1st Year Program
The course will start with the research of actor’s “neutral state”, which is the fundamental
condition that anticipates any kind of expression. Feeling the neutrality means being conscious of one’s own
body and its endless unintentional signals of communication.
Actors should free themselves of the repetitive pattern of their habitual behavior in order to find a clearer and more conscious stage presence. A deeper and a more eclectic way of communication is necessary to be a good actor.
Students will attain neutrality and stage presence by practicing with the “neutral mask”.
This is an expressionless mask that, through the elimination of facial expression, allows the actor to concentrate
on the body, especially on the plexus. To be more specific, the chest, which is the center of our breathing and
which gives an impulse to all the expressions. The movement of the limbs and head follow the respiration or act as
an extension of the line of force which is initiated by the chest.
The objective is to obtain an abstract movement, which is not the imitation of something, but the representation of the essential dynamics underlying the reality around us and the natural phenomena: the elements; colors; substance; seasons; animals. Words and sounds will only be integrated into the movement when the actor no longer wears the mask.
Through the study of the neutral mask, students can increase their power of expression. They will be able to discover the dominant element, color or animal which is hidden in each different character they play. This is not carried out through a psychological process, but through the observation of and identification with natural phenomena as: water, fire, earth and air; students will have to understand the intrinsic dynamic and, through the identification with the element, transform them into respiration and abstract movement. Next step will be taking off the mask and let enter sound, word and text.
The actor in now ready to develop a more conscious expressive potentiality staging a large amount of feelings reach of shades that will keep the actor away from banality of stereotyped acting.
The search for essential and clear gesture leads the actor to the primordial examples of theatre. In fact, in primitive theatre, all gestures were rich, symbolic and meaningful. This ancient form of dramatization had a double level of representation: a verbal one (narration of myths) and a physical one (rituals). The mythological text are conjugated to a ritual work.
Animal habits, such as passion and the need for sustenance through hunting, and the rich spirit of imitation, which are typical of primitive man, are the basis for this kind of dance. The primitive man enters completely into the spirit and the shape of the animal which is being imitated. In fact, in the primitive custom, there was no distinction between these forms of embodiment. From the mystic and magic union between man and animal derives the choice and exaltation of the Totem. This moment represents the climax of this ritual.
Primitive populations had many spiritual beliefs. Consequently, funeral dances were very important. The purpose of funeral rituals was to protect living and dead people from evil spirits. A continuous ecstatic bond is created, so that the deceased are sure to reach the spirits of their ancestors. The favorite rhythmic motifs for this ritual are full of life. Large steps and jumps are performed with the maximum possible vigor in order to create a circular form that has neither beginning nor end.
This represents the “game-preparation” for war. For several days whole tribes are involved in choreographies that symbolize the struggle with the enemy. The ritual has various phases, which show a dramatic imitation of the battle and the desire to reach a victorious and triumphant epilogue. The traditional chorus is here divided into two sides and the choreography outlines the violent aspects of the competitive activity and the danced swordfight.
The Tragedy is appropriately considered the first theatrical style to be dealt with in the 1st year of the course. Greek tragedy is seen as a point of departure towards an interpretation that has the tendency to stylize and to trace, through the texts and the great movements, the essential dynamics that govern the space and conflicts in the Greek play. The experience of Tragedy is the discover of what man recognize as a deep belonging to a common part of the entire humanity in order to discover the meaning "being a choir" on the stage.
The tragic stage
The point of departure is the search for the levels to which the gesture and the word should be addressed and pushed:
- upwardly as an appeal to the divinity to express the tragedy of man's in the relationship between Sky and Earth,
- in frontal opening toward the city and the community of man: this is the attitude of the brave man, the commander, the hero
- downward, to manifest pity towards the fragile human condition and as an appeal to the gods of the underworld.
The Greek choir
The next step is the formation of the chorus. In the tragedy, the ancient chorus represents the human condition that is symbolized by the protagonist. The chorus is conceived as a compact, unified body that assumes a single shape and text, which follows and amplifies the movements of the coryphaeus. Therefore, every “throwing-gesture” of the coryphaeus is followed by the answer of the chorus that represents the consent given by the town council. This figure will result in a sharper sensitivity in mutual listening and an ability to experiment with choral structures and images, which have a strong, symbolic and choreographic impact.
The hero, the coryphaeus, the poet, the orator, the priest
The study of the figure of the hero is connected more closely to interpretation. The point of departure is the style of the orator, whose physical and vocal presence leads to the expression of a strategic sense of rhetoric.
Study of the great tragedies
Finally, students will study dialogues and monologues taken from the main tragedies by Eschilo, Sofocle and Euripide, interpreted through a process of osmosis between text, movement and stage architecture. Very important is the tragic monologue as the dramaturgical moment where the tensions and conflicts of the tragedy meet. The work on the elements (water, air, fire and earth) is now applied to acting of text, conjugating breath and feelings in order to interpret different shades of human soul.
This is the argument of the school first show. Once chosen the myth to represent, actors will stage their own text becoming: choir, living set and danced ritual that amplifies the action and word of other actors. Through the pressing rhythm of picture-sequence, dramatic introspection is barely outlined while the epic-mythological aspect of the tragic events is stressed.The result is an interesting individual work on the epic text connected to a powerful choral dimension.
Recently the pedagogy of the school has been extended to include Eastern philosophy. As a preliminary study to the tragic form students will be introduced the sacred texts of India, Taoism and Tibet. The martial Arts, the Thai Chi Chuan and the Zen experience are new disciplines that like the neutral mask, work on the solar-plexus and on respiration. All these help the actor to “center himself” reunifying "the feeling and the being”.
The second study period is oriented to different narration forms directed to the audience without any kind of mediation, from chivalry romance to oriental stories, from narrator/mime to tells of occidental tradition, from characters of the “fair theatre” to charlatans charmers sellers.The literary text: courtly, sacred and profane
This is an original and complex style where students are transformed into do-all actors , minstrel globetrotters, fighters - acrobats - jugglers, who are able to turn a public square into a stage en plain air. The explosive charge of fair-theatre finds its full shape in the granguignol tale to the paradox the ingenuous jokes of fairy tales, making them naïve and aggressive at the same time.
Who introduces the themes of the legendary story. He aims at a naïve and delirious humor, through the taste for exaggeration and deformation.
Who connects the story to the images to make the tale become a rhythmic score. He often modifies the narrative contents to open towards new meanings.
Doctor, actor, illusionist that stage the persuasive charm of “sellers” of any time.
Very differently from the study of western tales, we will approach the oriental mythical story in order to discover new forms of narrative and gesture. Several kinds of stories will be dramatized: Zen tales, which are synthetic and symbolic and “the word” is essential and poetic; the Tibetan fables, which are pervaded by mythical and fantastic images where the gesture blooms, baroque and delicate as a lily; and finally the comic and rough stories of the Mongolian and Chinese tradition.
The study of mask is preparatory to the study of characters. These are “no-talking” masks
where the body movement reaches its fullness and complete amplification. Silence creates a stage space which is
finally free of the “noise” of the word. There is a multiplicity and universality of human reactions and
interactions, so that with the Basle masks the use of words, which are often trite, is not needed. The Basel
Carnival masks are “dawning” masks and for this reason they are also called larval masks. Their state in
fact, is not pre-defined because the mask’s expression finds a shape according to the actor’s movement
and his breathing.
For this reason, the actor will lengthen the time span between one reaction and another.
The artisans of Basle's masks divide them into four categories:
- the mad people of the village
- the extroverted people in expansion
- the introverted people in contraction.
All these characters speak a silent, lavish language that underlines the essence of human feelings. These masks are able to show if the actor’s movements are confused and banal. The student’s aim is the search for a "talking immobility", so he will work on the decomposition of the character’s timing of action and reaction.
The study of the characters of the human comedy begins with the analysis of daily life. The actors’ research begins with the observation of human behavior. It’s important to look at gestures, postures, uncontrolled reactions of man, especially when he is with his fellow humans. We should pay attention to how actions become gestures and the gestures communicate messages. To reach this aim, the students will work on a theoretical as well as a practical plane: from the social-behavioral analysis of Desmond Morris, they learn that unconscious actions and the expressions we are unaware of can reveal much more than words can. From the observation of places and situations in their lives (train-station, bus stop, swimming pool, elevator, a lunch or a meeting) actors can discover signals and impulses to divest conventional reactions. They should be open toward the events and relationships with others, in order to find a natural and genuine interpretation in their acting.
From the observation of reality comes the search for daily life characters. They are first
observed objectively and then pushed toward their allegorical stylization. The objective and detached analysis of
daily reality is focused on human behavior, especially in the situations where there is no speaking: "silence
zones". The character’s psychology is not very important, while the actions are the basis of this study.
The philosophy of J. Tati supports this approach. Students will then be asked to identify themselves in a
precise daily context, such as a lecture or a meeting. Each student can choose a character in order to “bring
it to life”. From the moment students leave their house they have to put themselves into their “character’s
shoes” with the purpose of gaining credibility. Therefore, the assignment will be to build the story (past,
present and future) of our character's human typology. During an improvisation of a meeting characters will
interact and their psychology and their vices (tic, manias) will emerge. Then situations of emergency
(black outs, fires, accidents of different nature, etc.), will be simulated. In this way the characters
should follow their instinctive reactions. We will see whether or not they feel the panic and that will reveal their
hidden and repressed nature: their “contrary”. From this point the situation becomes surreal.
The phases of study are the following:
At the end of this study, students will analyse dialogues and situations of theatrical literature: character is now created on given circumstances and motivation. His transformation is connected to the evolution of set and his psychological and behavioural lines will be defined through the text analysis and an interpretative training.
The Lee Strasberg’s method, “the work”, is a work system borned in America from some elements of theatrical pedagogy of
the Russian Konstantin Stanislavskij in the middle ‘900, based on the use of emotional memory.
The actor doesn’t imitate but becomes the character in a sort of identification that frees the actor from pretence and
allows him to live the given character. Starting from a behavioural and psychological analysis, through the training,
the exercise of sensorial memory and the research of circumstances, the student is brought to identify himself with the
character he plays to assume his deepest identity. The aim is to discover in himself character’s motivations, personality,
feeling based on his own, to know his body, his emotion, his deep reactions.
Improvisations are based on interpretation of situations emotionally analogues to those of text without the help of cues.
The exercises of affective memory consist in reliving experiences of the own past in order to recall feelings of that exact experience, using them to create a credible and realistic character.
The final part of this work is “the acting”, meaning the acting in front of the videocamera. Student, through relaxing, control and expressive dosage exercises, will help the close eye of the objective depending of the kind of shoot (small field, close-up, American field). He will practice to become the character in a ciak time to interpret part of a story in a non consequential form and to repeat the action over and over without loosing freshness and credibility.
The didactic is now focused on the search of feeling, from the lyricism of poetry to the raw realism of the war scene.
Strong beliefs are certainly a part of the existential development of man in every era. However, it is between the 1600s and the 1800s that these feelings were expressed through art. Gericault and Delacroix are witnesses of this figurative art.
The melodramatic acting
The exasperation of feelings, suspended respiration and forward tension are the main characteristics of the lyrical-dramatic style of melodrama.
The great movements of the Tragedy are softened. They are made damp and watery, while the dynamics of flow and reflux predominate. At the beginning, the work on melodrama is very similar to a dance. As in choreography, students will experiment with attraction and repulsion movements. The whole body is involved. Only when this body tension is captured, students can search for sincerity in their interpretation and acting.
In the study of melodrama movement assumes a theatrical dimension. It becomes the expression of feelings or attitudes such as love, hate, hope, pride, strength, weakness and nostalgia that the actors should find inside themselves. The following are some typical situations of melodrama:
meeting, desertion, betrayal, separation, nostalgia, social conflict, war, letters from battlefields. These topics are the subjects for dramatization that will have a musical soundtrack. Acting will lose the epic emphasis of tragedy while the ordinary dialogue of the modern play is required and is more appropriate. Interpretation is realistic and the dialogues are dilated until the words reach a metaphorical meaning.
The study of heroes and anti-heroes of the industrial era (abandoned orphans, merciless usurers, slave merchants, sailors, prostitutes, emigrants looking for fortune) will follow. Misty and faded backgrounds, like old photographs, will be created. The light rhythm of Waltz or the sensual Tango are the appropriate notes to accompany the great feelings of the stories in the melodramatic repertoire.
Narration, stories and auteur poems
Finally we will deal with the reading and studying of narrative works, stories and poems; we will go from the ‘800 till today: from Russian romantic literature novels and poetry taken from romantic literature to French one, from Maupassant to Rimbaud, from Neruda to Eluard, da Apollinaire a Hikmet da Rilke a A’isha Arna’ut; Students will also try short poetic writings later elaborated inside complex stage picture.
Exasperation of feelings
Sometimes the tragedy of human destiny is loaded so that the dramatic exaggeration often leads to paradox and laughter. The situation and the characters become grotesque representations of fateful destiny. Life can be tragic or comic: it just depends on how man faces his existence.
The student soon discovers the endless potential of this style. He creates comic, absurd or paradoxical adaptations by drawing on different writing mechanisms: "mime - narrator", the narrator’s "voice off", the disorder in narration, the roles switching, etc.
From the White Pantomime to “Ragtime”
The Pantomime and its evolution in the world of the image, represents the conclusion to this section about melodrama. Pantomime is the art of silent stories, which uses the language of mime. The gestures are like words in a dictionary which give meaning and describe characters, environments and feelings. The nineteenth-century "white pantomime" of the lunar Pierrot, introduces the study of the poetic melodrama. Its historical evolution, which is also the consequence of the birth of the photograph and the silent movies, leads to the caricature, which transforms vague characters into fixed stereotypes. The stage writings in this phase use the style of “silent movies of the 20s” as a model, which includes: falls, misunderstandings and cake throwing would be the normal evolution of the stories as in the best tradition of "ragtime" (C. Chaplin – B. Keaton – Marx brothers - Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy).
The voice is the main tool with which the human being realizes the communication by transmitting ideas, emotions, feelings, personality states of mind. The knowledge of the functioning of the vocal emission and the ability to act on it are therefore the basis of the interpretative techniques for the actor. The phonatory function is ensured in particular by the activity of the vocal cords which determine the transformation of aerodynamic energy, generated by the respiratory system, into acoustic energy. The sonic result following the chordal vibration is in fact integrated by that system of resonance cavities and articulating organs that allow the modulation of the laryngeal sound up to the formation of the spoken language. The coordinated action of these different organs allows the characterization of the voice in the three fundamental parameters: intensity, frequency or tonal height and timbre. The imitative orthophonic method is based on listening and on the phenomenon of the contagion of the pronunciation: except for rare cases linked to specific pathologies, this method proves to be particularly functional in the correction of pronunciation defects based on the principle of binding any imprecise phoneme to phonemes that are formed in adjacent positions (on the tongue, on the palate) and which are already part of the student's patrimony. This method is based on a physical experience relying on the proprioceptive capacity of the body, while the work on the voice starts from a correct use of breathing to improve the volume and the tonal quality of the voice up to a conscious use of tones, rhythms, colors and volumes.
Reading aloud is a fundamental skill of the work of an actor, who is halfway between the techniques of identification and those of estrangement and which enjoys considerable practical applications: from the "desk" tests of the drama theater, to the performances at the lectern, from readings of radio literary works and live to audiobooks. In reading techniques, the teaching of acting helps to make a highly artificial course natural and to make communicatively more effective what is actually a staging: it is in fact to make a piece of text seem "spoken" while spoken is not and to make it seem 'live' a string of language that is not designed. The work is placed in a pre-interpretative area starting from the assumption that in order to achieve a brilliant interpretation it is necessary to re-learn to read and before applying expressive embellishments on the text (particular use of the voice, melodic intensity of certain passages, vibrations emotional, characterization of the characters) it is necessary in the first place to understand and communicate something that is 'in' the text and that constitutes it as such. To activate this area, it is necessary to use the whole body through a process that makes use of movements and gestures that can be exercised with theatrical methods based on body expressiveness, the organic nature of impulses and the concept of action; the spectator's understanding and attention lies in the link between gesture and speech, between body movements and intonations.
To convey a message, communicate an emotion or tell a story, words are not the only tool we have available, there is
a powerful form of language shared by the whole human race and based on gestures and expressions: the not-verbal.
Mime consists exclusively of gestures and does not contemplate the use of any kind of word or sound; it imitates
real life starting from a methodical decomposition, simulating with extreme precision the presence of attractive or
repulsive objects or forces. Pantomime is also a silent stage representation, consisting of the mimic action, the
expression of the face and the movements of the body but, unlike the mime, can be accompanied by music, sounds and
voices off the field and is aimed at telling a story.
According to the methodology of the body mimic developed by Étienne Decroux, the human body can be broken down into
segments and parts like a machine, but this decomposition is aimed at the search for unity between the body and the
spirit. This happens through an expressive discipline that trains the mimic representation of the objects we have
around us daily (manipulation) and to understand the movements we make when we are in contact with them (fixed point
It is a method based essentially on the perception of self and gestural memory: it is not enough to imagine the
object intellectually, the body must "feel" it physically by activating the involved muscles in the manipulation
with the same effort that they would employ with the real object. Depending on the weight, the shape and the
dimensions to be respected.
• Basic technique, manipulation and fixed point, mimic sequences
• Illusion of everyday objects and actions
• The abstract mimic gesture (the symbolism of Decroux)
• Segmentations and reconstructions of mimic phrases (Marceau technique)
• The essential dynamics of the human body: pulling, pushing, etc. (Lecoq technique)
• Human scenographies
• White pantomime
• Accelerated pantomime
• Cinematic pantomime
• Cartoons pantomime
• Comics and Ragtime
During the first year of the course the study of the disciplines of music and singing is aimed at stimulating in the students the attitude to listening, to harmonization, to the sense of rhythm, to improvisation with respect to a given score. In this way the techniques of vocal arrangement become a gym for the actor functional to theatrical performance.
The history of the theatrical costume is closely intertwined with that of fashion and that of the theater itself: in
fact, the costume as a functional element to the staging (to make a character recognizable from a distance) has
become an instrument over the years expressive; from the philological and naturalistic research of models and
fabrics to the most daring reinterpretations, costume is a fundamental element of the directorial and stylistic
choices. So, the make-up has always amplified the actor's expressiveness, helps in the characterization of the
character, and plays with the physical transformations from the most illusory to the most expressionist. The design
of the theatrical costume takes into account not only the philological reliability of the model (which can be
respected or deliberately turned upside down) but, in concert with the directorial ideation, uses certain fabrics in
virtue of the lines that will draw on stage (soft, fluctuating, rigid, sharp) and certain colors both symbolically
and suggestively; to make sure that all the costumes are harmonious with each other, the moodboard instrument is
used in the design phase, a collage of very different images (of places, colors, elements, foods) that support the
choice of costumes by identifying a specific iconographic concept. As well as the creation of the character's
make-up and its practical application, the face-chart tool is used: a stylized drawing of the face on porous
cardboard on which, in the design phase, the make-up is constructed by drawing the characteristics and particularity
of the face that you want to enhance (eyebrows, cheekbones, shape of the lips) both in a naturalistic and
expressionistic way and then using on paper the same products that will be applied to the face, so you can study all
the details and then reproduce exactly the same live makeup.
• History of fashion and theatrical costume
• Theatrical and cinematic costume design: fabrics, materials, assembly
• Costume design in relation to theatrical styles: philology and revisitations
• Theatrical makeup techniques: hidden makeup / obvious makeup
• Evolution of cinematic make-up from the 20th century to today
• Aging techniques and characterization of the character
• Stage lighting and makeup selection
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