Commedia dell'Arte for the 21st Century (short course)

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Why study this course?

Chiara D'Anna, Italian actress, director, writer and academic will teach this exciting course - an introduction to Commedia dell’Arte and its legacy in contemporary performance. Chiara is one of the top practitioners and scholars in the UK: a tutor with both deep, theoretical knowledge and professional experience as an actress, director and teacher. Techniques studied will comprise body awareness, improvisation, stagecraft, slapstick, stock characterisation and half-mask technique.

More about this course

This course, taught by Italian actress, director, writer and academic Chiara D'Anna is an introduction to Commedia dell’Arte and its legacy in contemporary performance. It is an excellent opportunity for drama students, teachers, professional actors and theatre makers to develop skills that are fundamental in any performance setting – not only physical comedy. The Masks of Commedia dell’Arte are an excellent tool to expand performers’ physical vocabulary, stamina, space awareness and understanding of tempo-rhythm and comic timing.

This workshop is a great opportunity to learn how to create successful ensemble work, interact effectively with an audience and improvise with confidence. Chiara's approach to commedia looks specifically at the application of Commedia dell’Arte principles and masks techniques in contemporary performance. The course will culminate in a performance to a small invited audience of family and friends.

In this course you will learn Commedia dell’Arte’s principles and techniques and how to apply these skills in other theatrical contexts.  

On completion of this course you will be able to:

  • develop your physical and vocal vocabulary in the creation of grotesque and comic characters
  • devise and perform scenes utilising the traditional Masks of Commedia dell’Arte, props, music and costumes
  • improvise with confidence
  • interact with your audience with confidence
  • adapt key commedia techniques for performance today in your future projects
  • demonstrate an understanding of the historical and cultural context from which Commedia dell’Arte originated and its legacy in contemporary theatre

Fees and key information

Course type Short Course
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Who's this course for?

This course is an excellent opportunity for drama students, drama teachers, professional actors and directors to develop skills that are fundamental in any performance setting. It is particularly useful for actors, students and theatre practitioners interested in improvisation, comedy, devising and physical approach to characterisation.

Course structure

Following an introduction to Commedia dell’Arte and its history, the course will focus on specific techniques to acquire the necessary skills to work with masks on grotesque characterisation. This course will allow participants to explore Commedia as a useful tool to expand their physical and vocal vocabulary for any type of approach to theatre: from devising to text-work.

Participants will have the opportunity to focus on different aspects of actor training. Techniques studied will comprise body awareness, improvisation, stagecraft, slapstick, stock characterisation and half-mask technique.

During the last part of the course participants will apply the knowledge and experience acquired throughout the course to devise their own work (Commedia’s canovacci). This independent work in small groups will culminate in a commedia performance for an invited audience.

(Please wear comfortable clothing suitable for physical activity).

Subjects you will cover on this course:

The Body as a Medium of Expression

  • Introduction to Commedia dell’Arte; a brief historical contextualisation and its legacy in contemporary performance.
  • Playful warm up exercises for ​​body and ​voice.
  • Introduction to grotesque characterisation: a physical approach to characterisation.
  • Work with driving forces, balance and mutuality (work in pairs and groups).
  • Animal work and masks: physical and vocal transformation.

The Servants of Commedia dell’Arte: Zanni, Arlecchino and Servetta

  • Playful warm up exercises for ​​body and ​voice.
  • The codified language of commedia: the servants’ driving forces, postures, gestures, walks, voice and sound.
  • Where can we find these masks today? Work on your personal interpretation /re-contextualisation of these masks.
  • Improvisation with masks.
  • Introduction of techniques such as: mask-hit, asides and counter-scenes.
  • Work in pairs on simple scenes.
  • Particular focus on: listening, tempo-rhythm and comic timing.

The Masters of Commedia dell’Arte: Pantalone and Dottor Balanzone

  • Playful warm up exercises for ​​body and ​voice.
  • The codified language of commedia: masters’ postures, gestures, walks, voice and sound.
  • Where can we find these masks today? Work on your personal interpretation /re-contextualisation of these masks.
  • Improvisation with masks: characters’ interactions and audience interaction.
  • Work on Doctor’s sproloqui (monologues)
  • Work in pairs or small groups (3) to devise simple scenes (master-servant relationship).
  • Particular focus on status on stage. 

Gli Innamorati and il Capitano

  • Playful warm up exercises for ​​body and ​voice
  • The codified language of commedia: postures, gestures, walks, voice and sound of gli Innamorati (female and male young lovers) and il Capitano (The Captain).
  • Where can we find these masks today? Work on your personal interpretation /re-contextualisation of these masks.
  • Work on scenes/interaction in pairs: female and male lovers.
  • Particular focus on: space awareness, composition, rhythm and comic timing.
  • Pair improvisation on the meeting between two captains: particular focus on space awareness, tempo-rhythm and comic timing.

Play with Canovacci

  • Playful warm up exercises for ​​body and ​voice.
  • A introduction on: Commedia dell’Arte canovacci (the backbone of a piece; sequence of events, characters involved etc), lazzi comici (comic gags) and soliloquy: the building blocks of a commedia scenario.
  • Re-cap of all the main masks introduced in the previous four classes and your personal interpretation/contextualisation: driving-forces, gestures, postures and walks of Zanni, Arlecchino, Servetta, Pantalone, Dottor Balanzone, gli Innamorati and il Capitano.
  • Select one or two masks to focus on: re-define their quality, movements, gestures and voice. Bring personal stories, experiences and characters into the work.
  • Improvise, devise and write dialogues or monologues when appropriate.
  • Work on scenes in small groups experimenting with power-relationship; status and characters interaction between servants, masters, young lovers and captains.
  • Play short canovacci (scenes) paying particular attention to: composition in space, audience interaction, rhythm, rempo-rhythm and pace, body-voice connection.
  • Show each other the scenes and provide constructive feedback.
  • Select costumes and props to bring for next week. 

Develop Characters and Stories

  • Playful warm up exercises for ​​body and ​voice.
  • Playful devising exercises with props and costumes without and with your ,ask(s).
  • Keep working in the same small groups from week five: develop your scenes (canovacci) integrating costumes, props and music as appropriate.
  • Pay particular attention to: physical and vocal transformation into your chosen mask; composition in space; entrances and exits; audience interaction; rempo-rhythm and pace of each scene and the whole piece; comic timing; creative use of costumes and props.
  • Show the scenes to an invited small audience of family and friends.

Course dates

Course dates

6 March to 4 April 2019

OR

23 March to 6 April

Length

One evening a week for five sessions

OR

One day a week for three sessions

Day and time

Wednesday, 6pm to 9pm

OR

Saturday, 9.30am to 3pm

Maximum class size 10
Contact hours 15

Discounts

A 20% discount is available for:

  • those who are registered as unemployed and in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit
  • those whose sole or main income is a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) state retirement pension
  • those who are registered as disabled and in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • full-time and part-time UK students on credit-bearing courses
  • London Metropolitan University students on year-long day courses
  • London Metropolitan University alumni members
  • London Metropolitan University staff

If you're eligible for the 20% discount, please contact us before booking.

What's included in the price?

Materials are included in the course fees.

Terms and conditions

Please read our terms and conditions before booking.

How to apply

To book on to one of our short courses, click the apply button or visit our eShop.

When to apply

Please note, the deadline to book a place on one of our short courses is one week before the start date. If you have missed the deadline, please get in touch and we will do our best to accommodate you.