Supes: Dell’Arte enriches, expands, builds community

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

​HUMBOLDT – In the midst of Dell’Arte International’s five-week Mad River Festival event, Humboldt’s Board of Supervisors has honored the theater school and performance company as a cultural asset that’s inspired by – and enriches – the county’s communities.

​At their July 2 meeting, supervisors approved a resolution honoring the Blue Lake-based Dell’Arte, whose Mad River Festival performance series began on June 21 and continues through July 20.

​The festival includes numerous performances, many at Dell’Arte’s Carlo Theater in Blue Lake, and the Humboldt Folklife music festival from July 14 to July 20.

​The board’s resolution states that Dell’Arte “enriches and enlivens local cultural life by performing its work throughout Humboldt County,” including free performances.

​The resolution also notes that the theater company’s work in schools “has had a beneficial impact on youth.”

​“I have seen that, through the workshops they’ve done and their work with high schools and junior highs on plays and things – it’s really awesome stuff,” said Supervisor Mike Wilson as he read the resolution aloud.

​After reading the resolution’s reference to Dell’Arte’s international student body, Wilson said the company and school “turns Blue Lake into an international center for Humboldt County and it definitely does bring the clown school to us in a wonderful way.”

​Illustrating Dell’Arte’s influence, Wilson related how he was at Blue Lake’s Logger Bar years ago and “there was a person there drinking after a hard day’s work at the mill and scooting by was a person on a unicycle.”

​He added, “I thought, this is the most Fellini experience I’ve ever had.”

​Dell’Arte’s influence goes far beyond Humboldt, as its performances and collaborations are done nationally and internationally.

​But Humboldt County is where the most benefit is seen. Michael Fields, Dell’Arte’s artistic director, thanked supervisors for “valuing culture and the impact of culture on this economy, because it is an economic driver.”

​He referenced a study generally confirming that and added, “When you look at Blue Lake, when we have 50 students in the house from all over the world, that contributes hugely to what happens in the community.”  

​Stephany Joy, a member of Dell’Arte’s board of directors, described the theater as one whose performances are unique – and unique to the place where it’s based.

​“It’s work that’s not just repetitive, regurgitated theater, it is original theater,” she said. “It’s about local issues and beyond.”

​Supervisor Steve Madrone said Dell’Arte has “been breaking down the walls in our communities for a long time, with its satire and entertainment.”

The resolution was on the meeting’s consent agenda and it was noted by Blue Lake developer Kent Sawatzky, whose restoration of Dell’Arte’s headquarters in the early 1990s was mentioned by Fields.  

“In Blue Lake, Dell’Arte is the center of our universe,” Sawatzky said.



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