8 characters. 3F; 3M; 2 Either; Flexible casting; 13 pages in length. Approximately 10-15 minutes running time. A Commedia dell’arte play (with classroom materials) written by August Mergelman. (3 Credits)

Pantalone’s New Pantalones is a Commedia dell’arte twist on the Emperor’s New Clothes! Pantalone’s outstanding fault is his obsession with personal appearance; in fact, an untimely fashion flub kept him from blessing the union of his daughter Isabella to her belovèd Flavio. It’s up to the town witch (literally), along with commedia’s favorite stock characters—Brighella, Columbina, and Arlecchino—to teach the vain gentleman a lesson in humility. They cook up a scheme to sell him a pair of britches so delicate that only the truly-refined can see the fabric. When it’s finally time for Pantalone to show off his new trousers, Flavio steps up to save the day. This hilarious play also includes added materials including improvisation and acting exercises, a project for students and questions for discussion and research. You can find these other fantastic plays by August Mergelman in our Script Library: Spider Besider, Fancy Nancy & the Ants, Persephone, The Magpies, By Jove, A Merry Interlude at Camelot, Mum’s the Word, The Vixen, Couth, The Honest Impostor, The Weaver Girl & the Cowherd, The Dragon & the Pearl, Polly Peachum & the Pirates, Lady Scottish Play, Penny from Heaven, The Cat Noir, Trade Trade Secrets, Jackie & the Beans Talk, North Paws.

As a playwright, August Mergelman has one simple goal: to bring classical works to the modern audience. It seems that so many of the world’s great dramas are obscured by their own magnitude. August does not believe that any of history’s great playwrights would truly want their works to be intimidating or bewildering. First and foremost, they were showman; they crafted their works to be engaging, challenging, and most importantly, entertaining. As a fourth-generation Colorado native, August is proud of his western heritage, which is manifest in several of his western settings. His works have been featured in the Playwrights’ Showcase of the Western Region and the Rocky Mountain Theatre Association’s Playwrighting Competition.

Excerpt from the play:

CAST OF CHARACTERS

La Ruffiana — a witch
Pantalone — a vain man
La Signora — his wife
Colombina — their servant
Isabella — their daughter
Flavio — her belovèd
Brighella — a ruffian
Arlecchino — his sidekick

(Ideally, the action takes place in front of a curtain or a screen. In the opening scene, a ladder maybe used to represent a tree. Enter Ruffiana.)

Ruffiana
Some days, I just watch people. Other days, I play tricks on them. Every once in a blue moon, I meddle in their private affairs. What can I say? I’m a witch. Besides, you mortals don’t always exhibit the most noble qualities yourselves. Vanity, for instance. Tsk, tsk. Let me tell you a story about a well-dressed gentleman named Signor Pantalone. One day, when I saw Signor Pantalone and his wife passing my way, I decided to find out if he was really as vain as everyone claimed. (Produces a magic voice box.) Oh, I call this box my magic voice box. Here’s how it works.

(When Ruffiana opens the box, the voice of kitten escapes. Enter Pantalone and la Signora, followed by Colombina.)

La Signora
Pancia, do you hear that? A kitten!

Ruffiana
Oh, someone please help me. My precious little kitten is stuck in that tree.

Pantalone
Oh, so it is. There’s got to be someone around here who can assist you.

Ruffiana
Why not you, Sir?

Pantalone
Me? How could I possibly? I’m wearing my finest pair of dress slacks, freshly pressed. One could cut through stone with this crease—it’s so sharp. Can you just imagine what sap from a tree would do to these beauties? You’ll just have to wait for someone in shabbier clothes.

(Exit Pantalone with la Signora. Colombina stays behind.)

Colombina
Do pardon my master. He’s basically a good man, but he is known for being a bit…

Ruffiana
Vain?

Colombina
Exactly. However, I happen to know that his daughter is on her way as well. She’s purposely lagging behind her parents because of the… company she’s keeping.

Ruffiana
Oh? What’s the young man’s name?

Colombina
Flavio. He’ll help you. Oh, here they come.

(Enter Flavio and Isabella. Again, Ruffiana opens the box to release the sound of the kitten.)

Flavio
I tell you, deep down inside, under all those fancy clothes, your father is a man of reason. I will make him listen to me!

Isabella
I know, Flavio, but…

(Again, la Ruffiana opens the box and releasing the noise of the kitten.)

Isabella
Flavio, do you hear that? A kitten!

Ruffiana
Oh, someone please help me. My precious little kitten is stuck in that tree.

(Flavio climbs the ladder to rescue the kitten, which is invisible.)

Flavio
Never fear, Signorina. I’ll get your kitten down to safety. There, there.

(Exit Flavio and Isabella. Colombina crosses her arms and gives la Ruffiana an inquisitive look.)

Ruffiana
Yes, I’m a witch, and this is how I amuse myself. Got a problem with it?

Colombina
No, no. Who am I to judge? I do wonder, though, if a witch might use her powers to help us mortal people, instead of just pointing out our shortcomings. It might be worth a laugh, anyway.

Ruffiana
I’m not adverse to the idea. What did you have in mind?

Colombina
Well, since you asked. Picture this…

(As Colombina describes the situation, the characters appear in tableau.)

Colombina
My mistress, la Signorina Isabella loves il Signor Flavio, but on the day the boy asked for Signor Pantalone’s blessing, there was a spot of gooseberry preserves on his tie. Well, for committing such an egregious fashion error, her father denied his blessing on the spot, so to speak. Despite the endless pleading of his daughter, he won’t even revisit the topic. If Flavio could prove himself useful, however, I think that my master’s heart could be softened.

Ruffiana
Hm. If the old man is to find himself in trouble, someone is going to have to make trouble.

Colombina
Hm. What did you have in mind?

Ruffiana
A pair of bottom feeders who rolled into the village recently. Oh, look—They happen to be coming this way now. I’ll let you see for yourself.

(For the last time, la Ruffiana repeats the scenario, opening the box and releasing the noise.)

Arlecchino
Brighella, do you hear that? A kitten!

Ruffiana
Oh, someone please help me. My precious little kitten is stuck in that tree.

Brighella
Of course, Signorina. Rescuing a kitten from a tree—let me see—that would cost three pieces of gold.

Arlecchino
That much?

(Brighella nudges Arlecchino.)

Ruffiana
If I had three-hundred pieces of gold, I would gladly pay it, but have no gold at all.

Brighella
Ah, but we are reasonable gentlemen. What else can you offer us?

Ruffiana
All I have in this world is my precious kitten.

Arlecchino
We’ll take it!

Brighella
What? What would we want with that hairball?

Arlecchino
You just said we’re reasonable, Brighella, so be reasonable. We haven’t eaten in two days. Of course, it will have more meat on its bones if we could wait a bit longer, but for now…

Colombina
Okay, okay! I’m convinced.

Arlecchino
Oh, lovely Signorina. I didn’t notice you there. Of what are you convinced?

Colombina
Of the lowness of your character—both of you.

Arlecchino
What?

Brighella
I thank you heartily, Signorina. (With a deep bow.) But you must excuse my companion. He doesn’t recognize a good compliment when he hears one.

Arlecchino
If we are such low characters, what do you want from us?

Ruffiana
Well, since you asked… perhaps the four of us might take a little stroll, and we’ll explain.

Colombina
I think you will like our proposal very much.

Arlecchino
If it’s from you, what’s not to like? By the way, I’ve decided to forgive you for insulting me.

(Exit Brighella, Colombina, and Arlecchino. La Ruffiana stays behind.)

Ruffiana
And so, the four of us went for our little stroll. As soon as we made it clear that Signor Pantalone was a wealthy man with a weakness for frivolity, those two swindlers were putty in our hands. Together, the four of us hatched a plan. The next day, we knew that everyone in the village, including Pantalone and his wife, would pass through the market square.

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