BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield High School Thespian Society will present “A Servant of Two Masters,” at the Westminster Art Center’s Van Fossen Theater, on the Bloomfield College campus. The three performances are at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17 to 19. An admission fee will be charged.
The play was written by Carlo Goldoni in the 1740s and made use of Commedia Dell’arte techniques which used improvisations by masked performers. The characters they played were immediately identifiable as a certain type, such as the miser or the fool.
But according to Brandon Doemling, the BHS theater teacher, and the director/producer for this production, Goldoni took it a step or two further, including doing away with the masks.
“He started writing full scripts,” Doemling said at a recent rehearsal at the Van Fossen Theater. “Before that, you would have characters who would improvise the whole show. They knew the story line but when they got into ruts, they would perform bits.”
“A Servant of Two Masters” is about a fool who serves two people. But neither person knows that the fool is working for them on a part-time basis and for their lover the rest of the time. Confusion and mistaken identities ensue followed by the uniting of parted lovers.
According to Doemling, a host of modern-day comics fashioned their own material from Commedia Dell’arte bits and audience members watching “A Servant of Two Masters” may recognize Abbott and Costello, the Marx Brothers, The Simpsons or Three Stooges shtick.
“There’s a lot of freedom in the performances,” Doemling said, “and a lot of identifiable characters.”
The set design for the BHS production, he said, was influenced by “Fractured Fairy Tales,” with its simplified, two-dimensional images as a backdrop for the action.
Timing is critical in this show, with its quickly reacting characters. The action does not stop and the music will remind one of Italy.
“All accordion music,” Doemling said. “It all takes place in Italy. You’d be surprised how much accordion music there is out there.”
There are 16 students in the cast and only one is a senior. Doemling said the play requires performers to use broad, physical gestures.
“It’s difficult to get kids to do this,” he said. “They’re not use to it.”
BHS Thespian Society productions are unfunded by the school. Doemling, director/producer and chief bottle-wash, relies solely on ticket sales for revenue. He said the show will break even if a total of 400 people attend the three performances.
“It should be funded by the administration for a program that has been in district for 50 years,” Doemling said. “That being said, we got a new sound system which saves us money.”
The cast rehearsed all day Monday and Tuesday while regular school was in session. Doemling said this was possible because BHS Principal Chris Jennings gave him the go-ahead to take the kids on a two-day field trip — to the Van Fossen Theater.
“The kids learn a lot on these field trips, ”Doemling said. “It’s not unusual for kids to take time off for an extended period and this is part of the curriculum.”
The cast: Sophie Bell, Shannon Bretz, Eli Brick, Connor Carlin, Grace Carlin, Seth Cohen, Caroline Cubero, Gemma Eshelman, Soula Garcia, Katherine Heyman, Mark Francis Mabalatan, Bedens Mirabeau, Elizabeth Nucci, Esteban Palma, Tristan Quinones and David Rumph.