Because of Dell’Arte... I booked this commercial.

By Christopher Lueck

Thanks Daniel Stein!

But in the big picture this PSA urging parents to navigate invisible barriers toward openly talking to their kids about sex is not that big of a deal.

The big deal thing I learned at D’A (which the commercial is representative of) was how to create. How to not just be creative, but to be a creator. And this goes not only for creating art - it’s also for creating life, creating community, relationships, and just plain creating things I like.

I am working now on creating my life from my heart. I’ve done a lot of brain creating in the past. Now I want to bring the heart, intuition, and in-the-moment living I learned on stage and in the studio to “the real world.” It's interesting. After 15 years of performing, I now run an ad agency in New York City with my wife. We work with commercial theater productions and nonprofit theater companies - designing their posters, building their websites, booking their ads, and marketing them overall. It's a lot of fun, but it's a ton of work. More work than my big, smart brain can handle.

About two years into working at the agency all my usual tricks were used up and while business was good and growing, I was exhausted. All the tools I had used in the past to get things done were spent and actually ineffective. My wife and I realized we needed some new ways of approaching the work and challenges other than working hard on them. It was then that we began to draw upon the feeling of creating in-the-moment, be it on stage or in the studio. The ease of just doing. The joy of discovering. The beauty of knowing without thinking. The power of the mask. The flow of it all. Connecting with people. We remembered to breathe. We took off our shoes.

We asked “How can that stuff happen in an office? How can I allow myself that joy and freedom in a suit-and-tie-style ad meeting?”

We are not there yet. But we have started to drop the things we thought defined us. We continue through difficult moments. We trust the process. We are creating, not just working.

All that, is shit I learned at Dell’Arte.

Christopher Lueck has been an educator, copywriter, artist, entrepreneur, and an award-winning clown. As diverse as all of those seem, they are deeply linked by creativity and the business of shifting people’s point of view. Whether through teaching, advertising, or laughter, Christopher is driven by discovering creative ways to inspire people to see things differently. He has a MA in education from NYU and a BFA in acting from Brooklyn College and is a graduate of The Dell’Arte School of Physical Theater. Currently he is the Creative Director at the Pekoe Group.

Because of Dell’Arte I learned vulnerability.

Maggie Cino

Maggie Cino

By Maggie Cino

Because of Dell’Arte I learned vulnerability.

I am currently a Senior Producer for The Moth, a storytelling organization based out of New York City.  On the surface, what I do every day looks like the antithesis of what is taught at Dell’Arte.  It’s one person onstage speaking directly into a microphone with very little movement.  The person is not speaking gibberish, is not imaginatively improvising, and is not doing anything overtly political. They are telling a true, personal story in the most simple and unadorned way possible.  It is my job to find people with interesting life stories, some of whom have never been on a stage before, and help them to stand in front of sometimes thousands of people with the confidence that what they have to say is worthwhile. 

Dell’Arte is where I first learned to do this work.

Dell’Arte works to peel back everything about the person onstage that isn’t real.  It’s a disturbing, harrowing and often confusing process.  As a student I was certainly over identified with my blocks.  I didn’t understand at times that I was holding onto anything; let alone how to let go.  But this process of working to drop everything unnecessary and open myself up to the work, and being able to witness my classmates go through the same process, forms the foundation of the story directing I now do every day.

People up on a stage telling a personal story and a clown have a tremendous amount in common. Both have to rely on their singular presence to captivate an audience.  Both need to tell the truth and follow their interest.  Both rely on the bounce - the ability, no matter how dark things get, to in the next moment find a new way, a new path and a new understanding.  And both need to be vulnerable.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the word “vulnerable” in the context of storytelling, clown work, and life.  And where I’ve landed is:  the ability to be true to your feelings and experience, no matter how inconvenient or illogical those might be. 

Vulnerability is not weakness.  Weakness is fragility without strength.  We might rally to protect someone weak but we don’t fundamentally trust him or her.    There is ferocity to vulnerability, because it involves following your truth no matter how scary as well as the courage to share that feeling with a person, collaborator or an audience of people who have power over you. After all, they might judge you for loving something silly or shy away from you for sharing something difficult!  

But vulnerability recognizes the danger in too much strength.  A clown or a storyteller who does not admit fault becomes monotonous, or they set themselves up for the very derision they are trying to avoid.  In life, a friend who can’t admit when they’ve done something wrong probably won’t be a friend for much longer.

And most importantly vulnerability is a practice, not a state of being.  It is the choice to drop defenses and be true to your curiosity and passion.  To trust that your joy or your truth is something that another person will join you in celebrating, and also trusting that sorrow is important and that people want the catharsis of sharing it.  Because in the end, trying to connect and failing is morally stronger and more aesthetically compelling than protecting yourself from hurt.  And as a performer, it’s the hardest thing of all:  trusting that honest communication is enough and there is no need to manipulate a response.  And if it doesn’t connect, it’s okay, because the next moment is coming and there is always something new to share. 

The comprehensive way Dell’Arte training applies to all live performance and most of life is something I am very grateful for!

MAGGIE CINO is a Senior Producer for the Peabody and MACEI award-winning organization, The Moth.  She is also a writer (and former actor) based out of New York City.  Warm Enough for Swimming, her full length play about family and the financial crisis, was a semi-finalist for the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights conference; a successful production was part of FringeNYC and the FringeNYC Encore Series.  The full script is published by IndieTheaterNow and excerpts appear in Best Men's Stage Monologues 2015 and Best Women's Stage Monologues 2015.  She also won the FringeNYC Overall Excellence Award in Playwriting for her full length play, Decompression. Her one woman short, Ascending Bodily, is published by the New York Theater Experience, and her contribution to Piper McKenzie's Dainty Cadaver project This Is a Brick is published in the Midway Journal.   She was nominated for the Doric Wilson Independent Playwrighting Award and was a 2015 Indie Theater Person of the Year. 

Because of Dell’Arte I live my life well.

Adina Valerio

Adina Valerio

Because of Dell’Arte I live my life well. Not to say that I’m rich or famous or successful by any conventional measure, but I am generally happy and healthy and enjoying the range of experiences that life has to offer. During my year at Dell’Arte, I learned a lot about performing, devising work, and styles of theatre. But more importantly, and perhaps more usefully, I learned how to take care of myself, body and mind. I learned how to communicate and collaborate with just about anyone. I learned the importance of being of service to a community.

            Dell’Arte taught me so much about my body and my movement. I learned the basic necessities of regular exercise and feeding well, but also how to use my body most efficiently and usefully. I’m always looking for the causes of those little pains that can be corrected by a small adjustment in movement, or even just by paying attention. I still pull my navel in and think forward and up while letting my neck be free as I walk up a flight of stairs. Wednesday afternoons off for Life Repair was a saving grace of the year and I still make time for life repair days. I’m writing this on a life repair day. It absolutely saves my sanity.

            I’ve taken the being of service idea quite literally by waiting tables. Honestly, I’m awesome at it. I was at Canter’s Deli in LA for four years, and now I’m coming up on four years at Veselka in NYC. These are generations-old, family-run places with regular customers who come in every day - sometimes two or three times a day - and we, the staff, know their names, what they eat, and how they like their coffee.

People often tell me how much it means to them that they ate at Veselka as a child and are now bringing their own children to continue the tradition. Because it is a relaxed atmosphere staffed with people who like each other, we’re free to be playful, which enriches everyone’s experience. My employers ensure that I make enough money in a week and support my involvements outside work by being wonderfully flexible with my schedule. We all take care of one another as much as possible. The restaurant as a whole is the community I serve.

I often think of taking an order as a collaboration between me and the customer with the goal of getting them exactly the meal they want. Every table is an exercise in presence and communication. Then there’s the timing and coordination it takes to get all the pieces out to the table. At Canter’s, it was constant choreography, because food came from four different places and often had to go from one to another before it was ready for the table. At Veselka, it’s a matter of maneuvering within a small space packed with a lot of people. This is all an opportunity to think about my movement. I have to be fast, efficient, and well-balanced while maintaining a pleasant demeanor, not always an easy feat while carrying three large bowls of borscht.

In the early weeks of Dell’Arte, we had those classes in which we walked and walked around the room and had to stop, change direction, and/or jump at the clap of Ronlin’s hands. This ability to move in any direction at any time, while keeping awareness of the room to avoid collision, is invaluable in both waiting tables and walking the streets of New York City.

In the ten years since I graduated Dell’Arte, I’ve had a variety of performing experiences. Some were fantastic; some were lousy. Some were scripted, some devised. Some ensemble, some solo. On stage, on camera, voice-over, and once I danced in the NYC Halloween Parade. I’ve paid my bills with money from performing a few times, but I’ve never gotten the hang of performing as a fulltime job. Recently I’ve found my love of being onstage dwindling. When I watch shows now, I just experience the enjoyment of the performance, without that nagging envy of the people onstage that was always present for as long as I can remember. I’ve realized that I love being in class more than I love pursuing a career. I love the practice and the journey more than any possible destination.

Because of all this realizing, I am not currently performing. I just finished getting certified as a yoga teacher, because what better way is there to be in class, barefoot, in comfy clothes all the time? It was a ten-week program with classes only three days a week, while we lived our regular lives the other four. Classmates keep saying what a transformative experience it was and how it was the most amazing and challenging thing they’ve ever done. I liked it a lot and found it very interesting. Hopefully it will lead to a new path in my life, in which I can use all the skills I’ve gathered to help people in their yoga practices and their lives. But I know that nothing can or will ever compare with the year I spent at Dell’Arte. It was the most challenging, the most rewarding, the most significant experience of my adult life and I carry it with me all day, every day, in everything that I do.

Adina Valerio lives in Brooklyn and teaches with Yoga to the People at St Mark's, 38th St, and Brooklyn locations. Connect on Facebook and or Instagram.