For those of us not partaking in Dance Marathon because we either 1. are soulless monsters or 2. value our livelihood, there is a lot of space to fill this weekend. (Homework? I don’t know her.) If you’ve been thinking about replacing some of those 30 blissful hours of not dancing with dinner and a show, look no further than The Panini Players' winter feature performance – it’s not every weekend you’ll have the chance.
“You will always be able to see productions of really famous plays,” Weinberg freshman Skye McCoy, a Panini Player, said. “You’re never going to be able to see our show again.”
The Panini Players are the only group on campus that performs Commedia dell'Arte, a type of masked theater in the style of the Italian Renaissance. The art form relies heavily on stock characters and tropes – ones we’re not unfamiliar with in modern entertainment, according to artistic director Jon Mathias.
“[These] social archetypes are still in Western media, all the way from Shakespeare to Futurama,” Mathias, a Weinberg senior, said. “The young lovers, the stingy old man, the dumb servants who don’t know what they’re doing. We take that art form that’s been around since the Italian Renaissance and perform in that style in modern contexts.”
The show this weekend, though, is actually the most traditional out of the year. Following the pre-performance experience of a build-your-own-panini bar – complete with cold cuts, vegetarian options and dessert – audience members will get to enjoy outrageous improv following the theme of “My Big Fat Italian Wedding.” It’ll take place in a traditional Italian setting and have more of a typical Italian plot.
“I’m most excited to see Northwestern students come out and see that Commedia dell'Arte isn’t this super weird, inaccessible thing,” Mathias said. “The characters and the art form are more similar to modern sitcom entertainment than people might think.”
In addition to the benefit of entertainment, the group also provides its actors with training in improv, a style of acting known to be intimidating. This has forced McCoy, who got into theater after beginning school at Northwestern, to step outside of her comfort zone.
“There’s no room for being self-conscious,” she said. “I think it’s difficult to learn how to be free with yourself, and this has helped me do that.”
So come for the food, come for laughs or come for a new type of art. And don’t worry – you'll likely be able to understand the humor.
“What we’re doing isn’t new, it’s 500 years old,” McCoy said. “We have always found the same sorts of things to be funny. Like, dick jokes are hilarious.”
The Panini Players' My Big Fat Italian Wedding will take place March 9 at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Arrive 30 minutes before the show for pre-performance paninis and other dishes. Tickets are $5.