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Students create commedia dell'arte masks

June 29, 2015

Students studying costume design and technical theatre in this year’s Summer Theatre Institute had the opportunity to design and create commedia dell’arte that was used in the program’s acting classes.

Students were tasked with coming up with a character, designing it in clay and painting and decorating the pieces.

“Festival masks date back to the 16th century and are becoming more and more popular again,” said Cynda Galikin, who taught the course. “The art form never really goes away, and there’s been a resurgence of interest within schools that teach acting.”

Traditionally, commedia dell’arte masks were used to make characters clear to audiences through exaggerated expressions. In some cases, the masks also helped convey the story in less than ideal lighting conditions and to audience members in the back of the theatre, Galikin said.

The art form came to the U.S. in the 1960s and was perhaps most famously featured on “The Masks,” a 1964 episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

This was Galikin’s last class at Stephens, where she’s been an assistant professor of costume design for more than six years. She left the College to return to professional theatre work.

“I’ll miss it,” she said. “There are a lot of things I love about Stephens. The costume program at Stephens is growing, so I’m leaving at an exciting time.”

Students in STI wrapped up work with a musical revue on June 22 after producing five shows this summer.

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