Chalemie Summer School

[engraving of drummer]

Commedia Course

Welcome to old and new students at the Chalemie Summer School. Yes, this is our seventh year, and each year we have tried to find new things to challenge us; which is not difficult as Commedia, like theatre itself is always open to experiment and exploration. So what’s in store this year? More of the same: the fundamentals of the techniques of masks, mime and improvisation and lots of the new things too.

In addition to our old friends of the Commedia dell’Arte – Arlecchino, Pantalone, The Captain, Columbina and Isabella, we will see if we can create some new characters drawn from contemporary life, and we will spends some time looking at individuals in the group, to discover their own Commedia character, using their particular skills and personality, which they can use in solo and group performing.

Bring your own masks, costumes, and props if you would like to work with them -
and if not we will have lots of traditional and experimental items you can use.

Commedia is fun and the context is totally non-threatening. For these basic workshops, no prior skill is assumed and it is hoped that these will serve also as an introduction to the increasingly popular style of total theatre. While for dancers and other stage performers this may form an integral part of their art, for musicians the concepts of stagecraft and movement may come less easily but are important skills for presentation. For dancers, on the other hand, a greater awareness of the structure of music, of rhythm and phrasing, are essential to understanding the interaction between themselves and the accompanying music.

Barry Grantham

[photo of Barry]

Our commedia workshops will provide students with the basics of the style, and acquaintance with the principal masks of the commedia dell'arte, an introduction to 'commedia games', improvisation in movement and dialogue, and to the use of masks. There will be an opportunity for the students to experiment, and try out their own pieces. There will also be an examination of how the commedia dell'arte was absorbed into English theatre via the pantomimes of the 18th and 19th century. Although it has an exact and skilled technique, there are no prerequisites, and participants of all types and levels of ability are welcome, and should expect to find it both enjoyable and rewarding.

Although providing a formal and structured basis, the workshops are far from rigid and give every opportunity for inventiveness and exploration. The age and experience of the students governs the content of the sessions and can be enjoyed by junior school children, as much as by professional actors, dancers and singers.

The workshop features a series of Commedia Games (as introduced in Barry's book 'Playing Commedia') which lay the foundations for Commedia technique. They include:

From the 'Early Dance Circular' -

"For one exhilarating and exhausting day we were entertainment and audience. With gentle guidance, our tentative beginnings drawn out, examined, put together, improved. It must have been planned with superb skill and experience. There was patently a body of knowledge underpinning it all; what we are seeing was only the tip. By the end of the day we were on a roller coaster to hilarity.

The best party I've been to for years. Thank you, Barry"   (Peggy Dixon)