Dubrovnik Summer Festival and Grupa Arts Organisation
Director and actor: Dražen Šivak
Dramaturges: Patrik Gregurec, Karla Leko
Costume design: Petra Pavičić
Creative associate: Maja Posavec
Lighting design: Bartul Pejković
Song: Željko Vukmirica
Production for UO Group: Ida Klemenčić
Dubrovnik Summer Festival and UO Group co-production
In cooperation with Scena Ribnjak
Made possible with the support of Ministry for Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia and the City of Zagreb Department of culture, international and intercity cooperation and civil society
Thank you to Silvio Vovk, Željko Vukmirica, Maro Martinović
The play and project Masks revives the commedia dell'arte tradition and presents it to wider audiences. In the form of a lecture, the actor on the stage (Dražen Šivak) explains the meaning of masks and archetypes represented by them in the commedia dell'arte technique. Journeying through the classics of Croatian and world theatre (Držić, Shakespeare, Moliere etc.), the audience connects the archetypal stories about human relationships and parallels are also drawn to the characters of our contemporaries.
When we think of a mask, the first thing that comes to mind is – hiding. However, in the acting profession, the mask serves the exact opposite – revealing. The play MASKS, in the form of a lecture performance leads us through the symbolism, history and skills that are closely related to the mask as a performance element.
From the first cave paintings, through early history shamans, ancient Greeks and Commedia dell'arte to the clown noses of today, the mask has been a constant that carries importance, both for the performer who wears it and for his audience. During the time when people were painting in semi-darkness of caves, the mask was used in hunting. Ancient shamans used masks for spiritual purposes as part of ritual performances, which involved all tribe members. The ancient Greeks had huge masks with a modified mouth opening that functioned as a megaphone, to be heard by the huge amphitheatre audience. In Commedia dell'arte, the earliest form of professional theatre that was dominant in Italy from the 16th to the 18th century, masks denoted standardized character types, and it was not unusual for an actor to play one character, or mask, for his entire life. And the clown is something completely different from what we think it is.
The mask was also used outside the organized performance context. We used them in our Shrovetide games, the ancient Greeks during the time of the Great Dionysia, and in other social rituals, depended on the time period, in which the mask is celebrated as an organic part. These annual periods exude the community’s greatest freedom, and the masks used in such festivities are a medium that allows access to that side of human nature that could be called primal, animalistic.
The connection between the animal and the mask is not accidental. The first recorded use of a mask in a cave painting is precisely a goat mask. Shamans wore masks of the spirits of the animals they wished to summon. All the masks and characters of Commedia dell'arte are inspired by animals, and it is the actor’s responsibility to balance the animal and human nature in order to achieve the best possible impression on the audience.
Thanks to Dubrovnik and Marin Držić, we share the tradition of Commedia dell'arte with our neighbouring Italy. The division into people nahvao (dishonest) and people nazbilj (honest) completely corresponds to the division into beautiful (light) and ugly (rough, ugly) masques in the carnival. The clash between honest and dishonest people is a staged carnival showdown between order and disorder, cosmos and chaos. And Pomet, the legendary character from Držić's dramatic text Dundo Maroje, with his gluttony and resourcefulness, irresistibly resembles that typical character from Commedia dell'arte - Arlecchino.
As our ancestors did a long time ago, gather around the fire and see how Dražen Šivak balances his animal and human nature, his face and body - and the face and body of masks, through a lecture performance in which the actor guides you through the world of transformation.
Photo (c) Marko Ercegović