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Archive for January 2012

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Commedia! 2011 - Student Comments

These are some of the comments I received from my students when I asked them which one or two things they enjoyed the most in this course:

I enjoyed this semester with you in this class. Most classes are focused on learning out of a book and are taught in a lecture style. It was very refreshing to move around freely and just act plain silly. Not only did I enjoy performing, but I had lots of fun watching the other groups. In the videos, my distinct laugh can always be heard. It was a delight. [...] Continue to be exciting and silly in class. It does make a difference. 🙂

Ilana Mesnard

It was easy going, we can be ourselves and it was different style than normal class (up and moving instead of sitting). [...] It was definitely really cool to see.

Michael Maguire

I enjoyed the entire concept of it. Not many people can say that they have done this. It’s naturally just intriguing to try and act with masks and really specific characters. I also enjoyed being able to use my musical song writing abilities every week, as well as being able to really see ourselves improve week to week.

Samantha Moroney

One of the things I liked most about this course was learning each new character and the steps that went along with them. I loved seeing how each of the different characters were present on the stage, and their personalities were developed in these steps. It actually felt like I was becoming the character sometimes.

The second thing I liked most about this course was performing the canovaccios, and then reviewing them later. I still laugh when I watch some of them. It helped me meet people at college, and also helped me break out of my shell and develop my acting skills. In short, thank you for the time and effort you put into this course.

Victoria Reynolds

I got a chance to explore my acting side even though I am more of a sports guy.

John Cronin

My first favorite part of the Commedia course this term was learning the Old Man character. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the old man, specifically the old Jewish man character that I used in most of the final scenes of the term. After watching the videos and reading the comments, I realized that when I played the Old Man, I was finally comfortable acting out Commedia. I felt good about what I was doing, and was glad others enjoyed watching as well.

My second favorite part of the course was watching the other groups. This helped me learn what I did NOT want to do, as well as discover elements that I could use to expand my acting. An example of this was watching Will play a Pedrolino. When I saw how naturally funny and fluid he was, I decided I wanted to do the same. What followed was my old Jewish man character, which was a supposed 'hit'!

Overall, I enjoyed my time taking the Commedia course. I would recommend it to many people if it was offered again. It expanded me as a performer AND person, by taking me outside my comfort zone, ultimately expanding my comfort zone to where I didn't stress about performances. Thank you for a great semester Professor Boselli.

Jordan Glaser

I loved this quote from 'The Comic Mask' and I think it describes the thing I loved most about the Commedia course: 'Comedy literally shatters fear, releasing collective joy expressed in raucous, liberating, communal laughter'

I have performance anxiety so this course helped me overcome my fears and learn to be completely ridiculous and laugh at myself. Any inhibitions I had had to be shattered in order for me to make a good performance. I learned that I could do that and it was very empowering. I also learned to be open to things that were outside my comfort zone and I think that is the best way to learn.

Erin Brennan

Two things I enjoyed about this class: 1. Watching some of the funnier skits. 2. Doing crazy things that I wouldn't be able to do in any other class.

Jane Best

I really enjoyed the improvisation aspect of the class. it has always been one of my favorite things and is very awkward in a new group but it was nice to get to know everyone. I also enjoyed the fact that each character has a specific body type, as i have never done characterization through that sort of way.

Jeremy Savage

The thing I liked the most about the Commedia course was seeing how, over the course of the semester everyone released their initial inhibitions and became fully invested in entertaining each other. It was this phenomenon that I think is quite rare to see in a classroom, but that was what made the class worth while for me. From Jordan's Jewish references, to John's Dottore, to my Pantalone/effeminate Zanni, to Andrew's Dottore, or Tori's Capitano everybody brought something unique to their character, the performances, and the course and that was what made it interesting.

William Parker

In commedia, I enjoyed getting to know some of the kids in the class better. As a member of the music department here on campus, I see the same kids a lot, but having to work with the kids from this class helped me connect with the kids from my floor better. I also liked having to invent our own canovaccio for the final. I had really hoped that we would have talked about writing scenes a bit more in the class and those finally gave us an opportunity to do that.

Andrew Vannucci

1. The first aspect of this course I enjoyed was the cultural part of it. I feel like a lazy Italian knowing so little about my heritage and this course actually exposed me to such a rich part of Italian culture. I definitely was intrigued to discover the different characters that have been developed in the history of Italian theatre. I loved how each character was gregarious and outgoing in their own way, and I enjoyed playing each one. I will look forward to having this knowledge under my belt for the future, it's a very interesting thing to have experience in and I'm happy I had the opportunity to do it.

2. The second aspect I enjoyed the most of this course however, was that it brought me out of my comfort zone. I've come a long way from the first class when I didn't even want to speak in front of people to now being able to perform a 7 minute long solo. It's taught me a lot about myself and my ability to overcome my stage fright. Also to embrace the unusual, and let loose for the sake of comic relief. I also have so much more appreciation for the arts and theatre and how much courage and dedication you need to have in order to take on a new character each week. Have a wonderful break and thanks for a great semester, I will definitely remember this class forever!

Alexis Palladino

Thank you for a great class!

Adam Jacobs
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Commedia! - A semester's journey

This blog chronicles a whole semester of my Commedia! course taught at Gettysburg College in the Fall of 2011. The course is based on the teachings of maestro Antonio Fava, with whom I studied at his international school in Reggio Emila, Italy.
Compared to the full-time experience afforded by Fava's school during an intense month of physical training, a first year seminar consists of just two weekly classes of 75 minutes for 14 weeks. Despite this limitation and the little time available for two groups of 8 students to rehearse outside of class, the results are often impressive.
You can read some comments I received from the students who attended this course by clicking here.
If you have time for just a couple of clips, you could watch at least:
1. An example of a full canovaccio
2. An example of a solo performance, otherwise known as "commedia gabrielliana"
However, if you have the time, you can start at the bottom of these posts with the very first class, and then follow the groups' progression as they learn new characters and skills, including some stage combat and musical pieces. Below each video, you can read some of my comments, which are intended as further coeaching outside of class.
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Final Canovacci 2011

In contrast to the previous exercises, this time the two troupes were assigned different "classic" canovacci (rather than the same) and also needed to devise from scratch a shorter "contemporary" piece based on a current issue, although still in dialogue with the conventions of commedia dell'arte.

Classic Canovacci

Contemporary Canovacci

A canovaccio inspired by the recent controversial events at Penn State University
A commedia look at the Facebook trend
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Solo Performances - Commedia Gabrielliana

Each student was asked to perform a solo piece in the style of Commedia Gabrielliana. The name refers to Giovanni Gabrielli, a 17th century actor and company manager who - thanks to his talent - could perform all parts in a single play. Here, students play Pantalone, the old man who, because of his age, went through all phases of life represented by other fixed types, from the Zanni to the Lover to the Capitano. Thus, his physical stance, steps, and behaviors somehow summarize all the others, depending on the situation he is faced with. Of course, his body is older and therefore limited, but his energy is still vibrant and active.
Here are some of the best performances:
A hilarious Jewish Pantalone (7.5 minutes)
An accurate and fluid solo by a female Pantalona (5 min).
A modern Pantalone in a nursing home reminisces about his past, including a battle in Vietnam (7 mins).
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Chaz (from Luigi Pirandello’s Cece')

Stevens Theatre, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA
An adaptation in four parts for the students of my Modern Italian Theatre course. Based on a list of physical actions, we devised and rewrote four versions of the same play set, in turn, in an informal college environment, a morbid Eighteenth century, a flashback from the point of view of one of the minor characters, and finally a puppet world.
An account of the theory underlying this course can be found in my article “The Short Play and Postmodernist Stage Directing: A Virtual Experiment with Pirandello’s Cecè.” published in Quaderni d’Italianistica 32.2 (2012)
Hover to see inside of tri-fold for the performance