Commedia dell'Arte

Created by Todd Espeland

Commedia dell’arte is a 16th century masked acting form. It is the basis of all comedy, including all tv sitcoms. This form is characterized by masked types and archetypical characters and a specific way of playing comedy. To that end, this unit is divided into two parts.

Part One focuses on the foundations of commedia - playing comedy. These principles will be important to learn when it comes to developing commedia characters, specifically the physicality of the characters. Part Two will cover lazzi.

Note: there are links to video demos in many of the lessons of this unit.

The overview lays out the unit into two parts; as well as describes and lists the video demonstrations and pacing guide for the unit.
Additional Attachments
1: Status
This lesson introduces the first tool: status. Students will physically perform high and low status through status walks.
2: Status Games
In this lesson students further explore status and using status to communicate physically through a variety of games. Students are also introduced to the game “Do It Get It Done” which will be re-visited throughout the unit.
3: Appetite
This lesson introduces the second tool: appetite. An appetite is a primal need that drives a character in a scene.
4: Swing
be important later on when it comes to applying the Commedia Dell’arte style to characters and lazzi. This lesson introduces the third tool: swing. Swing is the idea that a comedic character can move between two emotions, or two needs,immediately.
5: Intention/Invention
This lesson introduces the fourth tool: intention/invention. Intention is what a character wants (it can also be called their need). Invention is the thing they need to invent to get their need.
6: Mid-Unit Assignment
The mid-unit assignment requires students to prepare, rehearse, and memorize a scene using the tools learned in Part One of the unit.
7: History of Commedia
This lesson presents the history of Commedia; where it came from and introduces the main characters. It comes with a viewing quiz and reflection.
8: Commedia Characters
This lesson focuses on the characters of Commedia including who they are, what they’re like and places that we can see them in modern society.
9: Character Personality
In this lesson students will start to physicalize Commedia characters by introducing the Character Zero concept, the Character Hop, and the poses of Arlecchino.
10: Character Walks
In this lesson, students will see a demonstration of two character walks and practice those walks.
11: Character Walks: Part Two
In this lesson, students will see a demonstration of three character walks and practice those walks.
12: Lazzi
In this lesson, students will be introduced to lazzi. Lazzi are solo comic beats to show off a character and their needs. Students will then create and perform a solo lazzi.
13: Status and Swing in Character
In this lesson, students apply previously learned comedy elements of status and swing to Commedia characters.
14: Final Assignment
There are two possible assignments for this unit. One that will take a week of class time, including performances and one that can be completed in a class period.

Standards Addressed

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