Commedia dell’arte is one of the most encyclopaedic of the traditional theatre forms. It is a rich tool for developing our general understanding of the theatre. Acting in Commedia dell’arte has been likened to performing stand-up while dancing ballet. The movements are stylized, the mask work technical and the characters and their physical choices are extreme.
The style is used to train all aspects of the actors’ art: from expanded physical characterization to psychological identification to partner play, rhythm, timing and improvisation.
We are most often asked to teach Commedia dell’arte for Gymnasie Drama classes. Here, the students are introduced to the basic gallery of Commedia characters, their appetites, attributes, and movements. They are also given a brief historical overview, after which they explore the masks in small lazzi (comic routines), and, if there is sufficient time, scenarios.