Now that my month of writing insanity is coming to a close, it’s time to start showing you the results of all my labors. I wrote A LOT of plays in the last few weeks and I’m pleased to finally share them with you! First up is Vardiello, a modern, commedia style adaptation the 17th century Italian fairy tale by Giambattista Basile in his Tale of Tales.
While the majority of my commedia-style adaptations run long with massive casts, this play is short (only runs about 10-15 minutes) and can be done with as little as three performers making it a good choice for competition, short play festivals, and classroom scene study. It’s part of my larger Tale of Tales adaptation project but, like all the pieces of this project, is also designed to stand alone. If you’d like a complimentary perusal version, please let me know.
Vardiello by Hillary DePiano
How much damage can one half-wit do before his mother gives him the boot? A modern, commedia style adaptation the 17th century Italian fairy tale by Giambattista Basile.
1 m, 1 f, 2 e
3 – 4 actors possible
This was a strange one to adapt. I knew I wanted to do it as soon as I read it but I wasn’t sure how to approach it. I tried a couple of different takes before I struck on the way to make it work.
The thing that had me the most stuck was, in order to show the best commedia bits, the story had to be from Vardiello’s perspective when he’s really a repellent human being and pretty hard to stick with for the whole narrative. I tried to change the tale a bit to make him more sympathetic but that sucked some of the humor out. I finally realized that the story had to be from his mother’s perspective to preserve the humour so that we could laugh at Vardiello instead of with him. This is really how the story’s written in the first place anyway.
But to tell the story from the mother’s POV, I had to “tell” instead of “show” all the best commedia bits (which, for her, happen off stage) and isn’t that against all writing advice ever? I quibbled about this for a long while and finally realized, yes, I had to break this major writing rule and “tell” the bits. Luckily, once I had the shape of the play, I realized I could still show most of the bits in this version… I just had to be a bit more creative about it! Ironically, while all my early drafts involved trying to make Vardiello nicer and more relatable, what really made the play click for me was when I gave up on that and just leaned in on him being awful as possible.
When I first read the play, it struck me how no matter completely stupid he was and how badly he screwed up, he was always blaming his mother, claiming she was the stupid one, and she was always taking it. I think a lot of people, women especially, know exactly how that feels and how frustrating it is to have to smile and make nice to someone like this and I decided to play into exactly that. The result is, I think, funny and relatable while still being broad enough to be the kind of comedy you’re after.
I’m going to be introducing all these new plays one by one over the next few weeks so stay tuned!