What Is An Ombelico?

Well, it’s a bellybutton.  In Italian.

Which is funny.  It probably made you smile right now.

And it’s the center of our bodies and the source of nourishment… which bears some relevance, if you care for some.

What Do We Do?

OMBELICO (pronounced “ohm-bay-LEE-co”) Mask Ensemble brings outrageously fun theater to outdoor spaces in Philadelphia and beyond, through the physically raucous style of Commedia dell’Arte. 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.

But Who Are We Exactly?

Oh, right. We forgot to introduce ourselves. We work with a rotating ensemble of performers and designers and all-around lovely theatre creators.  But the folks steering the ship are Brendon Gawel and John Bellomo.  Here’s a bit more about us:

John and Brendon

John and Brendon

Brendon Gawel is the founder and co-artistic director of OMBELICO Mask Ensemble. 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 co-direct  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 television puppeteer on PBS KIDS Sprout. 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.

John Bellomo is co-artistic director of Ombelico Mask Ensemble, currently teaching theatre at West Chester University. John is a Philadelphia based director/actor/movement specialist, and is the former artistic director of Maryland Shakespeare Festival. For OME, John directed THE CAPITANO DUPED and THE POWER OF MAGIC and has acted in 50 WAYS TO KILL YOUR LOVER, RUN GRUNT SING, FLIM FLAM PHANTOM SHAM, and LIKE A BAT OUT OF HADES. Several years ago, John and Brendon Created DEAD MAN'S MAMBO, a Commedia solo show in which John plays 11 characters. The show has performed in Philadelphia, Norristown and Washington D.C as part of the Capital Fringe Festival. John is also an associate artist for Faction of Fools, a D.C based Commedia company, and has performed in Hamlecchino, The Lady Becomes Him and the 4th Annual Fool for All. John began studying Commedia dell’Arte with Maestro Antonio Fava in 2003 and is a graduate of Fava’s International School for the Comic Actor. He is also a founding member of Teatro Ronda, an international Commedia dell’Arte company and has performed Commedia in Delaware, Philadelphia, Krakow Poland, and Monte Verita Switzerland. As a Fight Director, John has choreographed violence for many of Philadelphia’s theatre companies and is a six-time Barrymore Award nominee and one time recipient. He has taught Stage Combat at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, Teatro-in-Polvere in Milan, The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, Temple University, and Officina Teatrale in Catanzaro, Calabria, Italy. He has directed William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Twelfth Night, As You like It and Midsummer Night’s Dream for Teatro delle Due in Reggio Emilia, Italy. He received an M.F.A. in Directing from Temple University and a B.F.A. in Acting from the University of the Arts.

Do We Have a Company in Italy?

Yes! It's all part of our clever plan to take over the world with Commedia dell'Arte. OMBELICO MASK ENSEMBLE ITALIA was founded in 2014 by our long-time collaborator, Renato Arcuri. Many of our shows in Philadelphia have featured an international cast and a multi-lingual performance. Now, we have greater ability to take our work to Italy and Europe and to bring more amazing European artists back home.  Our first major project together was ALCESTI / LIKE A BAT OUT OF HADES. Catch up with OMBELICO MASK ENSEMBLE ITALIA on Facebook, and look for more international collaborations soon!

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’.

How Do You Get Involved?

Oh, there are so many ways!

  • Join our mailing list to keep up with all things Ombelico!

  • Like our Facebook page and Follow us on Twitter for even more up-to-the minute info!

  • Donate!  We gladly accept monetary donations , and in-kind donations of time and talent. If you have a talent in arts admin, marketing or finance, chances are we could use your help.