Giants of Commedia: Carlo Mazzone-Clementi

Carlo Mazzone-Clementi

Carlo in 1995.

Carlo Mazzone-Clementi was the founder of the Dell’arte school of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake California.  He was a childhood friend of Amletto Sartori, Marcel Marceau’s first touring partner, worked with Jacques LeCoq, and performed with Dario Fo, Franca Rama, and Giorgio Strehler at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan.

In 1959 he came to the United States to teach commedia, and in lots of ways was the instigator of Commedia in the US, including the SF Mime Troupe and later his own Dell’arte Company and School.    One of his teaching assistants was circus and juggling legend Hovey Burgess.  Avner the Eccentric studied with him and says “I learned everything I know from Jacques LeCoq.  Everything I don’t know I learned from Carlo.”

Carlo performing

You can read a lot more about Carlo’s history (and see some pretty astonishing photographs of him) in this  fantastic obit/remembrance published by the North Coast Journal

When I studied at the Dell’arte School (1990-91), Carlo’s ex-wife Jane Hill was the director of the school, and Carlo wasn’t teaching there, but he kept coming by and teaching anyway.   They couldn’t keep him away from the school.  When I went back in 1995 to study Commedia with Carlo specifically (in a workshop with him, Joan Schirle, and Arne Zaslove, Carlo was teaching, albeit a little haphazardly.  Joan and Arne would be teaching and Carlo would butt in with examples and ideas from his long experience as a performer.  Butt in is really the wrong word– as everything he said was right on– but he always picked a dramatic time to say it, and didn’t have a real sense of etiquette or propriety.  In fact, that may well have been his authentic genius– he got excited about things and didn’t wait to be called on- he put them out there.  Some people might consider that trait annoying, but with Carlo you forgave it because it was clear he was a genius.

A couple of memorable Carlo moments:

The A-Ha exercise-– for the clown everything must seem to be new and different.  The exercise is to notice something, run to it, say A-Ha, and then notice something, and then re-peat ad infinitum.  Carlo’s genius was his commitment and his ability to really and genuinely see it for the first time.  It’s easy to be loud and have empty form, but to fill that form– that’s the work.

Why we rehearse: “Rehearsals are like showers, you have to do them every day, otherwise you really start to stink.”

THE CLOWN IS LAZY: “You want to get maximum effect from minimum effort.  Be lazier.

If you have memorable Carlo moments, please post them in the comments below.

Here are some Carlo links:

SF Chronicle obit.
North Coast Journal obit/remembrance

Commedia and the Actor, an article by Carlo and Jane Hill

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