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FIU Theatre's latest play is a wild comedy with classic roots
Ciara Hannon and Paola EsterĂ¡s in "The Green Bird" by Hillary DePiano, directed by Melvin Huffnagle

FIU Theatre's latest play is a wild comedy with classic roots

"The Green Bird" by Hillary DePiano runs from Nov. 11-20 at The Wertheim.

November 10, 2022 at 4:51pm


by Charisma Jolly, photos by Ivan R. Lopez

Masked villains, a prince and princess, sword fights, and a rave are all things that you can expect to see in FIU Theatre’s upcoming production, The Green Bird, by Hillary DePiano, based on the classic commedia dell’arte play by Carlo Gozzi.

Commedia dell’arte originated in Italy in the 15th century. Actors performed mostly improvised plays while playing stock characters. These stock characters — like the young lovers, the witty servant and the pompous king —were exaggerated stereotypes that appeared in many plays. The actors would also wear masks that were associated with those characters no matter where a show was being performed. The masks were like a character unto themselves. 

DePiano’s version is an updated adaptation of the 18th-century play. The FIU Theatre production infuses it with some of the classic trappings of the Commedia art form – including the iconic masks.

“Finding this character has been such a fun challenge,” says Chiara Jacobus who plays Pantalonia. “I had to do research into the stock character itself, but I also used my own knowledge from taking the Mask Work class here. In this show, my character is kind of a mixture of many different stock characters from Commedia, so finding what parts I want to incorporate from each character has been a very interesting process.”

Each mask is associated with a different set of characteristics and calls for a physical body. The masks in this production were custom made by costume designer and FIU Theatre professor Marina Pareja. 

“I started experimenting with what to do with each mask since the summer and went through a lot of different options and materials before arriving at the final product,” Pareja says. “I am so proud of the final products. I took inspiration from the Commedia figurines by George Gardiner for colors and silhouettes. I wanted everything to look cohesive and in the same era while embracing the wackiness of Commedia.”

The actors and designers have been led by director Melvin Huffnagle. He joined the FIU Theatre faculty last year and The Green Bird is his second show at the university after last Spring’s The House of Bernarda Alba.

“The biggest challenge has been getting everyone on the same page,” Huffnagle says. “As fun as it would be to have every joke be told, the show would just be too long. I had to bring everyone together on this: the actors, the designers, the crew, while still having a sense of improvisation, fun and magic.”

The Green Bird opens Friday, Nov. 11, at The Wertheim on the southeastern corner of FIU’s main campus, and runs through Nov. 20. FIU Theatre is offering 2 for-1 tickets for the Sunday, Nov. 13, performance; use code LUCKYSUNDAY at checkout.

Directed by Melvin Huffnagle; stage managed by Alize Medina; costume design by Marina Pareja; scenic design by Ashley Scheer; lighting design by Alexander Ortiz; sound design by Tony Galaska; vocal coaching by Rebecca Covey; fight choreography by Danny Mitan; photos by Ivan R. Lopez. With performances by Izzy Cañizares, Elizabeth Chavez, Roshambia Clark, Paola Esterás, Jonathan Gonzalez, Ciara Hannon, Chiara Jacobus, Charisma Jolly, Marla Lopez, Lauren Maqueira, Zachary Meskauskas, Luis Otamendi, Alex Perez, Elijah Thomas, Cristian Torres and Christina Tsitouris.