“What I don’t know is more important than what I know”
– Carlo Mazzone-Clementi
Carlo Mazzone-Clementi is often described as a European maestro who held discipline above courtesy. Demanding, often overbearing, he was also universally acknowledged as an essential catalyst influencing such groups as The San Francisco Mime Troupe, A.C.T. and El Teatro de Campesino, the New Vaudeville movement of the 1970s and numerous American clown and physical performers like Avner the Eccentric. He inspired thousands of students through the school he built in Humboldt County, California, now known as Dell’Arte International.
Born in Padova, Italy in 1920, Carlo was an athlete, a soldier during the War, becoming a student at the renowned University of Padua in the late 1940s. Here he would encounter Gianfranco Di Bosio, the man most instrumental in reviving the commedia dell’Arte in the second half of the 20th Century. Di Bosio brought together such luminaries as Marcel Marceau, Dario Fo, Jacques Lecoq, Amleto Sartori (mask-maker) to work with Jean-Luis Barrault and Giorgio Strehler in exploring commedia’s techniques of mime, mask, improvisation and the stock characters.
Carlo would subsequently tour in Italy with Marceau, act in films with Fellini and Vittorio Gassman, study with Jacques Lecoq in Paris, as well as Etienne Decroux. In 1957 he put together his own show, “Six Characters in Search of commedia” where he played a series of multiple masked characters. Seen by Theodore Hoffman and Eric Bentley, he was brought to the United States to tour his show and to teach at Brandeis, NYU and Carnegie. He had his own studio in New York where the likes of Julie Harris studied physical theatre with him. In the mid-60s he came to San Francisco to work with the American Conservatory Company. By 1971 he formed his own troupe, the Dell-Arte Company in Berkeley. He created several summer retreats to his property in the redwoods in southern Humboldt County and eventually moved to Eureka with his second wife and children to start the Dell’Arte School of mime and Comedy (now Dell’Arte International) in 1975. In 1980 he left the school following a conflict with the staff and his wife with whom he was soon to be divorced.
Carlo would spend the next 20 years living in three worlds: the Commedia School outside Copenhagen his former student Ole Brekke had founded there, his home in Padua (where he was acknowledged as a maestro) and Blue Lake (where he had a conflicted relationship).
A deeply conflicted individual, Carlo Mazzone-Clementi had uneasy relations with his wives and children, and all his surrogate student-children. Footage and interviews with his students and contemporaries, including Marcel Marceau, Rene Auberjonois, Donato Sartori, Hovey Burgess, and R.G. Davis of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, form a montage of a man who was all at once fierce, loving, brilliant, demanding, and lonely.
Audiences will be delighted with this fascinating documentary about a complex man and his extraordinary legacy.
I had the wonderful opportunity to study Commedia with Carlo, during the 1970s in Eureka, California. He is all that you say and more. I enjoyed every minute studying with him. Although many of the other students found it very difficult to understand him, because of his broken English; I did not, because I grew up with grandparents that immigrated from Italy! I hope that this film is finished and available for all to see. And I wish I could donate a whole lot of money, but I cannot, so I can only keep hoping that I will someday see this film!