Thanks to Andrea Paciotto, our director Riccardo Pippa received a very special invitation a few months ago: to hold a Masterclass on Mask and Commedia dell’arte from May 20 to 25 at the BIPAF, the prestigious Busan International Performance Festival in Busan, South Korea.
Along with this invitation came the opportunity to conduct a second evening Masterclass from May 20 to 23 at the musical theater department of Dongseo University, just steps away from the Busan Cinema Center, the chosen venue for BIPAF 2024.

For our Teatro dei Gordi company, long committed to trying to export our workshops and shows beyond national borders, this is wonderful news. It is also accompanied by great challenges: how can we assist Riccardo in this complex overseas endeavor? Will we have enough masks for everyone? How will we set up the work in such a short time?
With the support of Crossing the Sea, Cecilia Campani (an actress and trainer with the I Gordi company) will be able to join Riccardo on this journey. And so, the project begins to take shape.
We start creating new masks with the help of mask maker Alberto Chiesa, find ways to bring them all with us, structure the pedagogy for the few days we will have with the students, and brush up on our English.

On May 18, we finally depart for Busan with 40 masks in our luggage, including 5 commedia masks created by Giovanni Balzaretti and 4 larval masks created by Alessandra Faienza (kindly lent by the STM School). We are in for nonstop days: working with the BIPAF Masterclass students during the day and continuing at Dongseo University in the evening. Lunch is at 11, dinner at 6, always at the same trusty spot that serves just five dishes. Around us, weary-looking businessmen and groups of young people on their time off alternate. The kind owner takes care of everyone equally, teaching us how to cut noodles with scissors and mix them with ice.

We would like to stay longer, but it’s already time to get back to the rehearsal room. We translate thoughts and instructions from Italian to English, with translators helping us convey them in Korean, hoping nothing is lost in this game of telephone.

Many participants had heard of Commedia dell’arte, seen it in university books, or heard about it from theater history professors, but encountering the leather masks and the physical and vocal work they require leaves them in awe. Sometimes they cling to familiar forms, blending oriental movements with Italian masks; other times, they surrender to pure exploration and artistic discovery. We even manage to give them a taste of neutral, larval, and expressive masks like those created for our shows by artist Ilaria Ariemme. The evening class contaminates the next morning’s and vice versa as we start focusing our efforts on the final goal.
At the BIPAF 2024 opening ceremony, there is a slot for the Gordi company to present a short performance created with the 13 students of their Masterclass. Images start forming in our heads, and improvisations give way to the repetition of a precise score and the stopwatch to ensure we stay within the time limit.

Punctuality is highly valued here, as are kindness, politeness, and extreme respect for others’ space. We mustn’t overdo it. The performance comes to life, enchanting and moving even in the rehearsal room, lasting 10 minutes and 3 seconds. We hope they forgive us for this typically Italian lapse! Five days have flown by but were enough to plant a small seed, which finally blooms on stage on May 24 at the inauguration.

The end of these two brief journeys brings numerous thanks, bows, applause, gifts, notes, souvenirs, feedback, and hugs, promises to return, and toasts with makgeolli and soju.

Thanks to this journey, we strengthen our ties with the Italian Cultural Institute in Seoul, promoters of our participation in the Festival and eager to host us again for other initiatives by next summer, with the Seoul Art Institute and with an important festival in Hong Kong.

“Thanks to you I know a little bit more about masks now,” we read on the notes on the plane. “It was a happy and ecstatic adventure.” “So much to learn, so little time.” “I’ll remember the days we shared forever.”

We will remember them too.

곧 뵙겠습니다, 부산! *
* See you soon, Busan!