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.

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

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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.


Alumni: Terence Cranendonk (PTP 1986)

Monday nights. That’s the first thing I think of when I remember my time at Dell’Arte. Monday night Bits and Pieces—every week we had to create something to perform in front of the entire Dell’Arte faculty and student body. It was a crucible in which we had to muster every true and creative impulse, let go of every inhibiting and procrastinating block, and actually make a short performance of value—and (oy vey) usually with a small group of other people. When I look back, it was these Monday night Bits and Pieces, more than the mask and mime technique, more than the acrobatics and clown work, more than the commedia and melodrama, that prepared me for my future life as an actor-creator. My whole career of devising new work, through both ensemble creation and working alone, and of interpreting written texts as well, was shaped by those Monday nights.

One particular Monday afternoon (it was during the clowning segment, I think) I had gone in to Arcata for something that I no longer remember, and I somehow missed my ride back. I ended up walking all the way back to Blue Lake, and at a clipped pace too, because I was due to perform in a Bits and Pieces piece that evening. I ran through the piece in my imagination dozens of times as I walked—what we had worked out in rehearsal, what we were leaving to improvisation—until I reached H Street. I literally walked in off the street, up the Oddfellows Hall steps, and into the piece that my partners were nervously preparing to begin without me. Although I don’t recommend the practice, my long walk was the extreme extension of what we were being asked to do at Dell’Arte: follow a path of rigorous preparation, up to the edge of the abyss, the moment of creation—then jump. See your partners, don’t look back, react, create, don’t be afraid of falling on your face (don’t worry, you will).

When I was young, I wanted to be a great realistic actor, doing Chekhov and Tennessee Williams. By my third year of college, however, I had fallen in love with experimental theater, and in particular, the work of Jerzy Grotowski. I saw in Grotowski’s work the rigor and precision that I found lacking in the little contact I had had with the professional world of realistic theater. I wanted to touch something essential in my art, be the conduit for it, through precise investigation in rehearsal, without having to produce instant results. And I wanted something concrete to hold on to—a physical, practical, doable approach in the work room, that at that time I didn’t find existing among realistic theater practitioners—it all seemed a matter of chance. But I also loved American Vaudeville, clowning, Buster Keaton, Lucille Ball, Danny Kaye, Abbott and Costello. As my graduation approached, Dell’Arte appeared in my field of vision, and somehow fulfilled in one package my desires for experimental work, rigorous training, and comedy (in fact, the school I entered in 1985 was still called The Dell’Arte School of Mime and Comedy, though the name changed by graduation).

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Dell’Arte was a place where I began to develop the ability to pursue my own artistic interests. After graduation from the Physical Theatre Program in 1986 (there was no MFA program at the time), I returned to New York and founded the Mustard Seed Theater Lab. We indulged in a kind of dark, intellectual, at times perverse, vaudeville, and broke apart after three years. I sought out Grotowski, studied privately with Ryszard Cieslak of the Polish Lab Theatre, took lessons with Richard Armstrong of the Roy Hart Theatre, enrolled in the Michael Chekhov studio. I eventually moved to Akron, Ohio to join the New World Performance Laboratory, led by Jim Slowiak, a long-time assistant to Jerzy Grotowski. I was a full-time company member for seven years and I continue to collaborate with NWPL on projects. And it was during my time with NWPL that I started working on the piece that I am performing at the DAI Reunion, I Dreamed of Rats.

I Dreamed of Rats is a solo work that I have performed on and off for the past 18 years. It has become my artistic love, my most defining work thus far. For a period of time I used it as my daily training, my structure for investigating a sequence of detailed physical actions—as a way of understanding the nature of physical action more generally. With Rats, I’ve ended up doing what one newspaper critic called “intelligent physical comedy” (see below). Perfect! Some alchemy of my work has synthesized my interests in disciplined training, experimental theater, Stanislavski, and silent movies. “Intelligent physical comedy”—it’s like I’ve invented a new genre. But it is, and could only be, uniquely mine. I consider this alchemy, which found its beginnings at Dell’Arte, one of the best things that could have happened to me—a realization of impulses which for thirty years I have been working to get out of the way of, and allow to happen.

I am also a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner (GCFP) and my current work is in the relationship between action, energetic flow, and acting for the theatre. Specifically, I am looking at the intersection of Konstantin Stanislavski’s “physical action”, the work of somatic awareness and unblocking of Moshe Feldenkrais, and the work of Austrian physician Wilhelm Reich. I believe these three areas of work have deep and significant points of contact, and I am researching their application to actor training and creative work. I share this work in a workshop that I lead called “Action and Energetic Flow.”

Incidentally, I also do serious stuff (“intelligent physical seriousness”?) and my interest in theatrical realism has reignited. I am back again doing Shaw, Albee, Ariel Dorfman. So things have come full circle, and with a richness that I did not anticipate. And I couldn’t have done it without those Monday nights.

Here is a review of I Dreamed of Rats from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: But I hope you come and see it in person at the DAI 40th Reunion Celebration. I look forward to meeting you there!

Terence Cranendonk

PTP 1986

Terence Cranendonk in "I Dreamed of Rats". Photo by   Miriam Bennett, Moving Studio Productions. 

Terence Cranendonk in "I Dreamed of Rats". Photo by Miriam Bennett, Moving Studio Productions. 

Alumna: Nicholette Routhier and Alumni Company: Uplift Physical Theatre

 By Nicholette Routhier (MFA ’10)

I’m writing from the floor of my yurt on a farm in Menomonie, WI, which feels odd because I don’t have electricity, running water, or the Internet. Before moving to Wisconsin last July, I lived in Blue Lake for almost eight years. I arrived in the fall of 2007 for the PTP; then I matriculated into the MFA; and in 2010, I became the Dell’Arte School Administrator/Registrar.

My path has been unique to me, but it’s a common thread: Dell’Arte alumni pursue unique paths. Even if we arrive with similar visions and goals, after we leave Blue Lake no two paths look alike. I think this originates with Dell’Arte’s admissions process. Sure, it’s an international school, so we have people from lots of different cultures, but we also come with diverse backgrounds and experiences – from theatre to circus to botany. And there’s always some “wild card” – that person who seems to come out of nowhere and yet becomes vital to the ensemble. It’s thanks to this diversity in our PTP and MFA ensembles that we come to know ourselves and leave with a strong sense of who we are. With eight years at Dell’Arte under my belt, I definitely came to know myself. Of course, I didn’t recognize it until after I left, but it became clear when the opportunities kept coming and it took me no time to establish myself in Menomonie.

While at Dell’Arte, the three projects that influenced me the most were my Character Project in the 2nd year, and my Community Based Arts (CBA) project and Thesis project in the 3rd year.

For my Character Project, I created “Albert McFee.” He thrived long after the project’s culmination. You may have heard of him – he hosted over a dozen Dell’Arte Cabarets and events, as well as local burlesque shows, benefits, and shows at the Logger Bar, Arcata Theatre Lounge, and throughout Humboldt County. He was on the local news, newspapers, and the radio. He had a following that required his own Facebook page. (One time, someone invited me to dinner and then asked if I would come as Albert!) He created several comedy acts, wrote two songs, and created three burlesque acts. Albert McFee was one of my greatest successes at Dell’Arte, and I’m forever grateful for that. Right now, he exists in a garment bag in my yurt, but it wouldn’t take much to revive him. He has a life of his own!

For my CBA Project, I collaborated with two members of my MFA ensemble, Julie Douglas and Genesee Spridco, and we partnered with the women of the Emma Center, which provides on-going, holistic healing to women who have experienced trauma. I was extremely passionate about this project and it inspired me to pursue future CBA projects. Last month, I produced, directed and performed in a benefit production of The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler alongside five women from the Menomonie community as a part of V Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. I have a deep passion for service in the community and I will continue to produce theatre that reflects that passion.

My thesis project continues to be my most impactful experience at Dell’Arte. I collaborated with Julie Douglas, Elizabeth Colon Nelson and Gabe McKinney. The final product of our piece was an adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People, but the success of our collaboration was rooted in our creative process. We brought together all production elements (i.e. costumes, sets, props, music etc.) from Day 1; we created via “uncensored play,” which is a term I coined to turn off our internal censors and grant our creative “geniuses” full authority; and we brought the audience into our rehearsal process. Since then, I’ve given presentations on our creative process to PTP classes, summer workshop participants, and college students; I conduct workshops rooted in uncensored play; and I practice that creative approach in all of my rehearsal processes.

Today, I am a part of an ensemble that honors our unique Dell’Artian paths: UpLift Physical Theatre. There are nine of us in the ensemble: Joe Krienke (PTP ’95), Andrea Martinez (PTP ’13), Audrey Leclair (PTP ’13), Juliana Frick (PTP ’13), Jerome Yorke Jr. (MFA ’14), Hannah Gaff (PTP ’09, MFA ’15), Alyssa Hughlett (MFA ’15), Moses Norton (MFA ’15), and me. We span five PTP classes and six states/provinces (California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Puerto Rico and Montreal.) Something unique about us is that we have never worked together at the same time. In fact, a few of us have never met in person! We may never perform in one show together, but because of our collective vocabulary and foundation of trust, any combination of us can devise and perform together. Recently, Alyssa, Hannah, Andrea and Moses devised a benefit performance in Bali while participating in the full time Dell’Arte Abroad: Bali program.

Our ensemble formed around three performances. The first was the Spring 2012  New Works Cabaret at Dell’Arte. Joe Krienke and I had been collaborating as acrobatics instructors for a few years by then and we wanted to see what our artistic collaboration would look like. We chose to create a piece of theatre inspired by a “Dramatic Acrobatics” assignment he gave to his acrobatics students at the end of the first 10 weeks. We created a short piece about a man who lost his wife at sea. The audience loved it. We knew we were on to something.

Fast forward to the morning of Carlo’s birthday in December 2013… Joe and I sat in awe as we watched Alyssa, Andrea, Audrey, Juliana, Moses, and Christopher Kehoe (MFA ’15) perform their Dramatic Acrobatics assignment. Their piece had skill and depth that superseded any group I could remember. Within a month, Joe asked these folks if they would join us in a new work for the Mad River Festival that summer.  All but Christopher joined us and so began our journey together.

During that time, we researched other acrobatics-based ensembles, such as Les 7 Doigts de la Main. We noticed that our collective training at Dell’Arte, our physical storytelling and ability to understand the forces underlying the acrobatics (i.e. push/pull; effort/momentum; explosion/release) set us apart from these ensembles. That’s when we coined our work “acrobatic theatre.”

That summer, we premiered Between the Lines to sold out houses. With a late-night slot in the Carlo Theatre, we had no idea how well we would be received. I’ll never forget the charivari on opening night: We took our bow, the energetic music started, and the audience collectively exploded out of their seats like a wave! They stood and clapped to the music as we tumbled and danced. They were still standing and clapping after we left the theatre, and we weren’t sure whether or not we should go back on stage! I had never experienced anything like it before. The next day, we learned that we’d received an extension to perform another weekend, and that weekend practically sold out. We were on top of the world!

It wasn’t long before Joe had booked us another late-night slot in the Mad River Festival the following summer. By this time, Juliana, Andrea and Audrey had settled into the Bay Area, Puerto Rico and Montreal, respectively, and Dell’Arte wasn’t able to fund their travel to rehearse and perform with us. Alyssa, Moses, Joe and I were still in Blue Lake, and we asked Hannah Gaff and Jerome Yorke Jr. to join us.  We started rehearsing and training together in the fall to aid us in expanding our acrobatic skill vocabulary and reduce injury. (I don’t have time in this blog to go into the injuries from the previous summer, but let’s just say that all of us were on the mend by the end of the run. Injuries ranged from a sprained ankle to a broken rib.) I think it worked – the majority of our injuries were minor and post-show recovery seemed speedy for all of us. Unfortunately, Joe suffered an injury that took him out of the run of the show. That was rough for me, as he was my main acrobatic partner, but he became our “outside eye” and designed all of the music, which allowed the rest of us to focus on devising and training the show. The new piece was called Taken Away and, again, the run was well attended and appreciated.

Today, Hannah, Alyssa and Moses are in their third year at Dell’Arte and the rest of us have gone our separate ways. Being an ensemble rooted in such a physical dynamic, it was hard to imagine how we would be able to continue working together, but thanks to modern technology, we’re still going strong.

About a month ago, Juliana and I traveled to Blue Lake to rehearse with the folks at Dell’Arte and the rest of our ensemble joined us via Google Hangouts. Because of the time we put in during those three flagship performances, we were able to jump right back into the dynamic of our ensemble with no hesitation. We rehearsed for 15 hours in a 36-hour period of time and we were safe, productive, and creatively fruitful. It was awesome!

We’re now planning a 2015 summer tour, which will include the Dell’Arte Alumni Reunion and the Minnesota Fringe. We have a few new faces in the mix: Jared Mongeau (AEP ’16) will join us in our Alumni Reunion show and Christopher will be back to produce us in the Minnesota Fringe! We’re finding our footing with the business side of becoming an ensemble. We’re developing ensemble agreements and designating roles. We’re navigating through email as our primary means of communication. It’s a big learning curve, but we’re meeting it with grace.

In about a month, I’ll be moving into a tipi in the woods to help mentor a student for a year through ReWild University, where I am currently an instructor. I love that I can do just that – live a life immersed in nature and mentor people on uncovering their own true nature, while at the same time, create and perform with people with equally adventurous and passion-filled lives. This is the power of Dell’Arte and I’m deeply grateful.

Photo: Arnista Photography. Moses Norton (MFA '15), Nicholette Routhier (in the air - MFA '10) and Hannah Gaff (MFA '15) from "Taken Away" at the 2014 Dell'Arte Mad River Festival.

Photo: Arnista Photography. Moses Norton (MFA '15), Nicholette Routhier (in the air - MFA '10) and Hannah Gaff (MFA '15) from "Taken Away" at the 2014 Dell'Arte Mad River Festival.

Alumna: Stephanie Roberts

At Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, where I received my MFA, we sweat. A lot. After an attempt to be the ocean, or an eagle, or a forest fire, we would wait, out-of-breath and spent, for the critique. It usually went something like this: “Our proposal of the theatre is that it has the power to move the world; Effort, Risk, Momentum, Joy!” It was these critiques that kept me going and, as a generative theatre artist, that still keep me going in this uncertain, and often-undervalued profession.

Effort, Risk, Momentum, Joy, a credo proposed by Dell’Arte founder Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, has guided me not only in creating and teaching theatre, but in promoting myself as a professional artist.


“I’m very lucky.” I say that a lot when talking about my job as an Associate Professor at UMKC Theatre Department. I teach Clown, Commedia, Mask —all of the things that I love—and I’m grateful. And yet…I worked damn hard to get this job! It was the effort of two degrees, countless classes and workshops, years of performing, directing, teaching and volunteering my time, and pages of applications, resumes, and letters of interest. Yes, there have been serendipitous events that have brought me here, but those moments would not have happened without the effort and discipline required of the profession. As baseball great, Don Sutton said: “Luck is the result of busting your fanny.”


“I hate networking”. I look back at how many times I have said or thought this. What I really meant was: “I fear networking”. It took years for me to realize that networking doesn’t have to mean being pushy, self-serving, and forcing myself on others. It sounds absurdly simple, but I finally got it when a friend said to me: “They’re just PEOPLE!” Putting it in this perspective has made the risk less risky. I go to theatre events that interest me, I introduce myself to people who make theatre, and I tell them about my own. In this way I’ve changed my vocabulary and turned “Networking” into “Building My Community”. 


In physical theatre one uses the momentum of the body to facilitate a dynamic action with ease. I’ve found that producing and promoting oneself is often a matter of giving in to the momentum of the project. Here’s an example: Several years ago I had an idea for a theatrical band. I told a colleague about this idea, who emailed a Conservatory of Music professor, who posted the idea on an email group, which led to me finding two musicians. I kept talking about the project, which led to more band members, which led to jam sessions, which led to rehearsals, which led to a gig, which led to recording our songs, which led to a MySpace page, which led to more gigs, which led to more exposure…and so on. 


As my students are sweating with the effort of their work I remind them to smile. And in an instant the work becomes…lighter. As I write press releases, and create facebook groups, and battle with deadlines and schedules and unexpected events, I sometimes look above my desk at a photograph of my mentor. He is naked, covered in white (butoh-style), mouth agape, eyes wide open, and wearing a huge red nose. I am reminded that this, all of this, is taken on for the sake of joy. The joy in creating and sharing my work. A joy that is the result of the effort, risk, and momentum of the creative act.

Stephanie Roberts (MFA ’06) reflections on Dell’Arte’s “Effort, Risk, Momentum, Joy” initially appeared in "Artistinckc" introducing Kansas City artists: Used by permission. 

Stephanie Roberts

Stephanie Roberts

Alumni: Pratik Motwani

Hi everyone. I would like to begin this post by wishing everybody a very happy 2015. I am particularly excited about this year because of Dell'Arte's 40th anniversary reunion this summer; I will be there performing at the festival and eagerly look forward to meeting both familiar and new faces of Dell'Arte.

My name is Pratik Motwani and I am an actor, theatre maker and educator originally from Mumbai, India. Prior to coming to Dell'Arte, I received my Bachelors degree in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from Mumbai University. I had been wanting to seek training and learn the craft of Physical Acting and was finally able to make it to Dell’Arte after a big break when I scored a voice-over role for the Hindi version of “Slumdog Millionaire” lending my voice to the protagonist. I heard about the PTP program at Dell'Arte from a friend, Deepal Doshi, who was the first Indian to graduate from the MFA.

I graduated from Dell'Arte International's MFA program in 2012 and am currently a part of the touring company at IMAGO in Portland, Oregon. IMAGO Theatre's original productions have toured internationally for over two decades. The universal nature of Imago's work has won audience and critical acclaim in tours across the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Canada and the U.S. IMAGO's signature works have appeared at the New Victory Theater on Broadway in New York. Learn more about Imago here.

I have been touring nationally and internationally with IMAGO for the past 2 years performing in FROGZ and Zoo Zoo and conducting guest lectures and workshops in mask theatre and performance in universities across the United States and countries like Canada, Egypt, Jordan and France. Currently I am rehearsing for our France tour which begins mid March and teaching a workshop series presented by IMAGO Theatre entitled “ Spirit of the Mask” which began at the end of January at IMAGO Theatre, Portland, OR and will continue with several iterations throughout the year.

My three-year MFA training at Dell'Arte International - specifically in movement study, larval masks, Commedia dell'Arte and clown - provided me with a firm foundation as I entered into my professional work with IMAGO. I was lucky to have started working with IMAGO right after I completed my MFA. Apart from desperately needing to start earning an income and getting a visa to stay in the United States, auditioning for IMAGO straight out of school was advantageous because the three years of intense physical training at Dell'Arte International put me in primo physical condition ready for the vigorous physical engagement and stamina which becomes a prerequisite in extremely stylized forms of mask performance.  Also, when one comes out of a program where 90% of the time is spent on one’s feet devising work, where one is constantly challenged and required to create new characters, scenarios, short plays, and to produce events, perform in cabarets, write music, create movement pieces, etc. practically every week--sometimes even twice a week in the first year--one begins to develop a knack for creating quickly with the available resources in an improvised manner.  

When I auditioned for IMAGO the thing that I feel worked in my favor was that I was able to wear a mask and make it my own. I was able to offer suggestions by doing them instead of waiting for the directors to say what to do. Most of the prompting during my audition was  “Do something different” or “ Show us what else you can do” or even “ Don't do that”, but I don't remember them saying “Do this...”

I think many directors like to work with an actor in a collaborative fashion. They want you to offer suggestions and sometimes even contest them.  My training in devised work at Dell'Arte has given me that sense of authority and ownership over my craft at the same time my training in ensemble work at Dell'Arte has helped me understand the process of working and creating collectively. Both these aspects of my training have proved invaluable in my creative collaborations with the directors,  company members and technicians at IMAGO and in my experience traveling with a touring ensemble.

Working in a touring show like FROGZ means working not only as an actor but also as a bus driver, as a stagehand, as a mover and packer. Sometimes we spend more time on the road as a truck driver than we do performing on stage. Then there are other times when we have a really intense performance schedule with weeks of three-show days in a row with a load in, load out and a drive to the next engagement. The tours can last for up to two months at a time. With such tour schedules and traveling in a bus together, there is not much escape from one another and things are bound to get unpleasant at times, tensions may rise between ensemble members as the tour gets longer. Having previous experience with ensemble work has helped me deal with those challenges in a more mature fashion and has helped me maintain my personal  balance and perspective on what is most beneficial for the work and the group as a whole.

The other important aspect of long touring performances is that it becomes essential to find ways of conserving one's energy both on and off stage. A big shout out to my professors Joan Schirle and Joe Krienke for their teaching and guidance with the Alexander Technique. It has proven to be most effective for me in finding a balance between effort and ease. The more shows I perform the more I begin to find economy in movement (particularly vital to mask work). It gives me a new thing to look for every show and keeps the performance fresh every time.

One of the other reasons I feel thankful for being trained in physical theatre and devised work is that one learns to create with what one has whether it be creating a show with a broom and a bucket or working with a production team. Being trained in devising has also offered me the possibility of creating my own work by whatever means the piece calls for. In some ways the training gives one the possibility of making your limitations your strengths.  It empowers the actor/creator in that way.

One of my self produced shows IN'Tents: A Conservation Comedy is a show that was born in a similar fashion. I co-devised this show with my fellow colleagues Meghan Frank (MFA 2012) and Janessa Johnsrude (MFA 2013) during our training at Dell'Arte International. All we had was a shared desire to create and perform a comedy for street kids in India, a one person tent that belonged to Meghan's sister and an idea: “Wouldn't it be funny to see two clowns trying to pitch a tent?” Today that show is a 50 minute full-length piece of physical comedy that has been performed for thousands of street kids and in schools across Mumbai and Delhi.  In 2012 (when Janessa joined), the project received funding from the Puffin Foundation and private donors through an online Indie-go-go campaign to perform the show in national and state parks across the United States. The Project reached over 1,500 kids and camping families, in partnership with national and state park systems of California, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado, the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association of Inyo National Forest, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Bureau of Land Management among many others. Recently the show was invited to perform at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as a part of their Green Show stage series. IN'Tents: A Conservation Comedy will tour to Egypt in March as a selected works in the Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children. 

Even though the past two years have been filled with challenges like being on tour most of the time and maintaining a relationship, being away from my family back home in India, immigration nightmares, figuring out a long term sustainable lifestyle in the field, ultimately I feel fortunate to be doing what I love. I have had a fun time touring across the length and breadth of The United States and internationally with the Imago team. Between IMAGO and my own co-devised show IN'Tents: A Conservation Comedy,  I have been told that I have seen more of the United States in the past 2 years than most Americans see in a lifetime. I am grateful for that.

One of the things that I really love to do when I am on the road is to connect with other Dell'Arte graduates in other cities from past years. I post the show schedule on my Facebook page or send it out on our list serve and invite people to the show. Its a great way to make connections and be in touch (we are performing on the east coast in February and then in France in March-April so keep an eye out, I would love to catch up). My friends and  company members at IMAGO are always surprised by the amount of comp ticket requests I make while on tour. They don't understand how an Indian knows so many people across the United States. I tell them that there are two reasons to that, one that Indians are everywhere and whether you know it or not they are all related to one and other and second, that Dell'Arte has a strong family of former students, teachers, staff members and friends that really help and support each other both professionally and personally and in my experience like to connect and hang out.

I have had several experiences meeting other Dell'Artian's on the road whom I was meeting for the first time but we instantly hit it off as though we knew each other for a while. I was just reading Nathanial Justiniano's (MFA ‘08) blog post the other day on Facebook about his experience working in Dubai with Jerome Yorke (MFA ‘14) and he speaks about this sense of comraderie, too. I feel blessed both professionally and in personal life to be a part of La Famiglia Dell'Arte. Especially for someone who is living in the Unites States and is not originally from here, it is a great gift. Thank You!

As I end this post I am reminded of a quote from Antoin De Saint Exupery that always makes me think of family, community and the other kind of spirit – the spirit of ensemble.


“ Happiness! It is useless to seek it elsewhere ,

than in this warmth of human relations.

Only a comrade can grasp us by the hand and haul us free”