The Virginia Tech Department of Theatre Arts presents their first main stage production of the year, Dr. Arlecchino, or the Imaginary Autopsy.

This Virginia Tech premiere production is being performed at the Squires Studio Theatre on Sept. 27-29 at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30 at 2 p.m., Oct. 2-6 at 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 9-12 at 7:30 p.m. The play celebrates the classic Italian improvisational style of theatre known as Commedia dell’Arte. Dr. Arlecchino, or the Imaginary Autopsy is being directed by Virginia Tech Professor David Johnson.

An adaptation of a traditional Commedia dell’Arte scenario, Dr. Arlecchino follows the sidesplitting antics of the traditional stock characters of the Commedia dell’Arte style. The story begins with the arrival of mischievous Arlecchino to the home of the Dottore (Doctor). There, he pretends to be a corpse for an autopsy then patients come to him as he prescribes his own brand of medicine. Including the archetypal lovers, servants, old men, ladies, doctors, and fake doctors of the Commedia dell’Arte style, the loosely scripted piece provides opportunities for improvisation from the actors. In addition to improvisation, the use of mask will be key to the creation of the Commedia dell’Arte characters. Each show should be a unique and hilarious experience.

Commedia dell’Arte became popular in the 16th century in Italy, greatly contributing to the evolution of theatre in the West. It appealed to all of Europe at the time because the public identified with the characters that personified the public virtues, secret vices, petty jealousy and hidden desires of all men and women. In our own century it continues to be influential, especially in the vaudeville tradition and more recently in the popular sitcom Seinfeld.

Marco Luly has almost 30 years of experience in the theatre, ranging from contemporary to medieval drama. His dedication to Medieval and Commedia dell’Arte theatre led to the foundation of the Luoghi dell’Arte, a theatre company in Rome where he has served as Artistic Director since 1990. An award winning director and playwright, Luly often travels with his company all over the world to give lectures, performances, and workshops on Commedia dell’Arte history and technique. In early September, Virginia Tech welcomes Luly as a guest artist-in-residence as he works with students on the Commedia dell’Arte technique.

In preparation for the show, Johnson organized a study trip abroad to Italy for Theatre Arts students to study directly with Luly. During the excursion, the students trained at least four hours a day on the principles of Commedia dell’Arte. This three-week trip culminated in a Commedia dell’Arte performance for the Italian citizens of St. Andrea in the region of Calabria, where the students stayed.

Tickets may be purchased at the Squires Student Center Ticket Office Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., by calling (540) 231-5615, online, or at the door one hour prior to show time. Tickets are $9 for the general public and $7 for students and senior citizens.

For information about Theatre Arts at Virginia Tech or upcoming events, call (540) 231-5200.

Story written by Erik Odom.

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