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Hello, and welcome to Drama.

My name is Mr. Woods, and I'm going to be your teacher for this topic.

"Commedia dell'Arte: An Introduction." This is lesson one of six, and today we start with what is Commedia dell'Arte? Keeping safe in this lesson.

Can you make sure that you are taking part in this lesson inside, that there's plenty of space for you to move around freely without hurting yourself, take your shoes and socks off.

Make sure the floor is not slippery and finally make sure you have comfortable clothing to work.

If you need to pause this video to get those things done, please do so now, and click resume when you are ready to move on.

In this lesson, make sure you've got plenty of space to move around without hurting yourself.

Today's lesson starts with an introductory quiz.

If you haven't had a chance already, please go back and give that a go.

From that, we'll move on and establish where Commedia dell'Arte came from.

After that, we'll move on to see what the core values of Commedia are.

And then we'll have a go at experimenting with a couple of those core values, before we finish with our exit quiz.

Today's keywords are: Exaggeration.

And that is the way of making something seem larger, more important, better or worse than it really is.

Improvisation is a performance that is not practised or planned.

And character is a person with qualities distinctive to them.

These three key words will be important in today's lesson.

So have a little read, make sure they make sense.

Pause video if you need to.

We can exaggerate character.

Do you think that's true or false? Bearing in mind what we've just read about exaggeration and character.

The answer is of course, true.

Well done, if you've got that right.

It doesn't matter if you didn't get that correct yet.

So where did Commedia dell'Arte come from? Those of you that did the quiz will know it was Italy.

Between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Well done.

And what's great about Commedia is it takes inspiration from other styles of theatre, specifically Greek theatre.

There are elements in there of exaggeration and chorus that are redeployed and they're evolved in this form of theatre to their needs.

And Commedia dell'Arte sadly, isn't a style of theatre.

We have a great record of examples.

For example, text, we don't have many commedia texts available to us.

However, this isn't all bad because it means by definition that it's largely open to interpretation.

And when we look at the translation of what Commedia dell'Arte actually means, there's a range, there isn't a fixed translation but we can generalise by saying that Commedia dell'Arte stands for the art of comedy or the skill of comedy or the craft of comedy.


There are other examples of being the theatre of the professional, but these three are the closely linked examples that I want to tell you about today.

Another thing that's great about Commedia dell'Arte is the fact that because it's so open to interpretation, it means that each performance is incredibly different.

The things that string it together very simply are the characters which we'll touch upon in greater depth in less than four.

But it's great that we're able to take those characters and just develop it in a very playful style.

During the Commedia era, people had seen wars, conflict and plague.

And it was very apparent that this style of theatre was born into a time of people.

It was very obvious that they needed people to come together.

And during this time, during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, people did just that.

It was a way of bringing people together and engaging them on a more one-to-one level.

And it happened because during this time, the population literally nearly doubled for other reasons as well.

But it's very clear to see how this style of theatre brought people together.

So what are the core values of Commedia dell'Arte? You may be wondering by now what's this form of theatre actually look like.

Well, the style in itself is made up of some key components.

Firstly, it's non-naturalistic.

It doesn't follow the conventional Stanislavski mould which came a lot later.

It was born out of this Greek era and you can see some of those elements in its non-naturalistic style as well, ways of presenting to an audience, the ways of telling key parts of a story, okay.

The next one down is stock characters.

These are the same characters that we see in each of the performances, just slightly altered.

And these people, these touring troops that would take these performances not just through Italy, through different regions but through Europe as well, they would have to have something that was easily recognisable.

And these stock characters did just that.

We see them in every walk of life.

We see them in our daily activities.

We see them in films, in TV, okay.

These characters are so defined and exaggerated to a point of hilarity that it became easy for anyone who didn't speak the language to understand who they were.

The next one down is largely improvised work.

And if we remember the keyword of improvisation, it's as something that we haven't pre-rehearsed.

Now what's interesting about this style.

is they did have some scenes that were rehearsed and they were prepared and they were the same scenes that were performed in every single performance.

We'll come to that in a little while.

But on the whole, this style of theatre worked around the idea of improvisation and they used it really well with their audience.

And that brings me to our next point.

Audience involvement was key.

As I said, this era was a time for people and a way of bringing them together.

And these actors that would tour with that troop, they would find ways of engaging with that audience.

And what's even more interesting is that this was one of the first times we saw women on stage.

So given how this style of theatre was so inclusive, it naturally broke down any barriers that were between audience and performer.

And regardless of your height, your size, your weight , let's say disabilities, anything at all was utilised.

And what's beautiful is that this style of theatre accommodated those differences.

They used them to their advantage and no one was turned away because they were too tall or too short.


Another key point was mask work.

And masks are something that really do define this style.

When we come into lesson four and we start to explore these characters and where they came from, it's originates from these masks.

And then lastly, the one we're going to focus on mostly today, is exaggerated play.

Okay? Experimenting with core values.

Now is the time to warm up.

So gather that space we talked about before, make sure you're wearing comfy clothing and let's get ready to warm up.

The aim of this warmup is to make sure that our bodies are ready for the work ahead.

So we've got to get them warm.

You've got to get them sweaty.

We've got to make sure that we're giving all of these different exercises, a fair go to make sure that our bodies are safe for the work ahead.

You're going to need the space that I asked for previously.

And if you are prohibited by a wheelchair, for example, you'll be able to modify some of these moves to make sure that you are still born for the parts of the body you can use in the later exercises.

So let's get started.

We're going to jog on the spot to start with and we're going to bring our hands up either side.

Okay, so that's your modification if you can't do the job alone.


Now, it's think about how we're bouncing from side to side almost.

And now we're going to incorporate it by bringing on knees up, to high knees About time to a large jog.

Still bring my arms up.

We're going to incorporate this into more of a torso warm up now.

So standing still, we're going to want to turn our torso at the sides slightly as we bring our elbow to our knee.

And again, you can change this up if you're sat down by bringing your elbow straight down and swapping, okay.

So we'll do four on each side.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Bit more difficult.

We're going to twist our torso to face the side each time we do it.

Okay, same again, four on each side.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10.

I did two extra ones, there we go.


Okay, this time, moving up the body towards our shoulders.

We're going to roll them in circles going back.

Ready? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and we'll go forward.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Okay, this time, shake hands out.

Get the blood going from your shoulders down into your fingertips.

Okay, hopefully you're nice and warm now.

If you don't feel like you are particularly warm you can go back and do that warm up again.

If you're ready, this is what we're going to do next.

Exaggerated play.

We're going to continue with the last strand from what Commedia dell'Arte involves, and I'd like you to pick one of the four options in front of you.

Either option one, you are late for the bus and you're running after it.

Option two.

You're hungry.

Option three, you have toothache.

Or option four, you are choosing which flavour of ice cream to have in a scooping parlour.

I'm going to choose option four, then pick whichever option you like.

So step one of exaggerated play means that I need to perform this auction naturalistically.

So for that to happen, I need to consider what it's like to go into that shop, have the glass fronted freezer in front of me and then choose my options.

Okay, so I'm going to begin.

Okay, so that's where I get up to.

I've walked in, I've had a look, maybe thought of one and then I've got my gestures to come through as well.

Okay, now it's your turn.

So step one, perform your chosen option naturalistically.

This should feel normal and easy to do.

React as you would, if you were in that scenario.

I'd like you to pause the video at this point to give it a go, resume it once you've finished to see the next step.

Okay, step two is a little bit different now.

We need to begin exaggerating some of those naturalistic qualities.

So let's start with gestures.

I want to think about the gestures I used.

And I know I put my hands on the glass at one point.

So I need to think about, instead of perhaps having them down here and naturalistically, maybe up, maybe over as if I'm trying to scale the glass perhaps.

At one point I did point on the glass.

So as if to say, "Yep, that one." Maybe I could make that a bit more forceful.

So that one, real severe point to it.


We then want to consider the posture.

So we've done gesture, now posture.

I think anyone who's really intently focused on something, tends to sort of roll their shoulders forwards and did their head.

Your posture is not very good in general when you get quite into something.

So let's exaggerate that as well.

I think I'm going to roll my shoulders forwards and start to arch my back as well.

Kind of almost like golem really, as well my facial expressions, I was almost contemplating.

I think that's how I would explain my facial expressions.

Just surveying the scene, just casually choosing but now they need to be almost a bit more pained.

So let's consider, actually this is a really tough.

Tough decision, I don't know what to choose.

So actually it's a really tough choice and I should see that scrunched up in the tension of the wrinkles on my forehead, scrunching my mouth and my cheeks as well.

And then next we need to consider the speed.

So we've looked at gestures, we've looked at posture, facial expressions, and now speed.

That will tie it all in together quite nicely.

So I think we can all agree, I need to speed this up.

Okay, to exaggerate it.

I don't think a decision like this one that I've made quite a lot, when it comes to ice cream is how slow it would be.

I think that's the opposite to where we want to go.

It needs to be a very quick and pacey, almost impatient decision.

Okay, so I'm going to speed things up and consider all of these at the same time.

Okay? Okay, so this time, I would like you to work on step two.

You must develop your action by exaggerating the gestures, the posture, facial expressions and speed as much as you possibly can.

This should push you right up to your comfort zone, okay? Make this as elaborate and exaggerated as humanly possible.

Okay? To do this, you need to pause the video, have a go.

It may take a few moments to be able to do this and feel comfortable pushing it one step further and then come back and resume the video, once you're happy, you've exaggerated what was your naturalistic option.

Now we have our exaggeration, we need to push it one step further.

And this step is the final step we're going to take.

So it needs to be the last push.

I've asked you to come up with an exaggeration, which takes you to the edge of what you feel comfortable with.

Now we push it beyond that.

Okay? So it needs to be something that is on edge.

It needs to be something that makes you feel like you physically can't give any more.

It shouldn't look normal.

It should look odd and it should feel odd to do as well.

In essence, it makes it non naturalistic, which links back to one of the core values of the Commedia style, right? So as you're doing this, I need you to consider the emotion that comes forward.

So the emotion that allows us to clearly see what you are doing in this scenario.

Okay, it should be instant.

See if you can try and figure out what mine is.

Posture, gestures, facial expressions and speed.

Overly exaggerated.


That's my interpretation of how far I can push this.

And upon reflection, it almost seems a bit gone on mask.

As I mentioned before now, it's really beyond that.

It's almost defensive.

I'm almost fighting off any particular people that might get in the way of me and my ice cream.

Okay, now comes the final step.

Step three.

I would like you to refine your piece by pushing your exaggeration one final step beyond what you think you're capable of.

This is similar to a caricature, which is the act of exaggerating the truth.

Okay? The truth is we've been there we know it.

We can naturalistically perform it, but now you need to think about how it is pushed beyond that.

Emotion is an interesting thing to consider.

It must be shown for this to look genuine.

Okay? Pause this video once again, have a ago.

This may take you a few more moments and then resume it, come back to us when you're ready.

Okay, welcome back.

I hope you got on well with that last activity.

I hope they're all very exciting and very exaggerated but now we're going to move on.

I'd like you to pick a second option that you didn't choose last time.

Okay, so I would have to choose either option one, two or three.

Pick one of those now for me and we will move on.

So step one, it's going to be the same structure as last time.

So, you know, what's coming.

Can you first perform the new option naturalistically? It should feel normal and easy to do.

And I need you to react in the exact same way you would if you were in this new scenario.

Pause the video, have a go and then come back and resume it once you're ready for the next step.

Okay, step two.

You know what the next thing is.

You'll develop this action by exaggerating gestures, posture, facial expressions and speed.

And this must be as much as you possibly can.

Don't hold back, let it all out.

Okay, you'll need to pause the video, you'll need to have a go.

It may take you a few more moments and then come back to us to resume it once you're ready.

And step three.

Now is the chance for you to refine this, by pushing your exaggeration one final step beyond what you think you're capable of.

Okay, like I said before is just like the caricature.

This is truth.

You're just pushing it into a realm where it's elongated and it's pulled and it's stretched.

Okay, something that's far bigger.

If we think back to our key word far greater than it once was, alright.

Think about your emotion.

Don't lose that.

You're amplifying that emotion as much as you are.

The gestures, the posture, the speed.


Pause the video.

Come back to us when you're ready to resume for the next activity.

Okay, welcome back.

Hopefully you found the enjoyment in the activity.

Hopefully you can find the playfulness within the exaggeration, but now I've got a statement.

This work should feel tiring.

Is that true? Or is it false? I'm going to give you three seconds.

Click which one you think it is? Is it true? Is it false? The answer is of course, true.

Okay, you should feel tired after doing this because exaggeration only works when you put in the right amount of energy.

Now I've got a new concept for you to consider.

It's called The Lazzi, right? And it's a key component to any Commedia dell'Arte performance.

It is rehearsed section of comedic scene that can be any duration.

The Lazzi is a scene that has been practised before the performance in a new town.

So these performances will get toured around Europe by these troops.

Generally the troop would be around about 12 people all taking on a different character from the stock character list.

And although that scene would be dictated by their knowledge of the character and the scenario that is given to them at the beginning by their director, it has specific scenes that have already been workshopped, okay, and already tried out.

And these scenes would be performed in every single performance to a different degree.

So they would be, let's say they would be exaggerated in a particular scene in front.

However, they felt like it didn't work as well, so they're going to refine elements of it in a different performance.

However, what it actually is stays the same, right? They're designed to be comedic at both the opportune and inopportune moments.

So that could be specifically where it's supposed to fit.

So if you're Lazzi is a funny scene involving a character pecking on a member of the audience that could be opportune, a moment when let's say, two of the main characters are having a conversation because it links with what they're saying.

Let's imagine that that makes sense.

However, an inopportune moment could be when there's a serious confrontation.

So let's say we've got one of the powerful characters and one of the let's say servant characters who are in a bit of a confrontation.

And let's say the master is having a go at servant, right? That could be an inopportune moment there, for someone to start pecking on the audience in a very funny way and making them laugh, right? These are usually physical, but they can also incorporate speech.

And speech also incorporate sounds, right? So let's have a little play with what The Lazzi is.

I'd like you to choose a scene from one of the three examples.

Example number one.

You could be sitting on a balcony, eating cherries and spitting the pips over the edge.

They start hitting people and you continue as it is fun to be mischievous.

Okay, that's a classic Commedia dell'Arte scene.

Example number two.

You could be in a house and the doorbell goes.

It is the lady next door and she terrifies you.

You are convinced that she is a witch! Or example three.

You could be watching a fly buzz around the room.

It lands on your hand, your nose and your forehead.

At this time, you attempt to swap the fly and only end up causing damage to yourself.

Okay, pick one of those three options so that we can move on with that specific scene.

I'm going to choose example three.

Ouch! So that was my first go at creating a Lazzi based around option three.

Now it's your turn.

So step one is to practise staging your chosen Lazzi from the examples we just saw.

See how comical you can make it through your exaggeration.

If you're stuck, feel free to use my fly example, if not, give yourself a push and try option one or option two.

You'll need to pause the video to complete this task and then click resume to see the next step.

Welcome back.

Hopefully, by this point you've now established where some moments come forward for comedy.

And what we're going to do next, is explore those moments of comedy and push them a little bit further.

So step two, I would like you to develop your Lazzi by considering a defined moment.

This means you pick a specific part of the scene to highlight through the exaggeration.

So specifically, we can look back on my example and we can think where were there specific moments? Where were the defined moments? While I can remember, swatting the fly with the rolled up newspaper, I can remember nearly choking on the fly and I can remember flicking the fly down, where it's no more.

So there are three key moments in what I did that I could choose from.

I wonder what those moments could be in your Lazzi and to which one you could choose.

Go with the easiest one for now.


So I'd like you to pause the video.

I'd like you to give it your best go and just exploit that one moment of comedy, play around with it, exaggerate it to the fullest.

Okay, as far as you can and then come back to resume when you're ready.

Welcome back.

How was that? I wonder how you got on, what was the most difficult moment? What did you struggle with? Personally, I struggled with the exaggeration.

I think it's often hard to figure out where you can take it.

After you've pushed it so far, I think it's really difficult to try and understand where the limitations are.

And limitation is something that we'll discover a little bit more in the lessons to come.

But for now I think where is the boundary? When do I know that I've done enough? And it takes reflection and refinement to be able to understand where that line is.

So look back on what you've done and think did I push that exaggeration as far as it can go? Did I push it too far? Did I not push it enough? Have a think.

And this is different for all of us, as this is personal to you.

But just know that exaggeration for this is paramount, it's key.

Okay, it doesn't work without it.

The final part of this lesson and the extension, if you like, is step three.

This is where you're going to have a go at creating your own Lazzi which could be practised using the same style of exaggeration or exaggerated play that we have used so far in this lesson.

Think about the first activity that we did.

Think about the exaggeration that was used and the simplicity there.

Okay, think about how we built that up from such a naturalistic perspective, it got bigger, we established emotion, and then by the end we had something that was very clear.

I'd like you to pause the video now to give this a go.

Once you've done this, combining all of your skills and your prior knowledge up to now, come back to resume the video while we'll consolidate and finished the lesson.

Thank you for taking part in today's lesson.

I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.

You've worked really hard and we've learned a lot of new information about Commedia dell'Arte and where it came from.

If you'd like to learn more please join me for our next lesson in the series, lesson two for Commedia dell'Arte: An Introduction.

Until then goodbye and take care.