By Shenoah Allen
Because of Dell’ Arte I… have to write this blog! Alright then, what can I say? Nearly 20 years ago I piled onto a Greyhound bus in Albuquerque, New Mexico and took a 3 day ride to the town of Blue Lake which lies, often shrouded in fog, on the banks of the Mad River and is about as far north as you can get and still be in the state of California and is home to a DIY comedy arts school that is offering one heck of an education.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into nor did I know what I wanted from the school, I thought I wanted to be an actor, but (due in part to my experience at Dell’Arte) I thankfully never became one and in fact, apart from the few actors that bring real creativity to their craft, my opinion of the profession is low at best. Anyone can memorize something someone else has written spit it out and come across as kind of smart or interesting. Who cares!?!
While Dell’Arte does offer solid actor training their greatest pedagogy is the way they encourage their students to create their own work and to cut their own paths. As someone who had spent a lot of my high school career in suspension for mouthing off to my teachers when I disagreed, I needed something different. Dell’Arte’s approach, which encourages self expression, was very refreshing to the younger me. Don’t get me wrong, the training at Dell’Arte is rigorous, exacting and sometimes painful but because so much focus was put on my own creativity and that I was handed the responsibility of creating my own work, I was able to form a different and infinitely more fruitful relationship with both education and theatre.
After graduating Dell’Arte, having been rinsed of any desire to do interpretive work, I set about creating my own thing. I, along with my dear friend Mark Chavez, have been creating shows and touring the world for sixteen years. We have written over ten original works, performed in venues as far flung as a heavy-metal bar/Laundry-mat in Saskatoon to the Sydney opera house. We’ve been on giant rock and roll stages and little theatres in the middle of nowhere. We’ve performed in castles and comedy festivals, Steppenwolf Theatre, Second City, New York’s St. Anne’s and London’s West End, and hundreds of other little joints across more countries than I can list without sounding like a total D-bag.
And believe me when I say I’m only listing these achievements because I was asked to, I don’t think anyone ever says, I think I’ll pour myself a glass of red and read this guys resume, but they’re worth mentioning because I do credit Dell’Arte with giving me the right kind of kick up the wazoo and getting me off on the right foot. I could have ended up in LA or New York auditioning or trying to make it as a writer. Instead I just do what ever I want and I’ve been able to earn a living for more than a decade doing comedic theatre.
Along the way I’ve had only a few rules, but I’ve stuck to them: commit, be funny, be original and don’t pander. Dell’Arte helped galvanize that approach for me.
I have had the good fortune of collaborating with many wonderful people over the years and have self started numerous creative projects that have built community and even created jobs, all of which has been gratifying and kept me leading a strange and dynamic life. So thanks, Dell’Arte, I can’t recommend you highly enough.
Shenoah Allen is one half of the world renowned comedy duo, Pajama Men, with whom he has developed more than ten original stage shows. These anarchic, character driven, narrative, comedies have appeared on London’s West End, in Chicago at both Steppenwolf and Second City, St. Anne’s Warehouse in New York, The Sydney Opera House, The Largo in Los Angeles and countless clubs, pubs, theatres and festivals around the globe. He's written commissioned screenplays and television pilots for, HBO, BBC, Film4, Paramount, and Scott Free and has collaborated as a writer with Paul King (Director of Mighty Boosh, Paddington) and James Bobin (Director of Flight of the Concords, The Muppets, Through The Looking Glass). Shenoah is a Creative Associate of London’s Soho Theatre and is co-director of the indy film and television company, Skeletrain.