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.

Overview

The overview lays out the unit into two parts; as well as describes and lists the video demonstrations and pacing guide for the unit.

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.


Attachments
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

National Core Arts Standards


Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation - Grade 6

TH:Pr4.1.6.b - Experiment with various physical choices to communicate character in a drama/theatre work.

Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation - Grade 7

TH:Pr4.1.7.b - Use various character objectives in a drama/theatre work.

Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation - Grade 8

TH:Pr4.1.8.b - Use various character objectives and tactics in a drama/theatre work to overcome an obstacle.

Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation - Grade HS Proficient

TH:Pr4.1.HSI.b - Shape character choices using given circumstances in a drama/theatre work.

Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation - Grade 6

TH:Pr5.1.6.a - Recognize how acting exercises and techniques can be applied to a drama/theatre work.

Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation - Grade 8

TH:Pr5.1.8.a - Use a variety of acting techniques to increase skills in a rehearsal or drama/theatre performance.

Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation - Grade HS Proficient

TH:Pr5.1.HSI.a - Practice various acting techniques to expand skills in a rehearsal or drama/theatre performance.

Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation - Grade HS Accomplished

TH:Pr5.1.HSII.a - Refine a range of acting skills to build a believable and sustainable drama/theatre performance.

Refine new work through play, drama processes and theatre experiences using critical analysis and experimentation - Grade 6

TH:Cr3.1.6.b - Identify effective physical and vocal traits of characters in an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work.

Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work - Grade 6

TH:Pr6.1.6.a - Adapt a drama/theatre work and present it informally for an audience.

Refine new work through play, drama processes and theatre experiences using critical analysis and experimentation - Grade 7

TH:Cr3.1.7.b - Develop effective physical and vocal traits of characters in an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work

Refine new work through play, drama processes and theatre experiences using critical analysis and experimentation - Grade 8

TH:Cr3.1.8.b - Refine effective physical, vocal, and physiological traits of characters in an improvised or scripted drama/ theatre work.

Refine new work through play, drama processes and theatre experiences using critical analysis and experimentation - Grade HS Proficient

TH:Cr3.1.HSI.b - Explore physical, vocal and physiological choices to develop a performance that is believable, authentic, and relevant to a drama/theatre work.

California VAPA Standards (2019)


6.TH:Pr4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.

6.TH:Pr4.b - Experiment with various physical choices to communicate character in a drama/theatre work.

7.TH:Pr4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.

7.TH:Pr4.b - Use various character objectives in a drama/theatre work.

8.TH:Pr4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.

8.TH:Pr4.b - Use various character objectives and tactics in a drama/theatre work to overcome an obstacle.

Prof.TH:Pr4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.

Prof.TH:Pr4.b - Shape character choices using given circumstances in a drama/theatre work.

6.TH:Pr5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

6.TH:Pr5.a - Recognize how acting exercises and techniques can be applied to a drama/theatre work.

8.TH:Pr5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

8.TH:Pr5.a - Use a variety of acting techniques to increase skills in a rehearsal or drama/theatre performance.

Prof.TH:Pr5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

Prof.TH:Pr5.a - Practice various acting techniques to expand skills in a rehearsal or drama/theatre performance.

Acc.TH:Pr5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

Acc.TH:Pr5.a - Refine a range of acting skills to build a believable and sustainable drama/theatre performance.

6.TH:Pr6 Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

6.TH:Pr6 - Adapt a piece of literature and present it for an audience.

Florida Sunshine State Standards


Alberta, Canada


Theatre Studies Drama 30 (Early or Middle or Late drama)

5 - recognize elements of tragedy and comedy

Movement Level III - Advanced

27 - create and sustain mood through movement

Speech Level I - Beginning

3 - use effective breathing techniques

Speech Level II - Intermediate

13 - use voice to communicate mood and emotion

Theatre Studies Level II - Intermediate (Theatre History)

6 - show awareness of selected periods and playwrights

British Columbia (2018)


GRADE 9 - DRAMA - Reasoning and reflecting

Receive, offer, and apply constructive feedback

GRADE 10 - DRAMA - Explore and Create

Improvise and take creative risks to express meaning

GRADE 10 - DRAMA - Reason and reflect

Apply feedback to develop and refine ideas

GRADE 10 - DRAMA - Connect and expand

Demonstrate respect for self, others, and the audience

GRADE 11 - DRAMA - Connect and expand

Demonstrate awareness of self, others, and audience

GRADE 12 - DRAMA - Connect and expand

Demonstrate respect for self, others, and audience

Ontario, Canada


Grade 12 - Creating and Presenting - Presentation Techniques & Technologies

A.3.2 - use different acting approaches to explore and depict character in a variety of situations