2nd Year Program
International Theatre School of Rome
There will be an overview of the history of the Comedy avoiding a nostalgic repetition of it. The
characters, plots and situations will then be analyzed, to show the basic philosophy of this style. The
beginning of the comedy, which was raw, but full of playful vitality, will also be studied. It’s the
“extempore comedy” that was not yet imprisoned into a fixed text or formal codes. Students work in
groups to create a plot that contains the recurrent comic mechanisms of this comedy, such as: equivocal situations,
disguises, misunderstandings, recurring situations. After the creation of an outline, students try to act out themes
and characters of the Comedy, without changing the situations and the timing that the comical language has preserved
throughout the centuries.
Analysis of fixed types
Beginning with the study of the attitudes of the animals we will discover the peculiar feature of the Comedy’s characters. These characters will be liberated from any psychological connotation and become fixed types that behave by following defined and musical mechanisms.
Characters and plots
Captain Spaventa (Andreini); the zany Spaniard( Franciosini); Zan Panza de Pegora (anonymous); Doctor Pgnaton (Croce); the Neapolitan (Soldano)
Approach to masks : Postures, walking, stylization.
Arlecchino, Colombina, Pantalone, Captain, Doctor, Pulcinella
It’s a kind of theatrical expression that has its roots in the mimes, singers and story
tellers. It was born inside the profane medieval theatre and it contaminates popular traditions of the “farce
theatre” and also the Comedy of Art to become a form of dramatization that we can find in many authors
comedies. We can find it in Shakespeare (The comedy of mistakes, Measure by measure, etc.) and, of course in
Molière. The farcical work lived trough many époques until today especially in
English tradition as demonstrated in the exhilarating farcical comedy of Michael Frayn “Noises Off”.
The farce is a work connected to a comic situation and not to quips; the plot, full of misunderstandings is constantly open to parenthesis of jokes and to recurrent comics mechanism, concluding with the revelation of misunderstanding and the overturning of the starting situation. Scene by scene, characters are constantly searching for balance often cause of the imbalance of next scene. The farcical text is a complex musical score that tiding to the rhythm of walking and stage “entrances” and “exits”, composes a structure of stage pictures finely articulated. Students will work on different farcical text practicing to manage quick scores of text still maintaining the lightness of improvisation inside a fixed text and also they will learn to feed a scene sensibility in order to capture new joke cues at every performance.
Finally, the actors will deal with the theatre of Molière: at first they will practice some brief dialogues between two or more characters, subsequently a whole act will be interpreted, paying attention to the delicate balance between text - plot - situation and joke. Students will finally condense a whole Molière Comedy and they will choose an interpretation and write an original version. The universality of human behavior, the fusion between form and content and the joke archetypes fixed by the text will be highlighted through the analysis of the following plays: "The Hypochondriac" - "The miser" - "The ridiculous precious" - "The Tartuffe" - "Monsieur de Pourceugnac" - "The School for Wives" - "Don Juan" ; all those plays have been staged during years along with an interesting romanticized biography of M. Bulgakov: “Life of Mister De Molière”.
A first dramaturgical approach will be made through the analysis of the tragedies and comedies written by Shakespeare. Some passages from these plays will be used to experiment with a particular tragic and metaphoric interpretative layout, without relinquishing the irony or the humor of the situations.
The study of acting in first grade, begins from the analysis of different characters’ feelings path. We will try to valorize the motivations and the rousing causes that induce protagonists of often extreme events, to transform intentions and actions, discovering that the dramatic peak of the scene in often situated in the quick passing from a feeling to another.
Scene and by-play
We will then analyze, for example in a dialogue, the action of an active character: “the scene”, that involves the prosodic and timbre choice of text, the pauses and the word rhythm, the physical dynamic, the look, the impulses, the breathe.
The silent reaction (look, moving, impulse, breathe) of passive character: “the by-play”, will give different meanings to the “scene” and will be the deepest indicator of relation between characters.
The interpretative style
We will experiment how dry and shaded reactions of characters, conduce to an interpretative realism while the exasperated once to a more metaphoric and evocative representation of drama. The frontality to the audience brings back characters to universal feelings, while the scenic action towards the other actor, pushes them to a more intimate relation.
The Shakespearean tragedy is staged by alternating different styles: the epic, characteristics of
which are the tragic monologue and the choral by-play; the caricature, which has a grotesque and ironic style; and
the first level which is obtained with a realistic recitation of dialogues and monologues. But, rather than
concentrate on the form, our research is aimed at the universal themes of his works: the relationship between man
and power; infidelity and deceit; candor and hypocrisy; the relationship with the supernatural; wisdom in madness;
the obstacles in the way of passion or loving sincerity. During the revisiting of the Shakespearean tragedies the
universality of his themes is also emphasized by the contamination with modern settings.
The evolution of the stereotyped themes of the Comedy of Art, which Shakespeare developed into real
human plays, will be highlighted in the course of the studies. Such a varied and multiform text offers the best
occasion for the study of the realistic dialogue and a true interpretation. The actor leaves "the
fixed-archetype" behind to become a character with a fragile and tormented mind. Through the use of the
metaphor, he expresses his thoughts on the search for truth: the truth of emotions, the truth in situations, an
interpretative truth. We will discover how, in Shakespeare’s plays, humor is always the result of the
overturning of a plausible situation. The wise intrigues alternate the tragic with the comic situations;
linear characters with grotesque characters. It’s like a game of double meaning: of drama with the parody.
The comical elements, which have an ambivalent function of exalting and of slightly deriding the romantic aspects of
the story, generate typical intrigues with Farce.
The analysis of Shakespeare’s Fool, as one of his unique characters, conducts us to the
grotesque style. The Fool acts as a counterpoint that suspends the plot and opens up, through a tragic-comic game,
towards a more concordant and direct relationship with the spectator, which will lead us to humorist and "Buffoonish"
Numerous plays will be analyzed: - "King Lear" - "Macbeth" - "Hamlet" - "Othello"- "Richard III” - “Romeo and Juliet" - "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" - "Twelfth night" - "Much Ado About Nothing" - "The Merchant of Venice" - "The Taming of the Shrew" - "The Tempest" - "Love’s Labour Lost" - "The Merry Wives of Windsor" - "The Comedy of Errors".
Shakespeare stages relationship between man and life, creating an elastic and comprehensive structure, able to involve changing feelings. Modern man is attracted and putted in doubt by his evocative strength. This is the reason why cinema is been often inspired by his works and it is demonstrated by the fact that protagonists of his tragedies and comedies have been the inspiration for a lot of cinematographic transpositions. Moreover his symbolic and metaphoric power creates an equilibrium between word and vision, fundamental elements of cinematographic narrative. We will first study the filmography of a chosen work with a careful analysis of the interpretative style related to contest, époque and direction. After, the study will concentrate on the practice of a dry and essential interpretation, full, at the same time, of shades and thickness.
The tidy consistency of the tragic solemn gait suddenly breaks up on deformed and interlaced bodies of the buffoon’s flock; a whole and unite body, more than the ancient chorus, and here he comes as a counterpoint of the mythical tragic hero, a disquieting and mocking character: the buffoon, powerful and bright dislocator of reality. The buffoon believes in nothing and makes fun of everything, indispensable to the same society that meantime avoids him; he shows how good and evil live together in human nature and they express in small actions of daily life. With a look that goes through époques and cultures, buffoons reflects our intemperance, denouncing absurdity, often spreading of human hypocrisy.
Settings and references
Even historically going back to buffoons of medieval courts, it is in Shakespeare that the “fool” finds his dramatic and metaphoric connotation that allows us to put this character inside the ironic and grotesque dramaturgic landscape.
The figurative art of Bosch, Bruegel and Goya, ("The Original Sin" - "The Great Exodus" - "The Last Judgement" - "The Fall of the Rebellious Angels" - "The Apocalypse" - "The Deluge") with its colors and the anxious, expressive and demoniac charge, gives us an idea of buffoon flock. These are "pictorial images” that dissolve into new theatrical structures. Once again theatre, painting and danced choreographies come together to form a “symbiotic life”. These paintings suggest themes for study and improvisation. It’s a collective interpretation of real “paintings in action”.
The study of the grotesque will continue with the parodistic style of the medieval Buffoon. Life and its parodistic farce are unveiled by wise fools, deceitful monks and mocking traitors. They accuse the society of being governed by the hypocrisy of the king. The art of the Buffoon is cruel and derisive; it is the black but sincere soul of humanity. Buffoons are refused by society, so they turn sacred values into amusing parodies. The grotesque stories by Edgar Allan Poe "The Devil in the Belfry", "A deplorable adventure", and “The man that was consumed" and "The Buffoon school" and "Dance of the Great Grisly" by M. De Ghelderode are the literary references for the buffoon style. In these tales, the Flemish spirit and Celtic fables are mixed with magic and mysticism.
Flock, deformations, characters, costume’s research
Buffoons, who are inhabitants of fenlands, of suburbs, of medieval courts, of Gothic Cathedrals, are deformed; they have huge bellies and enormous humps. Such deformations are used as weapons of sneer and accusation; from them buffoon draws his
strength. Buffoons move and walk all together, tied together in a flock. The flock is a tightly entangled mass - the symbol of the complicity and solidarity among buffoons. Forming this figure requires a long period of collective exercises. The student has to capture the sense of prank in the rhythmic and anxious movement of the flock, in the way it occupies space, in the sudden apparitions and in the mocking escapes.
Study of the Parodies
In the parodistic game the buffoon chooses the object of his prank. He plays the character or the situation; he makes them come alive for an instant and show their essential characteristics. Then the buffoon will completely destroy the object of the parody giving his comment with a pleased and malicious smile. Buffoons make fun of the fashionable, religious or powerful world. Ambitious and fanatical characters, with their fixations and over-emphasized clichés, become the favorite targets for mocking and prickly parodies. Through this style students learn how to conduct a game with a false naivete and then to transform it into an aggressive accusation. Fast and sudden changes of looks, of attitudes, of ironic immobility, driven by an amazing "syncopated rhythm", will be experimented.
Beginning with the medieval buffoon, students will end with the study of the modern buffoon. His prickly and mocking spirit will remain unchanged, and so will his unrestrained pleasure in the accusation against the vices of man. In this instance he will wear the civil clothes of the modern man and he will transform his physically deformed appearance into the psychological deformation of the character. A finer satirical game will emerge, without changing the irony and the sharp parody which are typical of the medieval buffoon.
The creation of buffonish play is a formative and cultural operation with many aspects: students are stimulated not only on the interpretative side but also in the directive, dramaturgical and social one. The staged works are deep and original, very actual and, at the same time, of a universal reading, able to involve students and surprise the audience.
"Making people laugh is a serious thing". The theme of comedy is explored at the end of the second
of course with a highly technical initial preparatory study that will open the doors to the style it is to
at the same time the most poetic and the most complex: the Clown. The work on the clown is based on the using of
silence by the presence as a manifestation of someone’s feelings. The clown is tied to something extremely tragic in
which the awareness of what is being done comes when it is too late: life always catches us a little by surprise and
unprepared. The clown finds in failure his sense of existing. All this revolves around the concept of immobility saw
as physical immobility within a theatrical dynamic, and as the moment that precedes everything. Stillness even
precedes amazement, it is an overhang that opens onto life. It is there that the sense of fragility is born: that
moment coincides mathematically with the laughter of the public. We laugh for example, when doing something
extraordinary, something trivial happens, or when something extraordinary happens in a banal situation. The clown
moves from an emotional state to another with a timing of a child, and to understand how a child thinks means
understand how the entire humanity thinks.
The Poetic of solitary Clown
The clown has to be authentic, sincere, transparent. He reacts to everything that happens, always lives in a state of hypersensitivity, curiosity, surprise. His intentions are always readable even when he tries to cheat. He is idealist and pragmatic, dreamer and realist, strong and weak at the same time. He is never stereotyped, doesn’t look for common place or laugh because this comes spontaneously from the extreme conflict between his soul and his logic.
The comic couple
This phase includes the definition of the comical couple, whose two functions are August and Monsieur Loyal. Their movements comply to a rigid rhythm which is almost mathematical. This rhythmic has the advantage of forcing the future comic-actors to decompose their actions and reactions and to follow a strict oral accuracy and precision in their gestures.
From these stereotyped sketches of the circus tradition students will undertake some deeper
research into the knowledge of human fragility and its dramatization in order to discover the modern antihero. The
antihero hides behind every "bide", which means the inevitable failure of the number introduced. In this
way the microcosm of the single man becomes as huge as an epic tragedy. The audience is put in a state
of superiority, it is moved and laughs, but unconsciously, with a feeling of freedom, it laughs and is moved of
itself. Scholastic improvisations will be later defined and staged in resonance with the audience.
The clown’s work is global: the actor will have to create his entrances, direct them, make the music and costume living in a state of constant creativity: without a great imagination clowns cannot exist!
The lecture notes concerning programs of the International Theatre School of Rome is written by the theatrical didactic responsible of the school, approved by Program for Actor’s European Training (Syllabi for the Actor European Training): Art. 7 of 3/4/08.
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