, jugglers, short comedic skits, etc.
irony, dramatic - elements of the plot or characterizations that are known to the audience but not to the characters on stage. This was often used in commedia, especially for audience members who were familar with certain Masks and for some characters are easily fooled.
lazzo (pl. lazzi) - various comedic stage business (verbal and physical) that often have little if anything to do with the plot but can be inserted in almost any play.
mask, maschere - 1) usually made of hardened leather, these covered the face and were shaped to associate with a particular character, often with exaggerated features such as long nose or deep wrinkles. The mask usually covered only three quarters of the face (though known as a "half-face mask") leaving the mouth exposed for expression. Other characters used intense makeup in lieu of a mask and others wore no mask at all. Later generations did away with many of the masks to give the actor a wider ranger of facial gestures. 2) Mask is also a term for commedia characters, even for those who did wear an actual mask.
morosofo - a term meaning the "philosopher of folly" and used to describe the comic actor or professional fool, one whose job is to purposesfully make others laugh. In our troupe we also use it the title of an officer position.
montimbanchi - the "mountebank", the professional charlitan, who would hop onto a small stage (or box called a banco) to gather a crowd and try to sell or promote something. These acts were part of the ancestry of street commedia performances which were also used to promote a product and encourage sales. A mountebank could be used in a crowd to draw people to a commedia show. Our troupe uses the term for an officer position.
parti ridicole - the ridiculous characters in commedia. In early commedia this included nearly every character save for the innamorati and possibly a clever servant, however in many modern commedia plays it could include everyone. Our troupe uses the term to describe all the members as a collective.
Punch and Judy - English puppet plays based on the commedia character of Pulcinella.
scenario - in its original Italian, it meant "that which is pinned to the scenery" as the sheets of paper it was written on were affixed to the back of the sets so actors could review quickly before going onto stage. These are the outlines, the brief summaries and entrances and exits of the plot, upon which the Masks can build an improvisation on. See also canovaccio.
servetta - the female servants and maids as played by female actors as opposed to the early zagna. Could be considered another term for fantesca but here the servetta implies the confident and witty maids of later early commedia.
slapstick - 1) the English name for a battacchio, the wooden prop bat used to make slapping noises. 2) The derrived term for humorous, exaggerated violence and extreme physical comedy as well as the genre of such comedy.
vecchi - the old men, often Pantalone and Dottore and a few others. These usually represent the highest ranks of society (as seen in the plays) and have some control over the lives of the others, regardless how stupid, foolish, or (in actuality) impotent they are.
zagna - earliest female servants performed by male actors before were women were permitted on stage as opposed to the later fantesca and servetta. Though the character is female, little about one is feminine and actors often portrayed them the same way they did the male zanni.
zanni - the male laborers and servants, lowest on the social ladder, often from the peasant class. The word is derived from Giovanni, the most common male name of the time in Italy (the equivalent of naming them "John"). Can also be a generic independent Mask with the name Zanni.
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This page last updated on Friday, January 19, 2009.