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

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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)


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


Once upon a time
there was a clown intensive training
a month of poetic laughter
in the warm Spring
of the fair Padua, nursery of arts

Twelve poetic knights
were ready to fly here
from North South East and West
from Norway Italy Turkey and Germany
from Finland Denmark Canada Mexico and the USA

All was ready when a thirteenth host stepped in
they had a crown of spikes
 they were many
and they were everywhere

 Tiny tricksters who put the world upside down
and turned all shows into silence
 throughout our sweet planet Earth

They brought fear and isolation
struggle death and desperation
they triggered care and courage
support resiliance and cooperation

and they taught us to ask the good questions
on how to make our world a better place
and how to love more the miracle of being alive
with Nature and with each other

We did not move the training online
we moved it into the dreamworld
and we had a beautiful memorable time
longing for each other
and cultivating fierce presence
and untamed desire

We will try again to embody this training
in the Fall of 2020
always in the fair Padova
and we will be so happy to be together again
in social closeness
and collective joy

Be well
be safe
be brilliant

we will all be back

Giovanni Fusetti

MARCH 28, 2020

March 28, Melbourne Airport
Bye Beth, thank you so much, I’ll call you when I am through
The best hug
I wonder when will be the next one
in this curse of social distancing

I have the leather briefcase with me
all of them are in
We received the Exodus from our ancestors
here is a new theme for The Work
The Journey of the Neutral Masks in the pandemic

I look for the departures
that’s my flight, that’s the only flight
The airport is empty, the check in is packed
Social distancing is a joke announced through the speakers
Where are the masks? Who wears the mask? Why they don’t wear the mask?

Social distancing looks like the exercise of the bubble
dramatic projection treated with paranoia

There is a problem sir, your booking is not confirmed
the system doesn’t recognize it
Wait, phone calls, consulting, overbooking, heartbeats
someone did not show up
I did
Here is your boarding card sir, Doha and then Rome
Are you sure the flight to Rome is confirmed?
As far as we are concerned yes
As far as I am concerned, I am concerned

Bye Beth, I am in, thank you so very much
From what’s app to who’s in
the huge empty terminal

Why the ground staff wears no masks?

This face mask ordeal
the feeling is familiar
I relax imagining it is a Neutral Mask with a Red Nose on.

My nose is scratchy, oh shit I touched my nose, where is the hand sanitizer?
oh no I left it in the tray at the security
call the security
oh no I touched the phone!
oh no I am breathing on the phone!
They found it
will I owe my life to a security person?
Am I totally paranoid or this is a risky trip?

The deserted airport
people sitting in empty gates to keep distance
A kind voice announces the flight
people are now cramming in the boarding area
primates eager to escape
social distancing is a sweet memory
this is a virus greenhouse
what was I thinking in daring this travel?

We board
the huge plane is packed
mostly Europeans flying home
my neighbors on the planes look healthy, are they? Am I?

Fourteen hours with the mask inside a flying aluminum can
with three hundred and fifty human beings in uncertain health conditions
that’s a veeeery long show
I have practiced at home for half an hour but this is another story

Then I think about the doctors and nurses with blisters on their faces
sharing massages crying on their phone after their shift
please stay at home
they plea
Ok, I can make it, this is nothing

Dinner time
I need to wash my hands, is the toilette clean?
Touch don’t touch what to touch how to touch
Sanitize sanitize sanitize
Shall I eat with the mask on?
Of course not, you idiot

I am sure the droplets don’t like the wind
It is written in all medical books
I put the air stream on, dinner in the wind
I’ll catch a cold but not the Corona
Food, a shift in my brain waves
eating feels so good
Chardonnay never tasted better
will the pandemic make me an alcoholic?

Fourteen hours
seven of them watching Richard Attenborough seven episodes
Seven worlds one planet
Beauty after beauty after beauty
We are the only species worried about the virus
all other living beings are thriving
There are dolphins in the harbors
boars in the streets
ducks on the airport runs
wild goats in the squares
penguins visiting the aquarium
The air has never been cleaner
Are bats bouffons?
Is this a huge bouffon piece called
Now you go to you room and you figure out your shit?

Doha, Quatar
crowds from all over the world with masks and without
Humanity in transit with hand-luggage of fear hope and sanitizing liquid
Children play
Children always play
and clowns too
Bless them all
There is an Indian family filming their dance choreography on the phone
My feet dance a little
It’s never too scary to have a dance
we share smiles
the airport fills with sunshine
that’s it
I need to remember to smile to strangers during this colossal event

The word ROME on the screen makes my dawn

I am on my second flight
It feels like a rescue flight for Italian nationals stranded abroad
tourists, travelers, workers, visitors
all caught by the Corona on their way
to the life that we had before
now heading to home lockdown
and the life that we will have after
Everyone wears masks
the Italians were hit earlier and harder
they got the point

Roma Fiumicino Airport, welcome to Italia
Welcome to the show
The virtuosity of pandemic dysfunctional bureaucracy
Forms, no forms, which form, not that form, fill the form, here is another form, throw away that form, fill this other form, not like that, but your colleague told me something different, can I have a new form, here is another form, do you have a copy, no I don’t, make two copies, but the back page has no name, what? you need to take a picture, I take a picture, six pictures you never know…

Fuck these fucking forms!
I spent my entire life as Italian citizen filling forms
Not even the pandemic will save us from this curse
And the spaces are too narrow, there are typos all over
who the fuck designed these forms !?
I am a clown and a slapstick administrator
but my Helikos enrollment forms are far better than that
The country of Leonardo is doomed by forms

Welcome to Italia
Carabinieri, Polizia, Guardia di Finanza, airport staff, airline personnel
all improvising on different canovacci
Welcome to the Pandemia dell’Arte

I am through, I am allowed to return home to quarantine myself
I have the form in my phone!
I walk through the deserted airport
where are the rental cars?
Are you alone sir, yes, please go ahead

At the Europcar desk
a kind man in a pale green mask works inside a plexiglass box
I wait in line, nobody speaks
at a counter nearby there is a loud argument
The attendant is refusing to give a car to a man with an international license
he doesn’t have the original Italian one
the man shouts
the rules sir these are the rules
despair is in the air
another man is charged 600 euros for a one way rental
he has no reservations
the market has no pity

It’s my turn
I have a voucher
this is not a good day to improvise reservations
I actually have two
and a plane reservation for tomorrow
the only flight to Venice
Which stone is the good one to throw?
The first one you see
and then the next one and the next one

There is a scanner on a stand outside the plexiglass box
I scan my papers and credit card
I have to use my own pen to sign
the man in the pale green mask is visibly tense
thanks for your work good luck, thank you we need it

I am out, it’s almost sunny, I have a red car
I sit inside I want to laugh and shout and cry
I look around
A woman in the nearby rental car is sanitizing the steering wheel
What the hell I’ll do it too
We smile, sunshine

I am off
driving on the deserted Rome Ring Road
exhausted, relieved, worried, will they control me? will there be road blocks?
the news online spread terror about controls and fines
But I am ok, I am going home right? I have the right to go home, have I?

From Rome to Padova. Through the heart of Italy.
Virtually no cars, just a few lorries and long stretches of deserted motorway.
Ghostly gas stations. Lorry drivers taking a pause.
A clown texting I made it, so far so good.

I have driven from Florence to Padova so many times
But never during a dystopian movie
Drive drive drive
Focus focus focus
This is a 40 hours sleepless day

I came from here
I am back

I drive by my house
my partner has prepared some groceries for my quarantine
we greet with the corona in the space between us
loving from three meters away
the world is upside down

I drop the car at the deposit
a taxi brings me to the Helikos Studio
I made it
What a joy to be back here
What an unmitigated relief
surrounded by masks, costumes, books and spirals
the hand-made furniture of the Florence studio
and countless memories of poetic joy
and the students everywhere
in the memory of forms and feelings

My poetic body and my physical body are delighted in this quarantine
I am immersed in the poetic field
the best antiviral ever

The poetic body is collective
now I know it
Every person I have worked and played with is here with me
Thank you so much for all the beauty and the laughter and the poetry

Missing is creation
I miss you
I create

Longing is devising
I devise the present

Let’s devise a heartwarming present
and a future of new and ancient forms of collective joy
and delightful social proximity

I wish you well
Be safe
With your loved ones
On this beautiful planet

What a treat to be alive