Sopris Theatre Company brings Renaissance-era comedy to the Wheeler |

Sopris Theatre Company brings Renaissance-era comedy to the Wheeler

Jessica Cabe
Glenwoood Springs Post Independent
Sopris Theatre Company presents "The Glorious Ones," a bawdy musical about a theater troupe during the Italian Renaissance, at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Scot Gerdes |

If You Go...

Who: Sopris Theatre Company

What: “The Glorious Ones”

When: Jan. 23 & 24, 7 p.m.

Where: Wheeler Opera House

Cost: $20

Ticekts: Wheeler box office;

The latest production from Sopris Theatre Company bounces from over-the-top humor to quiet, empathetic moments — and right back again.

“The Glorious Ones,” a musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (who also wrote “Ragtime,” “Seussical” and more), is a bawdy show that follows a 16th century Commedia dell’arte acting troupe onstage and off during the Italian Renaissance.

Commedia dell’arte was a style of improvisation during the Renaissance that set the foundation for modern sitcoms. It uses a set of stock characters, most of them masked, and places them in different situations.

“The whole notion of Commedia is very much an artform to be studied,” said director Brad Moore. “We’ll have a bunch of stuff in the lobby and in the program about the history of Commedia and the stock characters.”

“The Glorious Ones” has a cast of seven characters that fit these archetypes, but the interesting thing is they shift roles as the musical progresses. For example, Francesco, played by Scott Elmore, starts off as a servant character and shifts into the leading man, creating tension among the rest of the troupe and begging the question: If nothing lasts forever, what do we as actors leave behind?

“Are we remembered?” Moore said. “Are we a flash in the pan? Do people care? Particularly in days when things weren’t recorded — there weren’t films, you couldn’t have a movie sitting on the shelf forever. This was, you go out and perform, and have you given something to society, and have you made a difference?”

Moore said one of the greatest challenges for himself and the actors was finding the sweet spot for two polar opposite acting styles: the over-the-top, slapstick style characteristic of classic Commedia dell’arte and the more modern, realistic style American audiences are used to. For example, within the first five minutes of the musical, a mother dramatically leaves her baby on a stoop, and the two men who find the infant toss him back and forth in exasperation, unsure what to do with him. But then there are truly intimate, touching moments between characters.

“I think the challenges from my viewpoint really have been to find the clear path and the clear distinction between honest and realistic acting and the style of acting that was true of the past,” Moore said. “Realism in acting as we know it has only been around for 100 years, maybe. So then to try and find these wild and crazy, over-the-top bits, it’s just funny. Some of these people I’m saying, ‘No, you can be even more over-the-top,’ and some I’m saying, ‘No, you can cut back.’”

Allie Kurzka, who plays Isabella, the “innamorata” or young lover stock character, is performing on stage for the very first time. She said putting everything together has been a bigger challenge than she imagined, especially since the cast and crew had two fewer weeks of rehearsal than usual due to scheduling issues.

“It’s been a lot more commitment than I expected,” Kurzka said. “We’ve basically rehearsed almost every single day since I’ve gotten the part. Since I’ve never been in a show before, it’s been really scary toward the end imagining it coming together. But I’ve always wanted to do a show ever since I was young, and I kind of felt like I passed the point in my life where I would have done it. Then here I am doing it, so I’m really happy.”

“The Glorious Ones” had a December run at the New Space Theatre at Colorado Mountain College. This weekend’s shows at the Wheeler Opera House are being produced through a new partnership between the Wheeler and Sopris Theatre Company.

“It’s something that we started a year ago,” Moore said. “Basically it’s that we wanted to try and build a little larger name for ourselves within the valley. Because I used to be on the Wheeler board and things like that, I spent some time working out the notion of getting us up there and it worked out that we ended up taking ‘Amadeus’ up there last year, and it was very well-received. It was a great experience for us, and luckily it was a nice experience for them. They started using some of our students on their crews for different shows.”

Moore said he encourages people to come to the show if for no other reason than they don’t really have the opportunity to see it anywhere else: The only other company performing it now is in Milan, Italy.

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