Who We Are

We, the Comedians and Tragedians of the Panini Players have gathered to explore the human experience through Commedia dell’Arte. Commedia dell’Arte began in Renaissance Italy as a masked comedic form that represents human trials and comedies. Not only was Commedia dell’Arte the first form of professional theatre, using contracts and garnering actors and writers respect for their profession (in fact the first time theatre was considered a profession), but Commedia dell’Atre was also the first form of theatre to allow women on stage. This form has gone through many variations and has been an oft-forgotten and oft-misunderstood dramatic form. And yet, Commedia’s impact on the Western theatre tradition can still be clearly seen today.

We explore Commedia dell’Arte's history and its modern form, particularly inspired by the Italian maestro, Antonio Fava. We seek to perfect our own technique in order to both entertain audiences and improve ourselves. We seek to bring awareness of this great form of drama, which has inspired Chicago’s improvisational theatre scene, to the Northwestern community and beyond.

We are Northwestern’s premier Commedia dell’Arte troupe, and we perform one show one campus every academic quarter. The shows are improvised to a loose outline, or Canovaccio, following in the tradition of Commedia. We also employ stock characters, such as Pantalone the old miser; Dottore, the batty Professor; Capitano, the foreign Braggart; the two Innamorati, young lovers; Arlecchino the stupid servant, and many others. Commedia is a masked art, and our troupe performs in masks. Each of the masks represent a different character (with a few exceptions, including the Innamorati and all female characters, who are unmasked).

Beyond our goal of bringing Commedia dell’Arte performances to new audiences, we also strive to educate. The Panini Players host informational firesides at many of Northwestern’s Residential Colleges, and we also offer a touring company which will travel to anywhere in the Chicagoland area for a small fee to cover transportation costs. We offer a variety of programming including:

  • An hour-long lecture/demonstration on Commedia history, characters and technique,

  • A flexible length workshop teaching Commedia characters and technique,

  • A traditional performance based on a scenario by Antonio Fava,

  • A performance of an original scenario by ensemble members,

  • Any performance that fits within our potential repertoire. As long as you give us some time, we can, in the tradition of the Arte, create anything that you want.