An edition published in Digital Creativity Vol. 10,N:o 3, 1999, pp. 167-179, Swets and Zeitlinger, Lisse

Drama in the Digital Domain

Commedia dell'Arte,Characterisation, Collaboration and Computers

Mika Tuomola

Media Lab of Helsinki University of Art and Design[]
Email. lumi(a-T)

The article discusses how Commedia dell'Arte (CdA) may be used as a design metaphor forMultiuser Virtual World (MVW). Introduction gives an overview of the beginning ideas and the generalfindings of the research, as well as connects CdA and MVW with other forms ofimprovisational and masked performance. An explanatory introduction to CdA is followed by examples on the possibilities of transforming practices and ideas from CdA characters,properties, staging, scenarios, themes and improvisations to MVW.

Keywords: avatar, Commedia dell'Arte, Multiuser Virtual World

1. Introduction

The primitive notion, usually developed among normative circles, of some linear development forward will be done away with. It will be found out that any truly relevant step forward is always accompanied with returning to primeval beginning, or more correctly, with renewal of the beginning. It is possible to move forward only by recollection, not by oblivion. [1]

Working for the digital media concept development and production-company Coronet Interactive, I did the research for this article during 1998 as a consultation for ICL Finland. Following my suggestion, ICL wished to use Commedia dell'Arte (CdA) a five hundred years old improvisational form of street theatre, the origins of which date back to primitive cultures as a beginning approach for designing an avatar world[2] on Internet. The Multiuser Virtual World (MVW) was to be created by Fujitsu's WorldsAway technology.

Due to various corporate policy decisions, the WorldsAway production never took its place. However, Coronet Interactive is still planning another avatar world production based on the research. The interested reader may obtain more specific and applicable information on the research, the workshops based on it[3] and the future production by contacting the author. This article takes a more general, exemplary look at CdA in designing MVWs, which I believe to be among the most promising applications of networked computers considering the future of story-telling as a real time negotiated narrative [4] and community intelligence as a source of information, knowledge and wisdom.

My first intuition to look into CdA as a design metaphor for MVW was inspired by dramaturge Esko Salervo. Salervo concludes his research paper on CdA[5] with three aspects of this farting adult play requiring high professional skills that challenge current linear media.

  1. CdA was theatre in open interaction with its environment. It didn't try to regulate the environment from above, but rather developed according to its audience. The movement was from bottom to top: everyday human life and absurd accidents had more actuality than ceremonies given from above.
  2. CdA showed that there can be theatre without the domination of prewritten text. CdA developed an alternative of its own that used well-functional elements many times (chiusetti) and poorly functional elements only by accident.
  3. CdA's history reminds us that a form of representation that does not maintain a relationship with the surrounding reality and cultural circumstances, will die.

All three aspects are apt in the case of MVWs. MVW develops in interaction with inhabiting community, produces its text in real time improvisations and will die if it looses a meaningful relationship with the surrounding reality.

The final point is very essential. Theatre, film, MVW and other media are never separate from what virtual inhabitants call the Real World (RW) or Real Life (RL). In order to remain attractive to audience, media must always maintain a living relationship with existing cultural reality. The reality consists of variety of thoughts, activities and incidents that change constantly on the scales of private/public, family/society, practical/theoretical, current/historic, mundane/spiritual, philosophical/political and so on. Man must be offered a possibility to place her-/himself on all these changing scales, unless we want to create something that will reach audiences only for a short period time.

Studying CdA's historic background and currently known practices led me to psychological and neurological studies on human perception, as well as to anthropological and sociological perspectives. They all provided tools for understanding CdA's development as a theatrical form and why it still has a strong influence to the way modern media communicate. The tools connected European CdA with the Noh theatre of Japan, the Topeng theatre of Bali, the Hindu iconography and performance of India, film imagery in common use, post-modern theatre and more.

CdA seems to provide tools for a very universal way to communicate with people through masked performances, what MVWs are really all about. Even during the last century of passive television and theatre which I believe to have been merely an interim period between interactive theatre and interactive mass medium[6] CdA's representational solutions have been used by Moliére, Shakespeare, Chaplin and today's soap operas and comedies.[7] How is this possible from an old form of theatre born among the riffraff of the Italian market squares? Because CdA was born from people to people. In order to entertain the international audiences of Venice, Rome and Bologna, it had to find a universal language familiar to people already from their birth and even from the animal origins of human culture. During CdA's centuries long practice of success and failure with various audiences, it was forced to dig into the place, where the very notion of playful communication is first born in human mind. The notion seems to be astoundingly similar all over the globe, as far as the similarities between independently born forms of masked performance indicate.[8]

In the market places of the past centuries and of today CdA and its different forms had to capture and maintain audience attention in the middle of a lot of other information provided by salesmen, charlatans, beggars, public speakers, other entertainers and all sorts of people (see Image 1). Today's web art, entertainment, information and commerce trying to attract and keep an audience during the 24 hour rush hour of the information superhighway is much in the same position than was CdA on the market squares. In order to survive, a CdA group had to be able to address all the social classes present on the market square and, in time, actually evolved into a small community in itself. The CdA stock of characters, their desires and relationships, as well as the plot lines etc. started to reflect the society in whole. Expectedly, Internet has started to do the same in the form of MVWs. To me, the old recipes of CdA proved themselves handy in the situation.

Each time I'm writing about the CdA elements on the left side of the following list of ingredients , I strongly suggest the reader to reflect on replacing them with the MVW terms on the right side of the same list.

character, actoravatar, player, virtual actor/human, icon
movement, mimicry, choreography(avatar) animation, gestures, expressions
mask(avatar) head, avatar
property, propobject, tool
stage, staginglocale, world/environment
scene, scenarioevent, incident

2. Commedia dell'Arte

Around 1500-1600, CdA had the greatest influence in Italy and France, but disseminated all over Europe as far as Great Britain, Russia, Czechoslovakia and Scandinavia. It adjusted to local circumstances without compromising in essentials, and the national variations contributed to its universality.

The essentials of CdA can be found in almost any form of ritual and entertainment rising from people themselves, whether we refer to the masked celebration of the communal past of the Mudmen of Makehuku,[9] to the rules of costume and behaviour in funerals and weddings, or to the nethics and the masked identities of virtual community events. Mihail Baktin would say that this is the case because all these events originate from the same source of human folklore, play and carnival. ...there's no division between performers and observers... At the time of carnival one can live only according to its own rules. In this sense, carnival wasn't a form of artistic theatre, but like life's own real (but temporary) form. It wasn't only acted out, but actually almost lived out (during the carnival). So, in carnival the play itself becomes life for a while. [10]

The popular essentials of CdA included the set of predefined rules for improvisation (Commedia all Improvisa) and the use of the same masked characters (see Images 6-9) whatever the plot (Commedia delle Maschere). CdA scenario only included the list of roles and properties, as well as a summary of entrances, actions and exits. CdA actor then improvised according to the general rules, his mask and the summary. In improvisation, actor also used parts of performance often inherited from older actors of his character. The parts consisted, for example, of lazzi, astonishing sight-gags like acrobatics, and of battute and concetti, eloquent phrases and longer speeches that were used when confessing one's love, giving a mock speech on philosophy and so on.[11] A small number of actors (usually no more than seven) were able to perform a large repertoire of plays, ranging from farces to heavy melodramas, even though none of the plays had a written script. They did so by developing predictable formulas of interaction that gave shape to their improvisations. [12]

CdA stage scenery (canavaccio) was simple and put emphasis on characters and their relationships. Stage was usually a platform with a painted canvas behind. The canvas most commonly presented a city landscape with houses, thus easily merging with market square scenery, but it could also present completely imaginary landscapes for the purposes of a fantasy play.

Entertaining music played an essential part in CdA performances. A performance often started with music, had love serenades and comic dances in the middle, and ended up with an easy-to-catch tune that would remain in audience's mind even after their departure. The music lured people to see the performance on a market square, kept their attention by focusing into the themes of the performance and sent them home happily recollecting what had happened.

CdA was much like a chess game. It created interesting, dramatic situations not because the game was written beforehand, but because the rules of representation were predefined and clear. Each character, like each chess piece, could only do certain things. They could only use certain masks, mimics, passages and properties.

3. Examples of Commedia dell'Arte in Multiuser Virtual World Design and Social Maintenance

Is it possible? Can a Drama which holds the stage for two centuries be created without the assistance of the literary man? It can. Then if it can be created once it can be created twice? It can. (Edward Gordon Craig)[13]

According to Sherry Turkle, role-playing character serves psychological needs man has. As the needs change, characters change. [14] Constructing a virtual being to represent oneself is work in constant progress. Trusting Turkle, a good variety of MVW avatara is a necessity, if we want to serve varying needs participators have. CdA can provide us a formula for sets of varieties that have potential to create dramatic action in MVW for the pleasure of participators and observers.

I find correct, in fact, the idea proposed by some scholars, of calling this genre, instead of Commedia dell'Arte, more specifically 'comedy of comedians' or 'of actors'. The entire theatrical transaction rests on their shoulders: the actor as historian and author, stage manager, storyteller, director, Dario Fo writes.[15] Like CdA, MVW always ends up to be the work of its actors, inhabiting community. Thus the most important single design issue is user's representation in virtual world. Participator ambitions are mediated via her/his avatar to drive action in the world.

3.1st Example: Focused Avatara

In a rehearsal of Luciano Brogi's CdA group, as a young actor rehearsed Il Capitano with maestro Luciano,[16] I truly realised the meaning of focusing body gestures in order to carry avatar emotions clearly. The young actor Luka, having his learning mainly in the mainstream of psychological, reality imitating acting, would not comprehend nor accept the way of CdA's simple and powerful character presentation. On video, as Luciano and Luka rehearse Il Capitano side by side, one can clearly see that Luka's way of increasing inner emotion is not the key for communicating the character. As one looks at Luciano beside him, one sees that the physical gestures of focusing attention first on one step, then to another, then to hands, audience, the right leg etc. really convey character's emotions more powerfully. Well-considered focus of movement has much stronger impact than mere increasing of gesture nuances along emotion.

In acting CdA mask, this ability to create a character by focusing visibly to the points of attention is referred to as the stare of mask. Mask must stare at whatever is in focus: audience in theatre or by screen, fellow actor or avatar, theatrical property or generally usable object. In order to achieve this, CdA actors and MVW participators must live up to the mask, realise its limited focus points and make the best out of them. The stare must naturally be created already in design phase, or it cannot become animated and lived up to.

CdA actor imagines that his mask has only one eye situated at the end of the nose in order to achieve the stare. Avatar animator working with CdA principles thinks the same and pulls the animated avatar from its nose in order to achieve the most powerful focusing ability. The neck has to become alive in a manner that is rarely demanded of it in the three dimensional world... In Commedia mask work the body is often required to be doing something different, working contrapuntally or even paradoxically. The shoulders are part of the trunk, of the body and its intentions, not of the neck and the gaze of the mask. [17]

Focus points as emotion carriers may be made even more powerful by using effect sounds and music in order to create stronger sense of presence. Indeed, nearly in all forms of body movement oriented representation like CdA, Topeng, Noh, Hindu performance and dance movement and gestures are given further emphasis by music and sound.[18]

The choreographic simplicity of CdA's dramatic impact is very encouraging as designing avatar gestures and movements for MVW. We can breathe life into avatar without attempting fashionable naturalism lent from film imagery and reality. The Balinese Topeng performers do the same than their CdA colleagues: simple character movements and their relationships towards each other communicate character emotions (see Images 2-4). Topeng is not 'like life,' either; but watching a Topeng performance is a great deal 'like living,' and living very well, with all senses alert, an awakened sense of humour, an appreciation of those who have gone before, and a heightened sense of the consequences and potential of human actions. [19] It is possible and currently necessary for technology restricted MVWs to focus on simple, yet powerful, avatar gesture and movement design rather than to complex and bandwidth consuming reality imitation.

3.2nd Example: Symbolic Objects

CdA hired strong symbolism in its use of properties. The wooden blades used by Arlecchino, Il Capitano, Pantalone and others were often used to show their level of erection. Franceschina could talk and demonstrate how she stirs stirs, stirs, stirs the soup when cooking, as actually telling to adult audiences about her ways of love making.[20] Similar symbolism can also be found from the drawings that have described CdA performances (see Image 5). This was, of course, necessary at the times of severe censorship practised by the Catholic Church. In order to deepen the meaning of actions taking place in MVW, symbolic significance for objects should certainly be implied also for other purposes than use of ambiguous humour.

3.3rd Example: Staging Avatara

According to Reid Hoffman, a former director of Fujitsu's WorldsAway technology, the two most important evolutions and capacities of virtual communities are their casual environments and visual overlay.[21] For CdA staging these were also important elements. Stage had to be easy to put up by performance group and easy to approach by audience. Thus visual overlay usually was a square platform with a familiar background painting of a city house that could be inhabited by a multitude of CdA characters. Also MVW locales need to be easy to put up by world maintainers in order to serve quickly unpredictable needs of community. And may be the set-up of whole world should merge to the surrounding Real World like did CdA stages to familiar market squares.

As locating characters on the square platform with classical CdA manner, maestro Luciano Brogi crosses stage with two diagonals per each character, creating a kind of chess board for CdA characters. The process goes as the following figure shows.

Characters are located to the meeting points of the diagonals. Centre place is given to character that is wanted to have the strongest influence to audience. I don't know why, but when there's more than one centre on the entire stage, the right side makes a character stronger, says Brogi as he refers to a scene with, for example, two or four actors.

On the narrow platform spaces of CdA performed on market squares, there really wasn't any depth, just as there isn't on computer screen. The most important matter was the visibility of characters and their two-dimensional location in relationship to each other on platform. Situation is similar on computer screen as a medium to MVW. If avatar is at great distance (in three-dimensional world) from viewer, it really disappears from stage and may not serve the needs that participators have for proper communication.

Learning from CdA, MVW maintainers and event designers should pay attention to their and their staff's location in spaces they appear in. Do they want to give attention to other community members or is it necessary to have attention for themselves? Also, the co-ordinates into which avatara are designed to move to as entering a locale in MVW becomes important considering the psychological influence Brogi talks about. Do we want avatara to become centres of attention as they enter space (visible on the screens of other participators) or should they just sneak in relatively unnoticed? The first alternative would provide support for constantly changing situations in world, as the latter would enhance the continuity of ongoing activity as newcomer enters space. With the means of technology in hand, can we locate avatara automatically, as Brogi does, according to their number in space, so attention would be directed as desired by MVW designers?

CdA character staging, which varies from scene to scene in order to keep performance constantly interesting, suggests that there should be differently automated ways of entering different spaces and for different avatara. As CdA changes character staging by time, MVW can do it by space.[22]

For the sake of casual environments, we must build up MVW stages that are easy to approach and that call for participation with the kind of means described above. They also should be visually attractive and interesting, offering additional value to what reality is about like do the exaggerated features of CdA masks. This calls for fantastic design that is, however, familiar to people from their everyday life or from media they are following.

3.4th Example: Structured World Events

Though CdA was improvised on the basis of its representational rules, one should not underestimate underlying work usually done by maestro, leading actor, who designed scenarios that were acted out. World maintainers and active avatara are much in the same position than CdA maestri. They need to design suggested activities well in order to carry them through successfully in virtual community.

In CdA, each scenario included always a 1) proposition, 2) development and 3) solution. The practice was the same in the Japanese Noh theatre that used the principles of Jo (introduction), Ha (breaking; exposition) and Kyu (rapid; denouement).[23] The smallest actions (like lazzi and concetti) were designed in the same manner in order to provide constant possibilities for other characters to enter without spoiling drama: each solution provided a place for entrance, new proposition.[24]

Verbal repetitions of previous scenarios were often practised between acts (also divided in three) to inform newcomers in audience. Also each act began with a musical piece or something else entertaining and capturing in order to bring new people into watching performance. MVW maintainer may use similar repetitions and attractions as more avatara enter to listen to her/his scenario proposition.

The three-part scenario may further be used in MVW, for example, by providing participator with a tempting proposition on the very first step as entering a world. The task would be designed to teach the world and how to function in it and to put participator in contact with other avatara. After these developments, participator should be offered a clear reward on learning, like additional abilities or object(s). The challenge of the scenario would be making the process of learning the world, its interface, rules and customs entertaining. Learning these limits by fun will attract participators to stay, as it at the same time leads them to the sources of having even better time as learning the possibilities and necessities provided by design limitations.

3.5th Example: Dynamic Themes

The basic plot lines and scenarios of CdA were really turning around three or four goals: love, money, vengeance and food.[25] Eight to nine characters portrayed nearly entire society. There was Pantalone representing the power of money, Il Capitano military and Il Dottore law and academic world. Nobility presented chased after love and revenge, while servants and charlatans were usually after money and food. Only church and religion as social factors were lacking.<

Today's soap opera and other entertainment turns around the same themes as well and, not surprisingly, usually doesn't take a part in discussion over people's belief systems. Perhaps that's why Dallas can be popular even in India and Africa.

CdA usually presented the same universal battle again and again. The conflict was always between the old and the new, very often between young lovers (nobility, or servants like Arlecchino and Colombina) and the old forces of society (Pantalone, Il Dottore, Il Capitano). The same battle and the change from old to new we witness constantly in all forms of drama and ritual, as well as in our own lives.

Love, business and the change have also become central in social avatar worlds. Moving to new phases in virtual life is constant in them. People have ceremonies of joining societies, they get married, change apartments, possessions and their virtual identities. Events born from virtual community itself are those familiar to us already from the beginning of human ceremonies acted out during transitional events such as birth, death, initiation, marriage, and seasonal change. [26] Virtual life in itself is transitional by nature, a shift from one reality to another.

The celebration of change is in the very core of community. As developing further overall themes of the transitional world of virtual community, it should be noted, however, that or a break in work cannot become a celebration in itself merely. In order to be celebrations , they must be connected with something from another sphere of existence, from spiritual-ideological sphere. They need a sanction that does not come from the world of facilities and necessities, but from the world of higher aims of human existence, in other words, from the world of ideals. Without it there can be no celebration. [27]

3.6th Example: Tools for Improvisation

Anything is permitted: the customary hierarchies vanish, along with all social, sex, caste, and trade distinctions. Men disguise themselves as women, gentlemen as slaves, the poor as rich. (Octavio Paz)[28]

As rules for improvisation were clear and basic premises accepted, it was time for CdA group to go with subject (Andare a soggetto). All material masks, costumes, properties, etc. had to be at arm's length (Commedia a braccia), so actors could concentrate on the spontaneous flow of improvisation rather than on looking for necessary objects. It was time for Commedia all'improvvisa. Anything was allowed to happen inside premises.

Improvisation was made more fluent by few practices, which may be used to enrich communication in MVW as well. In addition to ready rehearsed lazzi (sight gags), there were also memorised passages like battute (stock repartees) and concetti (stock speeches). Monologues were also stock, taken from repertorio or zibaldone (gag-book) kept by actor.

As lazzi can be implemented into MVW character animations, a management system for stock speeches and gags can also be provided to participator. The WorldsAway worlds have shown that the sort of system would be highly appreciated, as participators themselves have started to create the kind of programs that insert text files (jokes, poems etc.) into their avatar speech bars. For MVW designers and maintainers such a tool can be efficient as well, as they can drive action in avatar world also by providing participators with ready made passages according to the themes of MVW or an event. Text based world design and management tool allows much faster execution of new ideas on written level.

For MVW maintainers involved with the CdA based organisation of the chaos of MVW improvisations, as they lead participators' way according to the themes of world, Maurice Sand's thoughts on what can go wrong with improvisation may prove useful in the end:

The strange thing is that, when you begin to improvise, far from having nothing to say, you find yourself overflowing with dialogue and make scenes last too long as a result. The hidden danger in this genre is to sacrifice the development of the basic idea to incidents which stem from it. You must also be very alert... to the possibility of having to sacrifice what you were going to say as a result of something your partner has said, and also to revitalise the action when you sense him flagging; to bring the scene to back to its objective when the others are wandering off the point and stick it to yourself when your imagination is trying to persuade you to go off into dreamland. [29]

4. Conclusion

Man always comes up with an explanation, a theory or a world of ideas that justifies what she/he has done and does in life. By nature, we aim towards unity between our actions and thinking of the world. Thus our actions and activities in the worlds whether real or virtual formulate the worlds to us, change constantly our vision of them. As building up MVW, it is an imperative to recognise this and understand that whatever avatar world encourages/discourages its inhabitants to do or from doing, will formulate the final idea of community. It becomes a necessity to provide MVW with a limited, carefully designed set of possible and necessary actions. Action formulates world, as it formulates drama.[30]

Interaction between virtual and real worlds is constant. Virtual community's actions also influence the real world and the actual running of MVW service. Community will express its feelings and requirements and is thus an essential part in developing avatar world. For example, the US Fujitsu flat rate decision for the current WorldsAway customers originated from its virtual communities. On the other hand, the decision also reflected the general drive of telecommunications services in the real world.

As MVW design and its set of possible actions given to participators influence the way they concretely want to change the nature of service, service provider needs to think over its interests of change and development in MVW's future already as world is under design. For example, soon avatar world participators may not enter MVW only through wired computer units. They'll enter through mobile computers/phones even just for a five-minute conversation and fun of their interest. This brings a challenge for today's MVW service designers wanting to address future target groups as well.

CdA and communal performance all over the world show us that it is possible to unite a multitude of human activities within MVW.[31] Spectators of CdA did their shopping, played cards and listened to public announcements at the same time and in the same place, where CdA performance took place. This suggests that MVW can be a social world as well as a gaming world at the same time and much more.

CdA offers us a set of rules for MVW participator representation and action. The rules' past success was due to their capability of providing a form that attracted a multitude of different audiences from the riffraff of the streets to the highest courts in Europe. Demand for the interactive form was great and thus performance groups could make a very nice living with it. CdA spread all over Europe not because it was established art, but because it was a good production concept for a multitude of contents that varied depending on culture and country. It is my belief that the same concept can be revitalised in the development of MVWs.

In the research, I aimed to take my first steps in continuing the interrupted development of Commedia dell'Arte and applying it to the current places of interactive performance, Multiuser Virtual Worlds. There is a lot of catching up to do, but let us not despair.

...any truly relevant step forward is always accompanied with returning to primeval beginning, or more correctly, with renewal of the beginning. It is possible to move forward only by recollection, not by oblivion. [32]


Image 1. According to some scholars, Commedia dell'Arte originated from market squares, where charlatans started performing and using masks in order to attract buyers for their products, usually no good medication of some sort. In time, selling performance became more important than actual product, and people were glad to buy pills just in order to see a show. An early version of theatre ticket was created. (All the images in the article are from the collections of SIAE Biblioteca del Burcardo, photographed by Luciano Brogi and digitally edited by Mika Tuomola.)

Image 2. Zanni's and Pantalone's poses communicate clearly their social standing. This fives us an idea how CdA gestures may have related to each other on stage and how avatar types may become clearly identifiable by their animation and poses in MVW.

Image 3. The pose of lower social status does not prevent the servant Harlequin from ridiculing the master Pantalone. Wooden blades, like the one Harlequin is holding, were commonly used as phallic symbols in CdA performance (see section 3.2).

Images 4. At the end of a CdA performance, the character related status poses were put aside as the concluding song began. After ridiculing the false hierarchies of the real world, all actors were presented as equals, in the true state of all people.

Image 5. In the age of powerful church and strict morals, Commedia dell'Arte hired symbolism in order to convey secret messages to audience. Here Pantalone holds the flower on his waist as the symbol of penis and the nature of his passions towards Cornelia. The scheming lady, however, is flirting with Arrlechino as offering her branch clustered with nuts to the zanni (servant), who obviously cares more about the wine the tavern keeper is offering. In the bottom middle, one can see the consequences symbolised by the rabbit. Symbolism and secret messages can bring more complex layers of meaning to MVW as well.

Image 6. Images 6-9 show the development of the Commedia dell'Arte character Arrlechino. The costume, the name and even the gender of Arlecchino changed, but the character type remained clearly recognisable. By the 18th century, actors revealed their face behind masks (Images 8-9) in the end of the performance in order to receive recognition for their mastery in acting a character. The artist and individual behind mask had become important, as they have become in Internet. An avatar's unmasking in virtual community usually occurs by revealing the owner's homepage for other community members to investigate.

Image 7.

Image 8.

Image 9.


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Baktin, Mihail (1995). Francois Rabelais: Keskiajan ja renessanssin nauru [Francois Rabelais: The Laughter of Medieaval and Renaissance]. Kustannus Oy Taifuuni.>

Baktin, Mihail (1979). Kirjallisuuden ja estetiikan ongelmia [Problems of Literature and Aesthetics]. From Salervo (1984).

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Brogi, Luciano (1978). Video recording of his students' Commedia dell'Arte performance in the Central Park of New York.

Damer, Bruce (1998). Avatara! Exploring and Building Virtual worlds on the Internet. Peachpitt Press.

Emigh, John (1996). Masked Performance: The Play of Self and Other in Ritual and Theatre. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Green, Martin & Swan, John (1986). The Triumph of Pierrot: The Commedia dell'Arte and the Modern Imagination. Macmillan Publishing Company.

Murray, Janet H. (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck. The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. The MIT Press.

Rudlin, John (1994). Commedia dell'Arte: An Actor's Handbook. Routledge.

Salervo, Esko (1984). Commedia dell'Arte. Unpublished, available from the Finnish Central Library of Theatre & Dance.

Tuomola, Mika (1998). Digital video recordings of the rehearsals of Luciano Brogi's Commedia dell'Arte group at IALS, Istituto Addestramento Lavoratori dello Spettacolo, Rome in July 26-31.

Tuomola, Mika (1998). Daisy's Amazing Discoveries: Part II - Learning from Interactive Drama in the Digital Creativity journal Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.137-152. Swets & Zeitlinger.

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[1] Baktin (1979).

[2] In Sanskrit and Indian mythology, avatar means a Hindu deity's incarnation. The deities took various avatara in order to accomplish different worldly tasks. Seduction of a princess required an attractive youth avatar, as fighting a demon needed a lion or another beast like incarnation.

Currently, avatara or avatars, the English plural in common use refer to people's incarnations, or representations, in virtual worlds. Like the avatara of Hindu deities, the avatara of people should also, naturally, be designed to be useful to whatever task they are needed for. Avatar world thus means virtual world, which can be inhabited by user/participator representations.

[3] See, for instance, the Helsinki University of Art and Design workshop results at Other workshops have included Design of Dramatic Action for Avatar Worlds at the Art and Communication Department of Malmš University <> and Commedia dell'Arte in Virtual Community Design at Satama Interactive Ltd.

[4] Ylva GislŽn at the Narrativity and Communication Studio of the Swedish Interactive Institute <> has introduced the term negotiated narrative . In her ongoing PhD thesis, she replaces interactive with negotiated, as looking for the live role-playing games as a narrative approach for digital media.

[5] Salervo.

[6] Beardon & Tuomola, p. 19.

[7] Green & Swan.

[8] Emigh.

[9] Emigh, pp. 7-14.

[10] Baktin (1995), pp. 9-10.

[11] In MVW, actor can be considered as user/participator. MVW designers provide her/him with the set of masks (avatara), properties (objects, spaces to use) and rules (gesture language, terms of service etc.), as MVW maintainers bring in scenarios, the day to day vision, theme and activities. User learns from old community members additional tricks (like shorthand phrases of communication and how to make a better use of the world and its elements).

[12] Murray, p. 235.

[13] Rudlin, p. 3.

[14] Windows, accesses to different personalities and realities, keep on adding on our computer screens. One of Turkle«s research subjects describes: I split my mind. I'm getting better at it. I can see myself as being two or three or more· RL is just one more window. Turkle, p. 13.

[15] Rudlin, p. 15.

[16] Tuomola, a video clip from the first attended rehearsal.

[17] Rudlin, pp. 40-41.

[18] The Natyasastra, a Sanskrit manual of acting written and compiled between 450 BC and 200 AD, outlines two approaches to performance. One is lokadharmi (the path of nature/the world) and the other natyadharmi (the path of art/dance). Lokadharmi stresses conversational dialogue and familiar movement, as natyadharmi stresses music, dance, poetry and song [Emigh, pp. 27-28]. As it is impossible with web technology in hand to replicate daily life reality, I believe our way with MVWs must be that of natyadharmi. Having chosen the way, let us use all its potential including sound and music.

[19] Emigh, p. 191.

[20] Tuomola, a video clip from the rehearsal of Luciano Brogi's CdA group.

[21] Damer, p. 448-449.

[22] Tuomola, Daisy's... . Making the space to convey rhythm usually conveyed by changes in time in linear media was also used in our Daisy production.

[23] Rudlin, p. 54.

[24] Rudlin, pp. 51-55.

[25] Rudlin, p. 53.

[26] Emigh.

[27] Baktin (1995), p. 10.

[28] Rudlin, p. 13.

[29] Rudlin.

[30] Aristotle.

[31] Emigh, pp. 22-23.

[32] Baktin (1979).


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