Spotlight on Commedia dell’arte

The latest issue of “Spotlight” is now available. Our tour through theatre history continues with a look at Commedia dell’arte. Background, characters, exercises and more!


Commedia performers travelled in troupes from town to town and performed outside in town squares on makeshift stages. Actors relied on costumes and props rather than elaborate sets.


Commedia characters are not known for subtext or subtle back story. They are big, bold, and physically exaggerated. They know what they want, they say what they want and they go after what they want. Learn about the various Commedia characters and their idiosyncrasies.

Themes & Scenarios

One of the reasons Commedia actors were able to improvise with ease is that there weren’t a lot of different themes to draw from. It boils down to love, money, and food in their most exaggerated forms. The motivation for any Commedia character is to go to the ends of the earth to obtain one of the three. And since Commedia characters are a mix of high status and low status characters, you can be sure any story involves a clash between them.

Commedia in Performance

The Commedia actor is a physical actor. The personality of each character is ground in the pose, the gesture, and the movement.

Learn about what makes a good Commedia performer along with a whole slew of exercises to use in your classroom right now!


Where can you find other Commedia resources?

Read more about all of these topics here!

About the author

Craig Mason