“Abundant slapstick, clever wordplay and original songs, an inventive and informative deep dive into a rich theatrical tradition!”
- Critic’s Choice Los Angeles Times
Written and directed by Tim Robbins, Harlequino: On to Freedom combines Commedia dell’Arte, Shakespearean tragedy, live music and sophisticated comedy to produce a dialectic on the meaning of freedom.
This new musical celebrates a particular kind of theater created by the Italians 500 years ago, the Commedia dell’Arte, and explores the 16th century actors’ limits of free expression in the authoritarian environment they lived in. As the story evolves, a conflict between a group of rogue actors and a Commedia dell’Arte expert becomes a battle for the soul of the Commedia, questioning the purpose of art, what is funny, and who writes history. Ultimately the musical asks the question: What must the artist risk to live freely in today’s world?
In researching Harlequino: On to Freedom, Robbins discovered an account from the 16th century that tells of a Duke Gonzaga of Mantua who, after watching a Commedia play, ordered three of the actors to be executed. Although no text survives, this incident raises questions about the nature of the relationship between power and society’s truth tellers. “We began to see a connection between those 16th century performers and artists in today’s world. From threats of eliminating the NEA to the radical suppression of art by Caliphates and fundamentalists, these questions have a deep resonance in today’s environment.” says Robbins.
Harlequino: On to Freedom is dedicated to the Nobel prize-winning playwright Dario Fo who offered his support and tutelage to Robbins, a mentorship that continued through the summer of 2016, shortly before Fo’s death at age 90.
Pierre Adeli, Adam Bennett, Julia Finch, Lee Margaret Hanson, Adam J. Jefferis, Dora Kiss, Joshua R. Lamont, Will McFadden, Mary Eileen O’Donnell, Stephanie Pinnock, Cihan Sahin, Bob Turton, Guebri VanOver, Miroslav Vejnovic, Sabra Williams, Paulette Zubata
Lance Frantzich, Melanie Green, Chas Harvey, Della Saba, Jeff Williams
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As an actor, Robbins has appeared in Five Corners, Bull Durham, Jacob’s Ladder, The Player, Short Cuts, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River, The Secret Life of Words, Welcome to Me, A Perfect Day and HBO’s The Brink. Robbins won an Academy Award, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor for Mystic River, Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globe for Best Actor for The Player, and a Golden Globe as a member of the ensemble in Short Cuts. As a film director, Robbins was nominated for a Golden Palm at Cannes with Cradle Will Rock, which he also wrote and produced, won the National Board of Review Award for Special Achievement in Filmmaking and Best Film and Best Film and Best Director at the Sitges Film Festival in Barcelona. Dead Man Walking, which he directed, wrote and produced, won multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress, the Humanitas Prize, the Christopher Award, and four awards at the Berlin Film Festival, including the Silver Bear as well as four Oscar nominations, including Best Director and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay. As a screenwriter Robbins has also won awards for his films Bob Roberts and Dead Man Walking.
For the past 35 years, Robbins has served as Artistic Director for the Actors’ Gang, a theater company formed in 1982 that has over 150 productions and more than 100 awards to their credit. In addition to producing live theater throughout the year, the Actors’ Gang provides arts education to thousands of Elementary, Middle and High School students working in 12 LA USD schools and in underserved communities in the L.A. area. Since 2006, the Actors’ Gang’s groundbreaking Prison Project provides theatrical workshops to incarcerated men and women in 10 California prisons. In 2014, Robbins and Prison Project director Sabra Williams have been instrumental in reinstating 6 million dollars into the California State budget for Arts in Corrections.