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Theatre students at James Clemens created the play based 16th century commedia dell’arte performances. Photo by Joshua Berry

James Clemens Theatre to present their award-winning play “The Dentist” this Friday

MADISON – The James Clemens Theatre students will present their play, The Dentist, in a special public performance this Friday at James Clemens High School.

Students in James Clemens Theatre have developed the commedia dell’arte play through improvisation. Seventeenth century commedia dell’arte performances were mostly improvised, so the existing “scripts” do not include lines–only stage directions and major plot points.

The students performed the play at the District Trumbauer Festival, where they advanced to the State level, and then advanced to the Southeastern Theatre Conference. They are one of only two schools to represent Alabama at the conference in Louisville, KY, Feb. 26-March 1.

According to artistic director, Amy Patel, students were skeptical when the play was announced, because comedies are rare in the one-act competition, writing a play is a risk, improvisation is much harder than people realize and they had never seen this style.

“They quickly set their doubts aside and committed to the creation, and are extremely proud to bring this “new classical” commedia to a 21st century audience,” she said.

The students invited UAH professor Amy Guerin to be their guest artist to advise them throughout the process.

Students did their own dramaturgical research, and Amy taught the stock physicality of each character. Students “wrote” each scene through improvisation.

Patel said instead of the traditional playwriting process–writing a scene, then seeing how it works onstage — the students improvised each scene multiple times to hone ideas, then wrote the lines and directions into a Google doc that all students and directors could edit.

The state award-winning play combines 17th century commedia dell’arte ingredients: A few lovers,  one creepy old man, lots of slaps, punches, kicks and falls,  a couple of songs, commedia masks, and 17th century dentistry.

The Dentist will be performed Friday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. at James Clemens High School, 11306 County Line Road in Madison. Tickets are $10 at the door and at www.showtix4u.com

All proceeds support our trip to the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Louisville, KY.

The play is rated Rated PG (for suggestive dialogue and comedic violence).

The play was selected as the winner of Best of Show and Best Ensemble at the State Trumbauer One-Act Play Festival, and winner of Best of Show and Best Actor at the District 1 Trumbauer One-Act Play Festival.

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