To plan, or not to plan, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of an outrageous virus,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of boredom,
And by opposing end them with a calendar?
To die, to plan no more; to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand unnatural shocks
of another lockdown? ‘Tis a resignation
Devoutly to be avoided. To plan, to dream,
To dream, perchance to Teach; aye, there’s the joy,
For in that burst of life, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal fear,
Must give us play, motion and clowns’ love

William G. Shakespeare

Joan Schirle


Rest in joy
dearest Joan

February 4, 2022

They arrived today
on a wooden canoe on the Mad River
They suddenly appeared on the crisp water
skillfully stirring on the current

They left the canoe by the bridge
and they are now walking in the streets of Blue Lake

Isabella Andreini is leading the company

We heard the news
she says with a smile
We are here for Joan
We are here to take her with us

Zanni is cursing and swearing
hiding his face behind his furry eyebrows

Arlecchino is jumping around
hopping his sadness away

Sta’ fermo !
Brighella shouts at him
Be quiet!
He’s holding a bottle of Carlo Rossi in his hand
and a barrel of tears in his belly

Colombina is humming a joyful tune
to push back her tears
It was such a joy and an honor
to be serving you Joan

Il Dottore is composing a tirata
Ludum vincit mortem
Play conquers death
Joanna pulcherrima est

Il Capitano is hitting the clouds with his sword
Yo soy, Yo soy, Yo soy…
so lost without you Joan

Pantalone is speechless
holding his head in his hands
No xe vero
It can’t be true
Not yet, not you, not now
C’est pas vrai Ostia!

The Innamorati are sobbing in tunes
I love you so much Joan !
I love you more !
Not as much as me !

Even Menato is here
He jumped off from another century
cursing loudly in his wild Paduan dialect
Putana mo’ del vivere
Damn bitchy life
Prima Carletto e desso ti
First Carlo and now you Joan
You still had so many scenes in the show!
Damn it!

Far in the distance
the Redwoods are weeping
and the Ocean is more pacific than ever

the magnificent Isabella Andreini from Padua
orders everybody to stop in front of Dell’Arte

Joan is there
dressed in white
with her suitcase full of masks
and her witty blue eyes wider than the sky

She stands at the door of that vessel full of dreams
known as Dell’Arte
the magnificent gem
she carried in her body and soul
for decades of poetic joy

I am ready
she says
It is a little too soon
but I am ready
It has been an honor and a joy
to serve the Muses with your masks

She is smiling

Isabella walks towards Joan
and gently bows in front of her
The two women are standing there
in silence
they are whispering thank you

Two pillars of beauty and rigor
opera and joy
They are hugging each other
holding the universe in between their hearts

I died giving birth to my eighth child
Isabella says
You have lived giving birth
to a multitude of artists and poets
and to countless acts of joy
play, rigor and beauty

On behalf of all of the Masks
I thank you Joan

And I wish you Happy Birthday

Everybody is crying
the Masks, the birds, the clouds, the sky
the hills, the trees, the wind
and the Mad River
today madder than ever

And all the people of Blue Lake
and beyond
gathered here for Joan’s birthday
All the hearts she touched
and the countless masks who came into existence
under her caring fierce witty eyes

Brighella comes bobbing towards them
Carlo is waiting for you with Prosecco
You two have a lot to catch up on

Colombina picks up the suitcase
with a skip and a giggle
It’s time to go now

And Joan followed Isabella and the Masks
on their way back to the Mad River
They took a long time to leave
walking through her birthday party
There were so many hugs to give
tears to dance
and goodbyes to sing

And that’s how Joan left Blue Lake
in the company of the Masks
on her birth day
on a winter morning of Twenty Twenty-Two

They walked to the Mad River
and their canoe floated away
into the ocean and beyond…

Joan Schirle Obituary

Joan Schirle – Dell’Arte Website

Joan Schirle: The Ascent of a Legend , on American Theatre

A video link: Arlecchino Appleseed—How Carlo Mazzone Clementi Brought Commedia dell’arte to the New World—July 7, 2015 Blue Lake, CA

If you want to contact Giovanni or send him comments or feedback, you can write to


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I was teaching again the other day
finally live after too many months
One studio full of light
Eight human beings in flesh and bones
Eight fools in heart and soul
Eight clowns in body and mind

The studio was so happy
that the windows did not want to close

The tatami was whispering
I missed your feet so much
The mugs were singing
we missed your thirsty lips
The benches were rapping
we missed your bumpy bum

I was teaching again the other day
and there was a distinct moment
when eight people were laughing together
and the teacher was speaking poetry about the work
and we were all laughing more
and crying a bit

And the teacher felt
Shall we lift our face masks?
We are all tested and well
and the windows are open
and the fans are blowing
and the play is rising
and the Muses are all here

Everybody agreed in a sight
and the medical masks were gone

The roof vanished
and everybody was suddenly flying
each face was the sun
beaming with joy

We all cried and shouted
and that was the end of the pandemic
by clowns acclamation

I was teaching again the other day
and I was so happy
and the group was so happy
and the teacher was so happy

And it happens that that teacher was me
the best part of me
the one who survived
during fifteen months of pandemic sadness
and came back with his eyes cleaned by dreaming
his heart refined by longing
his mind sharpened by poetry
his soul expanded by the lockdowns

I was teaching again the other day
and there was a distinct moment
when the teacher heard a voice in his eyes saying
I love so much this current instant
If we can all stay in this instant
and breath
and play
everything is going to be fine
for a very very long time


Isn’t it sad?
Are we adrift?
Me here again in lockdown
You on the screen
Where are the clowns?

Isn’t it sad?
Theaters are closed
You all out there starving for play
Me who can’t teach
Where are the clowns
Send in the clowns

Just when I want to make all my plans
Finally knowing that soon I’ll be playing with you
Teaching my classes again with my usual flair
Sure of my lines
No one is here

Don’t you miss play?
Don’t you miss joy?
I know that you want what I want
But now all is fear
Where are the clowns
There ought to be clowns

What a surprise
Who could foresee
I’ve come to miss you all more than the air that I breath
How hard to feel that we’re quietly drifting away
What a surprise
What a heartbreak

Isn’t it sad?
Are we adrift?
Me here again in lockdown
You on the screen
Where are the clowns?
Quick send in the clowns

Isn’t it sad?
Isn’t it mad?
We’re loosing our days, our life and our career
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns
Well, maybe next year

Adapted from the song Send in the Clowns by Stephen Sondheim (1973)


It is official. I am a digital luddite, a saboteur of algorithms, an analogical dinosaur.
Technology is an extension of human ingenuity, a great creative event that simplifies our life and allows us to perform tasks that our body or mind could not achieve. I am happy with that. But when a technology stops serving us, and we start serving it, I see addiction coming. And the regression of human qualities and skills. This is what I see happening with the Internet.
In the beginning I was browsing the net, now the net is browsing me.

The Internet drives me insane, literally: it triggers my mind and soul to loose gravitas, to loose weight, taste, touch and smell, making reality inconsistent.
I prefer real reality to virtual reality.
The virtual cannot replace the authentic.

I do not like the social media field. I do not want to be there.
I want to use direct communication with real people: I don’t want to say the same thing to everybody.
My voice is not the same when I speak to my friend, my father, my love or a person who is curious about my work.
If I have lost contact with my primary school mates, there must be a reason.
The structure and timing of social media is unreal and unhealthy to me: I find the fragmentation and multiplication of information and connections unbearable.
There is too much of everything.
I can process only a limited amount of connections if I want to be truly connected.
I don’t have and can’t have 1.000 friends, not even 500 or 100.
To call them contacts would be far more honest.
If I want to say something to the world there are websites, blogs, emails and books. They make sense to me. If I don’t reply to an email it means that I don’t want to, or that I am living beyond my true capacity of staying connected. The excuse that I don’t have time for it, so Facebook is a more efficient way to stay connected, is a lie. Time is limited and priorities need to be chosen.
I want to bear the consequences of my yes and no and I want other people to do the same.

I do not want to perform a conversation in front of an invisible public ready to perform their reply, not to me but to themselves and their public. This is a degeneration of communication that I do not wish to be part of.

The world is migrating from the real space to the cyberspace. This is an unprecedented change in the collective consciousness and in the neurology of humankind. At the same time our civilization is destroying the planet ecosystems, in a collective lack of presence, attention, awareness and physical care. I find these two phenomena deeply connected. This migration online worries me: cyberspace is an illusion of space in which everybody performs the identity that they wish to show to the world. A performance of the self without the constraints and feedback that are given by the real space of the physical existence and the reciprocity, density and complexity of embodied contact.

I am a primate, I am a social animal. I don’t have a body, I am a body. I need and want an embodied social life.

I am tired of too much information.
Information is not knowledge: true knowledge needs to be felt and interacted.
We are loosing the dialogical space, and I see social media as a mutually interconnected series of monologues. An epidemic of self-publishing narcissism.
When I post something online I post myself to myself.
It is self advertising disguised as interpersonal communication.
Facebook treats its users and their data as products. Users treat themselves and their news as products, to advertise on the stock market of the ego. With the value defined by the number of likes.

I don’t want ads: I despise advertising.
I strongly disagree with the commercial use of the social instinct of people.
I do not like the idea of selling the human social instinct to advertising companies.
I do not want to have my entire life and relationships permanently kept and monitored in order to become a target for advertising. I really don’t like to be used as a specimen for a huge commercial operation. I don’t want advertising in my living room, why would I want ads in the messages to my friends?
Advertising for profit is a very poor use of art, technology, psychology, communication and creativity towards the manipulation of minds, in order to promote consumerism and the unfolding of a profit oriented civilization.
I actively wish for the historical day in which commercials and ads will be banned as a form of pollution of mental environment. I am sure that many plants and animals of Planet Earth will agree with me on that.

I despise the founder of Facebook and his radical lack of ethics. He acts as a global anti-social psychopath: manipulating consent, violating privacy, selling private information and personal profiles, promoting fake news for corporate gain, damaging democracies, upfront lying.

Look at his eyes and you will know and feel why Facebook is an anti-social network.

I am sick of the digital world: I spend already far too much time on my computer, sitting for hours in front of the fluorescence. I am hooked to emails and news. When I travel I am always looking for a WIFI network to stay connected, to be always everywhere with everybody at all times. I feel that my brain is more restless than it used to be. Internet disturbs my process of learning by reducing my capacity of deep focusing. I find reading books harder then before the internet era.

The internet connection disconnects me from the deep currents of my soul, psyche and dreams.
I am a physical living being and I want my analogical life back.
As a digital luddite, I practice digital detox, reducing my exposition to virtual digital life and maximizing my time with the real life and with the body: mine, other people’s and other living beings.
I miss the body of the planet.

At the beginning I thought the net would help. Now it has gone too far. Far too far.
I have drawn a line not to be crossed: the internet is a tool, it is not a space nor a time. If it serves to support the quality of the real life I will use it. If it demands me to leave my embodied life for a legless artificial life I’ll say no thanks.
I am happy to use a website. I do not wish to become one.

I am not upgrading anymore. And when possible, I am retrograding my systems and my processes. I miss my analogical self. I want it back.

The web is a wonderful and limitless resource and it is a voracious monster: I cannot keep a T.Rex as a pet. It will eat me alive. It is its nature.

I want hyper-connectivity with my soul, my body, my people and with nature, not with the web and not through the web.

It is never too late to turn off the machines.


Curled into the laziness of a locked day
my worries unfurl like a fern
buried in the winter of the couch.

I am a bulb of an ancient flower
wondering if I will ever bloom again.

The memory of my life before
is a cushion of wool and longing.

Time tastes like pipe smoke and wine
space glooms in slow iridescence.

In the distance
the redundant voices of the radio
discuss the composition
of the next social pastiche.

I used to be a human
now I am a cage full of colors.

November 3rd, 2020



There is no such a thing as Virtual Physical Theatre. As much as there is no such a thing as Virtual Gardening. Or Digital Hiking. There is performance on-line. There is coaching on zoom. There is pedagogic supervision. There is facilitation of creative processes. There are conversations on the work, review of exercises and theories. There can be practice with the creative potential of the medium. There are plenty of options. Can we teach and learn online? Certainly we can. The question is what.

We can practice a live embodied art online as long as we are aware that it is a surrogate of the real experience. As long as we frame it as such.

During this pandemic pandaemonium, in the impossibility of live events, we have gathered online to keep the flame burning. I have done it too and I am having some great experiences with former students or practitioners with whom we have ALREADY experienced the work and the play in its live form. We already have a common poetic body and space to practice in, and we already have an embodied experience of each other. So we know where the work comes from and where it will end: in a live and embodied shared poetic space and time.

Can I teach that poetic space and time to new students online?
Can I teach the profound collective ecstasy of the theatrical event online?
Can I hold the space for the alchemy of the co-creation between the player and the audience?
Can I facilitate the unfolding of clowns, characters and bouffons with the full support of the embodied emotional energy of the class and of myself?
Can I give feedback on the stupendous variety of embodied events that appear at the threshold between the person and the mask, between the mask and the space, between the space and the audience, and eventually between us all and the Goddesses and Gods of theater?
My answer is No.

That is why I am not doing online training in physical theater with new students. It would be a professional cheat on my side. I would be teaching a surrogate to a beautiful art. In doing this I would disrespect, diminish and eventually damage the individual and collective poetic field. And myself in it.

The virtual cannot replace the authentic.

We can do online training in online performing. I think this is a whole new genre there, to be explored and developed. Certainly great work is emerging. But I am not interested. It’s not my medium. As much as I don’t do video or cinema – I love good videos and movies. Those are wonderful arts but not my practice, nor my skill. I do movement based theater, also known as physical theater. It is the best technology I know to explore the world as it is and as it could be. And to communicate it.

I love my practice and I love teaching it. Now I miss it tremendously.
In these times of absence I am cultivating the longing-craving-dreaming-starving-burning desire for the return of the bodies with bodies. Now it’s winter, and there is snow on our fields. Spring will come. It might take long. The empty space is where the poetic potential prepares the next gestures and the emergence of the forms of the new stories.

Theater has survived far worse scenarios than this.

The Venice plague of 1575 killed 50,000 people, which at the time was a third of the population of the city. You make the comparison with our Covid numbers.

Formally, Commedia dell’Arte appeared in Padova in 1545, and was in full bloom by the end of that century. The contagion was just a pause in the unfolding of this stupendous art. A stand-by, a call of movement.
The Plague was a returning event in the following century and Venice Carnival created a new character, il Medico della Peste (The Plague Doctor) to acknowledge it. The costume was based on the outfit doctors were using to protect themselves from the contagion: ankle length black robes, white gloves and a large beaked mask with small glass eye holes. Inspired by the strong aesthetic of the newcomer to the mask family, many of the Venice Carnival Masks got an upgrade and grew longer noses.

Illness, symptoms and the fear of dying are recurrent themes in the comic lazzi of Commedia dell’Arte.
Will we dare to face The Covid with the wild humor of our ancestors?
Will we improvise the Lazzo of Arlecchino sanitizing his hands?
Will we create a new type to play with our collective experience of this new plague?
Shall we name him Covidello? This will be a tribute to one of the most ancient servants in Commedia, Coviello, whose origins are in the ancient Latin fertility rituals. He will be our new version of the Fool who, as long as keeps playing, cannot die.Will we write the Adventures of Covidello in the City of the Virus?
Will we perform it in our streets or on zoom? It’s our choice, and this choice will define the world we will want to live, love, work, play, laugh and die in.

Giovanni Fusetti

Padova, Italy, May 31st, 2020


It is the end of Spring 2020. I am stuck in Italy. Theatres and studios are closed. I cannot travel, my potential students cannot travel. My work has vanished. And I have a new option in front of me. Teaching physical theatre on-line.

Shall I?

I am new to this remote option. Before Coronas, I have had occasional experiences with this option, uniquely through Skype, in the form of individual coaching sessions or supervision sessions, or directing sessions with up to three people together on the other end of Skype. Or I have recorded myself talking and then I have sent the audio or video to be watched in a differed time and space. But this was always with people with whom I had a previous live experience.

During the first months of the pandemic I have explored the Zoom medium and it has been very interesting.
The first observation is that during a zoom gathering I rely on my previous experience with the people I am connecting with.
I have had a few meetings, discussions and lectures with groups in which I knew only some of the participants. My perception of the known and unknown participants was completely different. It had very different “weight”. With the person I already know, I noticed that I can tap into my lived experience of a physical and emotional contact, which creates a shared space. And that space can contain a new experience that will expand and enrich our common story. People who have already met and who have been working and playing together in the embodied field, are already engaged with a space, which is, at the same time, physical, emotional and poetical. The zoom participants will pop into the shared common body and the experience can be very interesting. It can be fun and can fulfill some of the potentials of getting together.

If the meeting or the gathering happens for the first time on this medium, then I feel a terrible loss of reality and gravitas, and my engagement with the person is significantly dimmed. I question whether this is a viable option or just a very poor surrogate contact, that will be more frustrating than creative. At the moment I tend towards this second option.

Coming to something more specific to my practice of teaching movement theater, I have noticed that if the shared practice is based on technique and the learning of some “ forms”, my role becomes more “the instructor” who demonstrates certain techniques to be learnt by observation and imitation. The interaction with the audience is limited. In this case zoom offers some interesting opportunities.

During the first lockdown I held a series of classes reviewing the 20 Movements of Lecoq with a group of former pedagogic students. It was surprisingly fun and I think there is a potential of working on this format to turn it into something viable. Somehow the teacher on zoom facilitates individual learning processes on the other side of the screen.

But if the practice requires direct live interaction between the audience and the player, then we are in a very different scenario.

This is why a movement class on zoom has more chances than improvisation. The problem within the zoom space is that the feedback from the audience is unreceivable and unusable, for a variety of reasons. For example, the text and the sound of the various speakers cannot be heard at the same time and timing, and this kills the dynamic interaction between the actor and the audience.  It is likely that, in the future, the zoom software will improve some of the current limitations, but I still feel that the quality and value of the audience feedback mediated by the bi-dimensional images, combined with and the lack of the shared physicality, will remain extremely frustrating. I don’t think a collective improvisation class on zoom has many chances to provide anything better than a poor surrogate.

Another observation is that when I am teaching standing in front of the small screen, my perception of the audience and my pedagogical use of it are extremely limited. And again, if I already know the people, I can tap into my experience of them. But if I have never met them, this makes my perception of the group close to nothing. And even if I can tap into my previous experience of the group, I feel very alone out there and I’m working very hard to maintain some connection with the participants. I can rely almost uniquely on my experience of my own body and my presence becomes more of a solo pedagogic performance. This makes me fundamentally sad.
My experience of lecturing on zoom was one of the most bizarre and frustrating moments of my teaching career. The aftermath was an intense physical unhappiness, something I could compare to a food poisoning.

I think we can keep exploring this zoom medium and find the best use of it, but, at the end of the story Theater on-line is not Theater. It is something else.

It seems to me essential to affirm and to defend the difference between Theater, which is a live event “in a shared space and time” (Amy Russell 2020), and television or videomaking.  We can certainly turn our classes into recorded lessons that people will listen to in their own space at their own time, or we can turn our creations into videos that will be watched on YouTube or Vimeo. But this is another art.

It is important that we keep very clear the distinction between live theater and video making or cinema. I see a lot of confusion when actors, comedians and theater companies are invited to present their work online. As theater practitioners, we have always known that the video recording of a theater a piece will kill it, unless specific skills in film making and editing are used. And we are talking about the recording of a show with a live audience in it. Just filming theater and putting it online, or live streaming shows without live audience seems to me a catastrophic choice. Some kind of public euthanasia of an entire art form.

Funding a company to put their shows online is like paying someone to dig their own grave. I know we all have to bring our bread on the table but this is a poisoned cake.
Sometimes starving is better then eating junk food.
And these days, resistance seems the only way of protect our existence.

As a practitioner of movement based theater, also known as physical theater, I will resist with all my flesh and bones, muscles and masks, feet and legs, body and soul, to save it from a migration online that will declare its death by mutation.
The idea that theater can exist and thrive online is, simply, insane.


These are very obscure days in Italy.

Now that the health emergency is decreasing, the cultural, political and social response to this emergency is appearing in all its madness. A mix of incompetence, arrogance, confusion, bureaucracy, and manipulation of news and data, is creating an unprecedented police state of misery. I would have never imagined my country giving up on the most basic civil, political and ethical values in the name of safety, control and fear.
The philosophical stand point of the authorities seems to be that for the fear of dying we will stop living.
I am astonished.
The good news is that nature is booming and blooming and it’s taking a well needed break from being daily devastated and polluted by our insane lifestyle.

I am amazed by this virus. It is a very powerful trickster. It is offering a radical mirror of where we are individually, in our relationships, in our collective life. It is amazing how fast the whole system has unraveled, showing the bare bones of our collective flawed design.

After surviving the quarantine, I have moved in a new phase. I am trying to get a bit of perspective.
The dimming of the collective embodiment is what is striking me. I fear this far more then the virus itself. It is a form of loss of vitality. A form of low key death. All my alert lights are blinking. Everything I know and feel is sending warning messages.

After four weeks of almost uniquely online interactions with people, I already feel the virus of an embodiment deficit disorder getting me. Screen Saturation Disorder Syndrome. SSDS.

Not to mention this low key collective paranoia of fearing each other in the most basic interactions, because of the fear of contagion. They call it social distancing but in fact it is physical distancing. Even the way we talk about it, denies the body. We deny our denial.

I start seeing the expression “the new normality” emerging. It infuriates me. I do not think that the migration of life online will satisfy our need of human connections, contact and vitality. I think it is a collective psychotic episode that was already starting with the systematic migration on line of the last decade.

Already before the virus, there was a steady migration towards virtual reality and cyberspace. This process now has accelerated to an unprecedented speed. What I hear and read in the media, about how this will affect our daily life once the lockdown is over, is freaky, and it looks like a dystopian movie, very badly written.

I have worked and played for the totality of my active life in the path towards embodiment and physical play. My strongest feeling in these days is a call to resist: I want to resist this online migration with all my capacities, creativity and madness. I will be radically and fiercely technological obsolete.

Our DNA is not designed for this. I fear that we will pay a very heavy price for this delusional movement. The virtual will never replace the authentic. The bi-dimensional screen life will never satisfy my need for an embodied multidimensional experience of each other. Artificial Intelligence will make everybody furtherly inapt, insensitive and un-intelligent. Hundreds of millions of years of evolution have not designed us for this abandonment of our two earlier brains. This is an insane idea. This digital migration is an anthropological dead end. A surrogate. Emotional, social, cultural and political junk food.

A profoundly un-intelligent choice. A tech NO logic move.