Comedia dell arte
Commedia dell`arte, (Italian, meaning "comedy of professional artists") was a form of improvisational theater which began in the 16th century and was popular until the 18th century, although it is still performed today. Traveling teams of players would set up an outdoor stage and provide amusement in the form of juggling, acrobatics, and, more typically, humorous plays based on a repertoire of established characters with a rough storyline, called Canovaccio.
Troupes occasionally would perform directly from the back of their traveling wagon, but this is more typical of Carro di Tespi, a sort of travelling theater that dates back to antiquity.
The performances were improvised around a repertory of stock conventional situations, adultery, jealousy, old age, love, some of which can be traced in Roman comedies of Plautus and Terence. The dialogue and action could easily be made topical and adjusted to satirize local scandals,
current events, or regional tastes, mixed with ancient jokes and punchlines. Characters were identified by costume, masks, and even props, such as the slapstick.
See Comedia dell arte characters
for a list of classic characters.