The American Association of Community Theatre International Community Theatre Festival hosted by Venice Theatre (wow, that’s a mouthful) started off with a bang last night, as opening ceremonies welcomed a full house of theater lovers and participants from around the world. The festival continues through Saturday, June 26, and judging by last night it may be a sellout (but you can always call 488-1115 to find out).
Three performances were given last evening; the first was our very own Players of Sarasota production of The Who’s Tommy. I had seen (and been impressed with) the full production here in April, and I wasn’t able to make it to Venice in time to see the hourlong version done here. (All of the performances during the festival are supposed to fit into a one-hour slot.) But I arrived in time to hear what the adjudicators had to say about it. (There are three adjudicators here for the festival, one from England, one from Canada and one from the United States, and awards will be presented at a closing night banquet.) Among the comments: “Wham bam show,” and “dynamic energy,” with lots of compliments for the production’s sets, costumes, direction and performances.
The evening’s second performance was presented by the Italian company Maner Manush of Rome, and it too received enthusiastic words from the adjudicators. In this offering, two actors, one male, one female, presented Portraits of Commedia dell’Arte, a trip back to 16th-century Italy that brought to life such familiar characters from the art form as Pulcinella, Harlequin and Columbina. Yes, it was presented in Italian (albeit with some heavily accented English discourse on the history of commedia dell’arte and how it related to the political and socioeconomic issues of the time). But most of the comedy here was broadly physical enough to need no translation. And occasionally a contemporary reference in English (listen for Baywatch, Saturday Night Fever’s Staying Alive and a joke about California wines) pops up, making the piece even funnier. An English speaker may not understand everything that’s going on here, but it’s clear that the actors have a firm grasp on both their characters and what makes them timeless.
I have to admit my stamina did not outlast this energetic performance, so I didn’t stick around for the closing show of the evening, Dust Circus from Brazil, which promised “a spectacle that mixes the language of circus, theater and puppetry in a poetic and entertaining way.” Luckily, though, for anyone else who likewise folded up their tents before 10 p.m. there will be another performance by this company during the week. (Each entry is presented twice, although only judged during the first performance.)
A complete schedule of performances is available at venicestage.com/international.