puppet scripts

storia dei paladini script photo

As noted above, puppeteers based their chivalric material on Giusto Lo Dico’s Storia dei paladini di Francia. They did not stage Lo Dico’s narrative directly, however, but created scripts (canovacci), divided into acts and scenes, with stage instructions and some dialogue and set speeches.

Until now it has been difficult for researchers to consult these documents because extant scripts are either privately owned by puppeteer families or housed in Sicilian and Italian archives. Fortunately, this situation of near inaccessibility is about to change. The digitization of historical Opera dei pupi scripts will soon make the source texts of this chivalric world available to scholars, students, the general public, and new generations of puppeteers.

PuppetPlays, a research program directed by Prof. Didier Plassard at the Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 and funded by the European Union, is creating a database and anthology with published and unpublished plays written in Western Europe from 1600 to the present that will include several Opera dei pupi scripts. For more information on this project, visit the Puppet Plays platform.

In addition, the descendants of Agrippino Manteo, the Catanese-born puppeteer who ran a puppet theater in New York City’s Little Italy between 1919 and 1939, have donated the family’s scripts to the Italian American Museum of New York. I have scanned these notebooks at Columbia University’s Digital Humanities Center, and will be making the scripts available on this website as soon as the Italian American Museum has publicly presented them and uploaded them to their own site (as per an agreement with the museum’s president). In the meantime, as an example I’ve scanned and uploaded a notebook still in the possession of the Manteo family. To download this notebook, please visit the Manteo puppet theater page.

If you own or know of any scripts that you would like to make available through this site, please contact me at jac3@columbia.edu.


Literary Encyclopedia article on Giusto lo Dico (Jo Ann Cavallo)

Literary Encyclopedia article on Agrippino Manteo (Jo Ann Cavallo)