California Baptist University’s theater program will be staging a new comedy play, “The Servant of Two Masters,” for two consecutive weekends beginning Nov. 15.
“The Servant of Two Masters” is an Italian comedy written by Carlo Goldoni in 1746. The play follows Beatrice — disguised as her dead brother while looking for his killer — and a servant, Truffaldino, who seeks an opportunity to be a servant of another master, Florindo, hence the title of the production.
Stephanie Parshall, adjunct professor of theater and director of CBU’s “Servant of Two Masters,” said this production is in the style of commedia dell’arte, a physical comedic style that started in Italy during the Italian Renaissance and spread in the 14th century.
“I have spent years studying this style of theater and had the opportunity to attend an intensive program in Italy last year. It is exciting to bring an historical piece of literature to life in a style that is rarely produced in the U.S.,” Parshall said.
Tyler Shelley, senior theater major, will play Clarice in this upcoming production. Shelley said when she heard of “Servant of Two Masters” she was excited to work on a commedia dell’arte performance.
“Clarice is rather naive and spoiled, but I think that people will like her because, at the root of it all, she just wants love,” Shelley said. “I am like Clarice in more ways than one; Clarice is curious, fights for what she wants and she is also very expressive.”
Shelley said she has spent much time trying to imitate Clarice’s actions and words to better inhabit her character and to understand what makes Clarice so aggressive in her search for love.
The students in this production are getting a distinct chance to learn a new style of acting because they have to imitate a style written more than 400 years ago and make it relevant to today’s audience.
“We do currently have a class at CBU that teaches commedia dell’arte and physical comedy in which two of the cast members are enrolled,” Parshall said. “We also teach about this style of theater in Theatre History I. It’s exciting for me to see the students apply their learning.”
The show is expected to have plenty of antics and crazy plotlines. To best illustrate the scenes, the program has created a distinct set design for the performance.
“We are utilizing an innovative set design by Garrett Replogle that allows us to move effortlessly through the multiple settings in the story. We have also added vignettes between scenes during the set changes to keep the illusion of life in Italy,” Parshall said.
Gavin Duran, sophomore theater and comedic arts double major, plays the character of Truffaldino in “The Servant of Two Masters” and said he is excited to step into his character’s shoes.
“My character is the type of person who enjoys life and is content scraping by. I hope that everyone enjoys my character and relates to him in some way,” Duran said.
Like Shelley, Duran said he related to his character, Truffaldino, and by taking on the role was able to learn from him.
“I see a lot of myself in my character; we both challenge ourselves by packing our schedules to the point of being overwhelmed,” Duran said. “Because of this, he has taught me to give myself some moments of peace and to take some breaks from time to time.”
These performers have been rehearsing up to six days each week and putting time, dedication and patience into their acting skills to bring this performance to life.
“The Servant of Two Masters” performance dates are Nov. 15-—16, 21—22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 16 and 23 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students, and can be purchased online or at the box office located inside the Wallace Theatre lobby.