Unit 1: Characters in Context
In this unit, students study the performance genre of Commedia dell’Arte – a traditional Italian style with stock characters who are instantly recognizable through archetypal personalities and physicality. The unit begins with an exploration of Mask Technique: how do we perform differently when wearing a mask. This prepares students for acting behind the various masks of the Commedia characters – like the greedy Pantalone, always hungry Arlecchino, and pitiful Pedrolino. After learning these characters through physical exploration, students create small “shows” that incorporate the traits of the Commedia performance – such as lazzo (repeated jokes), slapstick humor, stage fighting, and aparte (speeches to the audience). The unit ends with groups preparing a parody of a well-known story by telling it in the Commedia style replacing the iconic characters with ridiculous Commedia characters.
Unit 2: Dare to Direct
Students take on the role of director – the person who make all important decisions related to a drama production. After being assigned a script, students take control: analyzing the text and characters, casting the roles, choosing beats within lines, blocking the performance using stage notation, rehearsing with actors, and finally performing the play they have directed. Throughout the process, the student directors record all of their choices in their “Promptbook” – which must reflect their intentions for the artistic vision of the show.