About ombelico mask ensemble

Ombelico (pronounced “ohm-bay-LEE-co”) Mask Ensemble was founded in 2007 to bring outrageously fun theater to outdoor spaces in Philadelphia, through the physically raucous style of Commedia dell’Arte. Since then we have expanded our scope with national touring and international collaborations, and by infusing other theatrical styles such as Red Nose Clown, Greek Tragedy, and Traditional Italian Puppetry.  In 2014, long-time collaborator Renato Arcuri founded our sister company, Ombelico Mask Ensemble Italia. In 2015, both companies created Ombelico Mask Academy to teach Commedia dell'Arte and related traditional Italian art forms. While we keep a faithful eye to the past, we hope to reinvigorate Commedia and explore its relevance for a modern audience. Most of all we strive for laughter and joy for audience and actor alike.

What Is An Ombelico?

Well, it’s a bellybutton.In Italian.
And bellybuttons are funny.It probably made you smile right now.
It’s also the center of our bodies and our original source of nourishment… which bears some relevance for a physical theatre company like ourselves. 

Who is Ombelico?

We work with a rotating ensemble of performers and designers from Philadelphia to Italy, Spain, France, Israel, London and beyond.  

 John and Brendon

Brendon Gawel  (Founder and Artistic Director) is a director, teacher and performer. He began his love of Commedia and mask at the University of the Arts where he received a BFA in Acting. Brendon performed with the short-lived Zanni Commedia Troupe, and had the privilege to create Commedia shows with Nomadic Theatre’s Sarah Liane Foster and world-renowned Master Teacher Giovanni Fusetti, and toured these shows through southern Europe. He also studied Commedia with Master Teacher Antonio Fava at the American International School for Commedia dell’Arte, and was Commedia Coach and performer for Drexel University’s Son of Arlecchino. He has also performed with Mum Puppettheatre, Enchantment Theatre, Theatre Ariel, Myra Bazell, Lantern Theater, McCarter Theater, Clowns Without Borders, Tempo Dello Spuntino, and as a puppeteer on the Sprout Television Network. Brendon has directed for Ombelico Mask Ensemble, Mum Puppettheatre, Philadelphia Children’s Theatre, Walking Fish Theatre, Windsor Mountain Traveling Theatre, West Chester University and assistant-directed for Drexel University and Arden Theatre.

 Renato in FLIM FLAM PHANTOM SHAM at Philly Fringe 2014

Renato in FLIM FLAM PHANTOM SHAM at Philly Fringe 2014

Renato Arcuri is an actor, cinematographer, pedagogue and founder of OMBELICO MASK ENSEMBLE ITALIA. He creates site-specific spectacles with the National Archeological Museum in Florence, Italy. Renato earned an MFA in acting at the Accadamia D’Arte Drammatica in Catanzaro and an MFA in cinematography at NUCT at Cinecitta’ Studios. He now works as a Director of Photography at Cinecitta’ Studios. He describes his work as ‘post-post modern, ecclectic but perplexed’.

 

Previous Work

Ombelico Mask Ensemble makes all original work based in Commedia dell'Arte, often incorporating live music and a multi-cultural, multi-lingual cast of actor/creators.

 
 
 Photo by Brendon Gawel

Photo by Brendon Gawel

Omeletto: like hamlet only scrambled

A Commedia re-imaginging of literature's most dysfunctional family story. It Debuted in the 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and featured our most diverse cast ever, with five languages and 6 countries represented. Actor/Creators: Brendon Gawel, Andrew Clotworthy, John Bellomo, Angelo Aiello (Italy/US), Yarit Dor (Israel/UK), Enric Ortuño (Spain/UK), Claire Loiseau (France). Music Direction: Rachel Icenogle on Cello, Andrew Clotworthy on Guitar. Stage Manager: Erika Flanick Masks: Antonio Fava, Valentino Infuso. Set: Stephen Hungerford and Brendon Gawel. Puppets:  Zanubrio Marionettes. Costumes courtesy of Curio Theatre Company. Director: John Bellomo


Alcesti / Like a bat out of hades

Fusing Commedia dell'Arte with Greek tragicomedy and traditional Italian puppetry, this show is a ridiculous re-imagining of the myth ALCESTIS. This show was created and premiered in July 2015 as ALCESTI in Italy in collaboration with OMBELICO MASK ENSEMBLE ITALIA and WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY.  It was then re-mounted for the 2015 Philadelphia Fringe Festival as LIKE A BAT OUT OF HADES. Actor/Creators: Angelo Aiello, Renato Arcuri, John Bellomo,  Olivia Damore,  Brendon Gawel, Darius Johnson, Janice Rabian. Music Direction/Cello: Luca Scrivano (Italy), Rachel Icenogle (USA). Masks: Antonio Fava, Valentino Infuso. Puppets:  Zanubrio Marionettes. Costumes: Mariella Bruzzese. Props: Antonio Pittelli Director: Renato Arcuri

 Photo by Beatrice Canino

Photo by Beatrice Canino


 Photo by JJ Tiziou

Photo by JJ Tiziou

FLim Flam Phamtom Sham

This was presented in the 2014 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. The story was an original ensemble creation, based on the classic Commedia dell'Arte canovaccio "The Four Fake Spirits" by Flaminio Scala. Actor/Creators: Renato Arcuri, John Bellomo,  Kevin Bergen, Aetna Gallagher, Brendon Gawel, Leah Walton. Music Direction: Ben Dean. Set: Stephen Hungerford and Brendon Gawel. Masks: Antonio Fava. Production Help: Curio Theatre Company


run grunt sing

This was presented in the 2011 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. It was created without any source material. The ensemble developed their characters first, and the scenario grew out of the improvised interactions of these new characters. Bearing witness to the power of Commedia, not even the Philly Naked Bike Ride could stop this juggernaut of a show from delighting fans. Actor/Creators: Renato Arcuri (Italy), John Bellomo, Kevin Bergen, Francesca Cartenigese (Italy), Andrew Clotworthy, Meg Lemieur. Music: Andrew Nelson. Costumes: Amy Chmielewski. Masks: Brendon Gawel. Stage Management: Alyssa Cole. Director: Brendon Gawel
 Photo by Ed Pokropski

Photo by Ed Pokropski


 Photo from Shenandoah Fringe Festival 2016

Photo from Shenandoah Fringe Festival 2016

Dead Man's Mambo

Part Commedia dell'Arte, part Clown, Dead Man's Mambo is a mostly-solo show with one actor performing 11 characters in 80 minutes. Debuting in 2010 at the University of the Arts, this show has toured to the 2012 Capital Fringe in DC, the Maryland Shakespeare Festival, and the 2016 Shenandoah Fringe, where it won the Audience Choice Award.  Written and conceived by Brendon Gawel and John Bellomo. Director: Brendon Gawel. Starring John Bellomo. Music: Andrew Clotworthy. Costumes: Amy Chmielewski. Set: Stephen Hungerford. 


 Entering the Betsy Ross House Courtyard

Entering the Betsy Ross House Courtyard

The power of magic

This classical scenario was performed in Italian, French, and English with both local and international actors.Produced in Fall in the 2009 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Performed at the Betsy Ross House. Actor/Creators: Renato Arcuri (Italy), John Bellomo, Kevin Bergen, Kelly Boeckle, Rachel Bauer, Francesca Carteginese (Italy), Andrew Clotworthy, Maggie Corl, Shane Johnson, Claire Loiseau (France), Catherine Moroney. Director: John Bellomo. Music: Andrew Clotworthy. Costumes: Amy Chmielewski. Masks: Antonio Fava, Valentino Infuso


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Capitano Duped

This play was first produced by Rowan University, and later remounted by OME as part of Two Face Commedia: An Outdoor Double Bill, presented in the 2008 Philly Fringe Festival at the Betsy Ross House Courtyard. The script was created by the ensemble, based on a classical Commedia scenario. Actor/Creators: Maggie Corl, Kelly Boeckle, Juan Sanchez, Michael P. Pliskin, Andrew Clotworthy, Stephen Lerner, Bri Sudia, Laura Fullerton, Rachel Bauer, Jodi Dever. Director: John Bellomo. Music: Andrew Clotworthy. Masks: Antonio Fava, Valentino Infuso

 


50 ways to kill you lover: a romeo & juliet comedy

The first show under the OME banner, this was presented in the 2007 Philly Fringe Festival at Liberty Lands Park. The entire story of Romeo & Juliet was played out by the two titular characters as well as a female Dottore/Friar and an androgynous Capitano/Tybalt. The script was created by the ensemble, based on Shakespeare’s tragedy. In 2007, this show had two versions: an early evening family-friendly version, and a late night mature version. The family-friendly version was remounted as part of Two Face Commedia: An Outdoor Double Bill, presented in the 2008 Philly Fringe Festival at the Betsy Ross House Courtyard. 2007 Actor/Creators: Colleen Hughes, Gwen Rooker, Kristen Schier, Zeb West. 2008 Actor/Creators: Colleen Hughes, Gwen Rooker, John Bellomo, Jess Conda. Director: Brendon Gawel. Costumes: Amy Chmielewski. Masks: Aaron Cromie and Brendon Gawel

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