Commedia dell'arte


Masks are available for purchase by teachers. You can see samples in the Mask Gallery.

Teaching video samples

                                  Class Plan #1   Class Plan #2   Class Plan #3   Class Plan #4  Class Plan #5   


               Half Mask and Lazzis

From 1550 to 1750, commedia dell’arte dominated the stages of western Europe. Troupes of performers traveled from town to town entertaining audiences with their spirited, improvised comedies. 

A familiar scenario or running order of scenes pinned to the curtain backstage would suffice for a skilled commedia actor. Such characters as Arlecchino, Brighella, Pantalone, Dottore, Capitano and Columbina became household names. So popular did the commedia become that it moved beyond Italy’s borders to neighbouring countries influencing the work of Shakespeare and Moliere.

The workshop deals with several of the stock characters.  It is emphasized that the students should find a modern reference for themselves in order to understand the energy and stock personality.  For example;  some students often relate Pantalone with Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.  The female students are also encouraged to find the female counterpart rather than crossing sex and playing a male character.

The beginning warm-up involves simple stretch and vocal work.  We discuss the history of Commedia and what level of energy is essential for the work.

The students are taught;

1) A series of common characters and their physical stances and movements which are then uniquely interpreted by the individual student.  Female students are encouraged to find the feminine version of the traditional mask characters.  

2) How to wear the masks and mask presentation techniques.

3) Hands on use of the masks and character presentation to audience.

4) The nature of a lazzo or comic routine followed by a choice of pre-set lazzis to work with in pairs, trios, or solos. (multiple day bookings only)

5) Commedia performance. (multiple day bookings and on the last day of project.)

Although the workshop can be taught to a class with small numbers in one session, it is best taught over a three day or one week period.  This allows the students to absorb the information and overcome their reluctance, or, fear of wearing the mask.

Commedia style half masks are available for purchase by teachers and should be ordered in advance.  

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