Commedia dell’Arte • Introduction • Vocabulary • Characters • Masks • Project & Ideas Beginning Drama
Commedia dell’ArteCharacters, Masks and More! • What is it? • A type of theatre popular in Italy in the 16th Century • Physical comedy • Characters are recognized by masks • Stock characters
Commedia dell’ArteCharacters, Masks and More! • When? • Commedia started in the 16th Century and was highly popular until the 18th Century. • Where? • It started in Italy but spread through Europe and was very popular in France
Commedia dell’ArteCharacters, Masks and More! • Who? • Actors worked in traveling troupes • All men (women were included in the 1700’s) • Troupes consisted of around 10 actors (often families) • Actors would specialize in one specific character • When an actor would retire from the troupe their character would be passed on to another actor (often their son)
Commedia dell’ArteCharacters, Masks and More! • How? • Troupes would perform in town centers • They would build stages (they traveled with all their equipment, props and costumes) • Actors would use the area underneath the stage as a dressing room • They performed during daylight hours
Why is Commedia dell’ Arte important? • Why? During the Renaissance? • Commedia dell’ Arte allowed the average person to make fun of society through stereotypes and physical comedy • Politicians and rulers of the day often found themselves the butt of the joke • Why? Influence? • Commedia dell’ Arte influenced Western culture’s idea of humor • The exaggerated, stereotyped characters can be seen in sitcoms, theatre, movies, music, and dance • Examples: Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, The Simpsons, Friends, etc
Further explanation Vocabulary • Commedia dell’Arte does not have any important playwrights or plays. • Why… • Instead of plays, Commedia dell’Arte used scenarios (plot outlines) • Troupes would create the basic outline for the 3 act play • Each actor had a Zibaldone (a book of notes about how to play their specific character including: concetti, lazzi, battute and burle) • Concetti = set comic speech for a character • Lazzi = well-rehearsed physical comic action (slapstick) for 1 character • Battute = Stock dialogs or conversations between two or more characters • Burle = well-rehearsed physical comic action (slapstick) for 2 or more • characters • To summarize – Actors had a basic plot, some memorized dialogue, and some memorized physical jokes BUT when they got onstage the rest was IMPROVISATION
Characters In Commedia dell’ Arte characters belong to one of three major stock types: Zanni, Vecchi, or Lovers.
Zanni – The Clowns The Zanni include… • Brighella • Columbina • Harlequin The clowns were typically servants in the scenarios, providing the laughter.
Personality crafty, quick, unscrupulous thrives on double dealings, intrigues, and foul play sometimes depicted as an innkeeper, shop owner, valet, or soldier cynical liar who only looks out for himself He is sleazy, seductive, dangerous. He is a drunkard and boisterous. Physically lazy but can move quickly He slinks without muscular effort Always ready to pounce He might blithely be cleaning his nails with the knife which will soon cut a throat. He gets very close to people when he speaks. He can sing and dance, and drink with the best of them. His costume is usually trimmed in green. Brighella
Personality female servants fresh and frisky, sometimes crafty, and often without morals makes use of disquises, dressing up as doctors, cavaliers, barristers, and other servants often the smartest character in a scenario She was autonomous, self-sufficient, and quite rational. Physically Columbina was not afraid to show her buxom contours or flaunt her robust hips. She stands with hands on her hips, or holding a basket or tamborine, while flirting Columbina
Personality like a 5-year-old eager to please his master or mistress His first attention is to food: how to get it, how to savor it He loves tricks and physical antics usually cannot read, which makes him confuse messages sent by lovers. He is ignorant yet clever; slow mentally but quick physically. Physically his lower back is arched his arms are often bent with hands on his hips, in readiness to serve His legs turn out, sometimes with heels together and other times with the back knee bent and the front leg straight. He runs quickly and lightly, kicking his feet forward. He sneaks to steal food with large, exaggerated, silent steps. He can stop in an instant, especially when caught in one of his pranks. Harlequin
Vecchi are the old men characters. They are typically father figures or evil characters. They include… Pantalone Il Dottore Il Capitano Vecchi
Personality wealthy, paranoid, merchant Money is his obsession He is a master at seducing beautiful young women, He suspects that everyone is out to deceive him. He complains about his physical ailments: aching back, bad knees, gout, etc. that conveniently come and go at his discretion. Physically His pelvis is tilted under but he is not hunched over His knees are bent with his heels together, toes pointing outward he runs and walks heels first His hands and fingers actively fidget in counting money or holding his money pouch In spite of being old and sick, he is surprisingly agile Pantalone usually has a curled, pointed beard, red leggings, and a long cape (denoting higher status). Pantalone
Personality professes to know everything, but actually knows nothing He loves to hear himself speak and expounds on answers, whether asked or not (but he is always wrong) He claims to be a doctor of medicine, philosophy, science, law, language, literature, art, politics, or the classics, or all of them. He is a delightfully pretentious bag of wind. Physically His mask covers the forehead and nose, signifying his heady thoughts and nosy intrusions. He bounces when he walks uses his hands expressively to clarify his vivid ideas Il Dottore
Personality the cowardly braggart soldier He is the foreigner in the scenario, speaking with an accent (or two) enters to conquer arrogant foes, to rescue young damsels in distress, or to win the hearts of beautiful widows. He is, however, a wimp. He avoids fighting at all costs by deflecting conflicts, feigning death, or outsmarting aggressors. Physically long nose, signifying brawn over brains (the longer the nose, the fewer the brains..) He holds his weapon strongly and aggressively (anything from an old, rusty or crooked sword to a stick he thinks is a sword), but doesn't really know how to use it he stands tall and has a wide stance, with feet firmly planted But when avoiding conflict he becomes small and shy, shriveling and shivering in fear He can run very fast when necessary. Il Capitano
The Lovers • The Lovers were the average characters who were typically being kept apart. They included… • Leandro • Inamorata
The Lovers • The Lovers did not typically wear masks. However, they did wear heavy make-up. • THE LOVER, whether called Leandro, Flavio, Lelio, Ottavio, is always charming, dapper, and sometimes a bit ridiculous. His sole purpose in the script is to be in love. He must be young, good looking, courteous and gallant. • The Inamorata was a role originally played by men in France and England
Review Commedia dell’Arte Final Project
NEXT WEEK “The Love of the Three Oranges” An example of a Commedia dell’ Arte scenario Read and Act Vocabulary quiz
Characters • Things to think about when creating characters… • What type of character are you most comfortable with? • Give yourself a name • Now, develop a voice and walk for your character
Costumes • Developing a costume… • Costume should fit your character type • Should be unlike your normal clothes • Think about hair – wigs or a specific hairstyle can help your character to be unique • Accessories
Masks • All characters will have masks • Features of mask? Nose, cheeks, facial hair • Colors? • Red - ? • Blue - ? • Yellow - ? • Green - ? • Multi-Colored - ? • Natural - ?
Scenarios • Plot lines Most scenarios involved two lovers being kept apart by someone evil. The lovers would be helped out by their servants (clowns) who provided the laughter.
Ideas for Modern Scenarios • I want you to be as ORIGINAL as possible. No copying current film or tv shows. What are stories in your life of lovers being kept apart? • If you are short of ideas consider modernizing/updating a fairy tale or nursery rhyme
Task for today Meet with your groups and in your learning journal record at least 3 ideas for each column…