Because of Dell’Arte... my career has been more varied, wild, and fun than I had imagined it would be.

by Alyssa Ravenwood

Alyssa Ravenwood (photo by: Rob Silverman)  

Alyssa Ravenwood (photo by: Rob Silverman)  

Because of Dell’Arte my career has been more varied, wild, and fun than I had imagined it would be. I was able to travel the country acting as a physical theatre/Commedia/clowning/mask educator and director. My theatre masks have travelled even farther, to 26 countries at last count. I was able to tour a one woman show I wrote; I never would have done that without Dell’Arte training.

Because of Dell’Arte I have famiglia all over the world. I’ve worked with you, stayed on your couches, gone on adventures with you, collaborated with you, enjoyed your shows, and sold you masks. I felt privileged to be your “mask godmother” sharing mask making knowledge and being a link in the chain of the mask making tradition. When I was seriously ill you sent me cards with good wishes and cash to help pay for medical expenses. I’m very grateful to you for that.

My first job after graduating Dell’Arte was directing a play. It was a family drama, all talking heads, as far from the “Dell’Arte style” as can be. I was curious to see how the D’A training would come to play in this style. It turned out to be extremely useful. My training helped me focus the attention of the audience with laser beam precision. Understanding the dynamics of movement helped me create exciting stage pictures even though there was little “action” in the play.

My favorite production that I worked on was as director and mask designer for “Scapin!.” This show took all my Dell’Arte training and put it to good use. I staged the production as a full-blown Commedia piece with everyone in masks. I trained the cast in Commedia, clowning, improvisation, and mask performance techniques before we began regular rehearsals. A grateful tip of my hat to my brilliant Commedia teacher, Ole Brekke. Thank you Ole! I used all my PTP tricks of the trade to make the funnest play I’ve ever done. I was hired by famiglia, thank you Anna! The set of Commedia masks I made for the show won me a Drammy award and they became the start of the collection of theater masks that I sold on my website. (Where my first mask sale was to famiglia!)

I am grateful for the training and for famiglia. Because of them I’ve had a colorful life.

Alyssa Ravenwood is a theatre director and an award-winning mask designer. She began designing masks for theater productions in 1988. She graduated from Dell’Arte in 1992. Her masks have been in numerous theatre productions around the world and in amusement parks; Universal Studios Hollywood and Lotte World South Korea. Her mask and special effects makeup designs have been seen on the TV shows; American Experience, Comedy Bang Bang, and Parks and Rec. She currently makes leather masks for superheroes at and is working on opening a Makerspace in Eureka CA.

Deviant Art:

Because of Dell’Arte I ended up becoming the artistic director of the largest New Year’s Eve Festival in Rhode Island...

 /* Style Definitions */
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;


I jokingly like to say that I’m one of the most educated clowns in America (barring certain elected officials)  I have degrees from one Ivy League school, one master’s program (now an MFA degree), one entrepreneurship program, two acting conservatories, two clown training programs Ringling Clown College, Dell’arte, and master classes with a number of theatrical luminaries, including Dario Fo, Avner Eisenberg, Ctibor Turba, and Tony Montanaro.  Oh yes, and the Boston School of Bartending.

In 2003 I’d completed a lot of this education, and I was working as asolo clown and performer.  In my home state, I was a regular performer for First Night Providence, the New Year’s Eve Festival.  It was one of the few gigs I still did in Rhode Island.

In late September of 2003, First Night announced that they could not go forward with the event as planned.  A group of artists got together to see if there was something that we could do.  I was one of those artists. We agreed to plan our own festival which we called Bright Night Providence. Partially because I owned a computer and was willing to work on spec, and mostly because of the skills in production and performance that I gained at Dell’Arte, I became the lead instigator of the project. 

Starting on October 15,2003 with nothing, we managed to put on a festival on December 31, 2003 that featured over 125 performers, 12 different stages, had a budget of $100,000 and included two fireworks displays.  Nearly 60,000 people enjoyed one of our free events, (And we sold nearly 6000 tickets to our all-you-can-see extravaganza) That artist-run festival was about half the size of the previous year’s festival, but was about 1/5 of the budget, and the money was raised in 1/4 of the time. Nothing burned down, nobody was maimed or killed, and we didn’t lose our shirts.  In fact each group that performed with us got a bonus above and beyond their contract.

I ended up running the festival for 10 years, before my family needs made me take a step back from the Festival. (By then I was living in NY, and running a local artist-run festival from 200 miles away was having a draining effect on me.)  During every season but one, we managed to pay every artist contracted more than their contract. (And that was the year that it snowed 8 inches on our festivalat minus 4 degrees, and our turnout was 50% lighter than anticipated.  We still managed to pay everybody their contract!)

It was the skills I learned at Dell’arte that allowed me to be successful at the festival. 

• As the organizer of the wood-chopping brigade (yes, when I went to Dell’arte you had to chop the wood for the fire—there was no central heat) I knew how to schedule people fairly and with precision.

• At our first artist meetings, I knew what questions to ask because I had produced a ton of my own shows and performed at a ton of festivals.

 • Having helped produce our Dell’arte final tour through the Redwood Forest (The Better To Eat You With, directed by Jeff Raz) I knew about budgets, and publicity, and tech requirements.

 • And because of Life Repair Wednesday’s and the dozens of collaborative soirees we produced I knew how to negotiate with other artists, and make decisions that were aimed at creating a win/win/win situation for the artists, for the festival, and for the public.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a lot of education as a performer, but I really believe that it was what I learned at Dell’Arte that helped make my work with the festival successful.

Thank you Dell’arte!

Adam Gertsacov
Dell’arte 1990-91.
Commedia Master Class with Carlo, Joan & Arne Summer 1995
Corporeal Mime Master Class with Daniel Stein Summer 1997

ADAM GERTSACOV is the most educated clown in America (barring certain elected officials.) He wears many hats, including those of a professional clown, an author and publisher, a P.T. Barnum impersonator, a flea circus impresario, a dad blogger, and the esteemed hat of the Clown Laureate of Greenbelt, Maryland. Adam was the founding Festival Director for Bright Night Providence. He currently lives in Chicago, IL.