May 2014 Archways

The Serpent Woman

Behind the scenes of the theater program’s spring production.

Photos by Paola Nogueras ’84

Before there were cartoons, there was commedia dell’arte, a theatrical form that was born in 16th-century Italy and is characterized by the use of masked, stock characters and a highly physical style of comic acting. This tradition came to rambunctious life in the Theater Program of Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges’ spring production of The Serpent Woman, a rarely performed tragicomic fable originally written in 1762 by Carlo Gozzi.

Freely adapted by James Dobner and directed by Aaron Cromie, a lecturer in Bryn Mawr’s arts program, the fast-paced play depicts the love story between fairy Cherestani and mortal king Farruscad. When they wed, Cherestani makes Farruscad swear that he will never look into the box containing the secret of her fairy origins. But Farruscad eventually succumbs to his curiosity, and Cherestani is ripped away from him. Her evil fairy sisters make him perform a torturous—but hilarious—series of tests to earn her back.

The theater program strives to foster creative collaboration between students and faculty, and its productions have won accolades from area critics for years. The program’s production of The Serpent Woman was filled with colorful, oversized puppets and masks constructed by the actors and by Cromie, who is known for his work in the commedia form and in mask making and puppetry.

Click on the photo below to see a gallery of images of the production's rehearsals.

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