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Presentation - What does History do for Theatre and what does Theatre do for History? - How the Italian movement, Commedia...
<ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Over the past four hundred years theatre and acting have significantly grown and ch...
<ul><li>Commedia Dell’ Arte </li></ul><ul><li>Commedia Dell’ Arte or comedy of the Art was a form of improvised comedy ori...
<ul><li>The Lazzi </li></ul><ul><li>As well as the comical scenarios played out on the stage there was the Lazzi. A Lazzi ...
<ul><li>Bringing Theatre to the masses Whereas the majority of Theatre during the Renaissance was performed for the aristo...
<ul><li>Initial use of stock characters Commedia Dell’ Arte was the first form of Theatre, since Ancient Roman comedy, to ...
<ul><li>Arlecchino , or  Harlequin , was the most famous. He is the king of the stage of the comedy dell’arte. His role is...
<ul><li>“ The importance of these typical stage characters, which enjoyed at least four centuries of popularity on the Eur...
<ul><li>Development of the stage </li></ul><ul><li>In Italy perspective architecture and painting gave the audience illusi...
The Chariot and Pole System Interestingly around this time approximately 1641 the Italians also came up with a new method ...
<ul><li>Links to Ancient Greece and Rome The usual plots used in Commedia, as mentioned before evolved around basic themes...
<ul><li>Women in Theatre </li></ul><ul><li>At the time of the Commedia Dell’ Arte, women in theatre were still very much u...
<ul><li>Comedia’s influence on Play writes in years to come. It is suggested that Moliere (France: 1622-1673) the influent...
<ul><li>It is interesting to learn that Shakespeare, the most famous and influential play write to date, writing over a hu...
<ul><li>Commedia’s Influence on the English Punch and Judy one of the main characters of the Neapolitan branch of Commedia...
<ul><li>Politics and their influence on the characters of Commedia At the time Commedia Dell’ Arte was evolving, Italy was...
<ul><li>“ For two centuries, Commedia dell’arte thrived in Europe. In that time, this now almost forgotten art form infect...
<ul><li>References: </li></ul><ul><li>(1)http://www.commedia-dell-arte.com/commediainfo.htm (2)http://www.sharlot.org/arch...
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Presentation What Does History Do For Theatre

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  1. 1. Presentation - What does History do for Theatre and what does Theatre do for History? - How the Italian movement, Commedia Dell’ Arte played a pivotal role in Theatre? Events which contributed to it, and its subsequent impact. By Ruby Savage, Sarah Louis and Lea Towler
  2. 2. <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Over the past four hundred years theatre and acting have significantly grown and changed. In Italy around 1485 the old Roman plays where being recreated and re-mastered for the stage, during the time of the Renaissance Drama. This period of time had a major impact on theatre in Italy. It ended medieval practices and began the traditional Roman methods for presenting drama. </li></ul><ul><li>Nowadays large scale performances like ‘Alice in Wonder Land’ draw in huge audiences and are brought to life with a huge team of people, props, lighting, costume designers and performers. But four hundred years ago it was a small group of performers who used only the props they could carry and it was this that led to a form of theatre known as Commedia Dell’ Arte. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Commedia Dell’ Arte </li></ul><ul><li>Commedia Dell’ Arte or comedy of the Art was a form of improvised comedy originating it Italy and spanning over four hundred years, from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, it was especially successful in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was a pioneer in its use of improvised comedic acting, set around basic plotlines and has been an influence to Theatre and performance in Western Culture ever since the Renaissance. Its influence on Theatre as we know it today is vast, and yet, its roots go so deep that many are unaware of its importance.. </li></ul><ul><li>““… Italy’s Pride” - on the surface of our modern life; when we dig deeper we find roots that spread far and are interlaced with many a foreign growth.” (8) </li></ul><ul><li>The themes of the shows were things like inappropriate love intrigues and clever tricks to out-wit innocent bystanders. All the usual characters would be present, the husbands, the wives, the rich, the poor, the heroes and the villains. There was an impressive amount of diversity in the scenarios, with scenes occurring at night, and complex social situations and even illusions of fire and ship wrecks. </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>The Lazzi </li></ul><ul><li>As well as the comical scenarios played out on the stage there was the Lazzi. A Lazzi was a humorous interruption of a show. </li></ul><ul><li>It could be someone who often had nothing to do with the story running out on stage and interrupting the show, sometimes with amazing acrobatics, juggling or even wrestling. Or it could feed into the play, like a group of actors who are crying because one of their wives was just killed, and whilst they cry they greedily gobble a meal. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Bringing Theatre to the masses Whereas the majority of Theatre during the Renaissance was performed for the aristocracy and Royalty, the Commedia Troupes would travel around the country and perform for all classes, most importantly, lower classes, which previously would be explicitly removed from such entertainment. The troupes, generally made up of ten or more players would perform in various locations, courtyards and the like. It was strong political theatre and a true theatre for the masses as well as for the elite - patronized by the aristocrats and even participated in by nobility. “It was the original vaudevillian variety show. Colourful costumes, raunchy humour and intellectual dialogue combined highbrow and lowbrow sensibilities, a winning combination for Renaissance audiences.”( 5) Such a multitude of entertainment devices were clearly key in the Comedia’s success. By encapsulating all these different arts, the Commedia was able to capture the attention of people on many levels, not solely of Upper Classes. The troupes were innovators of today’s “variety show” - an entertainment spectacle that today can be enjoyed by many, for various reasons. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Initial use of stock characters Commedia Dell’ Arte was the first form of Theatre, since Ancient Roman comedy, to use Stock (reoccurring) characters - a device that has carried on throughout the centuries. </li></ul><ul><li>As Commedia Dell’ Arte grew so did its stock of characters. Stereo typical roles like the fool, the glutton, the hero etc which are still used today, would appear in every play, each having their own stock gestures. Over time these gestures became permanent, with each character having memorized specific sayings, curses, exits etc which could be then used whenever their wit failed them on the stage. </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Arlecchino , or Harlequin , was the most famous. He is the king of the stage of the comedy dell’arte. His role is of a Zanni, a roughish servant with intelligence, skill, dressed in colourful clothes. </li></ul><ul><li>Brighella , also a Zanni , though deemed less charismatic and money obsessed. </li></ul><ul><li>Pedrolino - a dreamer </li></ul><ul><li>Pagliaccio - the forerunner of today’s clowns </li></ul><ul><li>Pulccinella - A character later developed into Punchinello , the inspiration behind Punch of the English Punch and Judy. </li></ul><ul><li>Pantalone - a characture of a Venetian merchant. </li></ul><ul><li>The Two Lovers - The Inamorato and his love, usually known as Isabella </li></ul><ul><li>There were other characters too, which changed and developed over Comedia’s vast reign. In all a Troupe generally consisted of ten or so players. These sets of characters have had a huge influence on writers over the years. </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>“ The importance of these typical stage characters, which enjoyed at least four centuries of popularity on the European boards, lies in the influence which they exerted upon the superior dramatists of a later time. Already one can catch a breath of the Shakespearean comedies in the names of the heroes…” (9) </li></ul><ul><li>The relevance these stock characters have to today’s entertainment, is that they can very much be seen as the fore runners of the characters of modern entertainment, that society develop an understanding of. ‘The populace loved the stock characters and their antics, much the way contemporary audiences love the Marx Brothers' movies or TV sit-coms with stock characters like &quot;Gilligan's Island&quot; and &quot;Friends&quot;.’ (1)   The troupes who performed during this movement really were pioneers of their time, in so far as keeping an audience on tenterhooks and interested in what their ‘favourite’ character would do next. Indeed, as the Marx Brothers would find themselves in a new setting and scenario in each film, so would the characters in the troupes of the Commedia Dell’ Arte, although in each case, the essential character of the actor would remain the same. </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Development of the stage </li></ul><ul><li>In Italy perspective architecture and painting gave the audience illusions of distance and depth, careful positioning of stages and props heightened the popularity of staging. </li></ul><ul><li>Early “Slapstick”   The term slapstick literally refers to the two sticks that were slapped together, to imply the noise of actors striking each other. This devise was founded by the Commedia troupes, although the word would be carried through the centuries to describe the sort of drama the Commedia Troupes excelled in. Italy of course was not the Italy of today, and each region had its only dialect. Physical comedy came to dominate the performances because the rich verbal humour of the regional dialects was lost on audiences from different regions. The Troupes would never attempt to change their language as they travelled from region to region, as they felt this would hinder their performance, but used their usual tongue. Therefore, a universal language was needed - that of physical comedy.   Nowadays, Slapstick basically refers to Physical Theatre in which a series of amusing events take place, where the actors find themselves in often embarrassing, painful, and compromising situations, with outcomes that afford much amusement to the audience. This, in essence offers today’s audiences the same variety of entertainment as the audiences of the Renaissance witnessed. More recent comedians Notably Charlie Chaplin, used devices and story lines first initiated by their Italian forerunners.   Common plots of Commedia centred on adultery, jealousy, old age, love, themes central to slapstick comedy today. </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Chariot and Pole System Interestingly around this time approximately 1641 the Italians also came up with a new method for moving scenery using wings and painted canvases, it was called the ‘Chariot and Pole System’ of shifting scenery and was created by a man called Giacomo Torelli. It became so popular that it was used in theatres across Europe. <ul><li>Italians also became very interested in the architecture of the theatre itself. In the late fifteenth century the Teatro Olympico was built by Italian Architect Andrea Palladio. He is considered to be the greatest architect of the 16th century for his many fantastic creations. He was an unusual architect however, who was neither a sculptor nor an artist but in fact a stones man. The theatre was later completed by Scamozzi, another important theatre architect, in 1585. </li></ul><ul><li>The Teatro Olympico was considered to be the prototype for the modern theatre and it was used for many events. The Proscenium of today’s modern theatre which acts to ‘frame’ the stage was first developed in Italy during this time. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>Links to Ancient Greece and Rome The usual plots used in Commedia, as mentioned before evolved around basic themes of Love, Adultery, Jealousy, Old Age etc. Many of these themes can be traced in the Roman comedies of Plautus and Terence, which are themselves translations of lost Greek comedies of the fourth century BC. “Rediscovered in the Renaissance, Plautine plots furnished the basis for over five hundred comedies in every European language ” (7) The use of masks in Commedia Dell’ Arte is pivotal. Every character bar Pedrolino wore masks at some stage over the two centuries the art form was practiced. The wearing of masks of course derived from the Ancient Roman comedies. As previously mentioned, the Roman comedies also used Stock characters, much the same as Commedia. </li></ul><ul><li>Opera is born </li></ul><ul><li>Interestingly a major event in the seventeenth century for Italy was the rise of Opera, which also came about because of the influences of the ancient theatre of Greece. Greeks when reciting their poetic lines would sing. This chorus first introduced into Italian tragedy in imitation of Greek theatre gave birth to the Art of Opera. </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Women in Theatre </li></ul><ul><li>At the time of the Commedia Dell’ Arte, women in theatre were still very much unaccepted by the majority. Initially, the roles of women were indeed played by men, but later women were outrageously given their appropriate roles. They were given a range of comic roles to play among them was running naked across the stage ‘fleeing a ship wreck’ </li></ul><ul><li>“ The first time women broke the barrier of playing on stage in Europe” (6) The roles played by these women were often bestowed ‘male’ attributes. They were sharp of wit, although malicious, and were specialists in disguise, often changing character many times in a single act. The skill of these women was admired by the audience members, and so it stands to reason that the Commedia Dell’ Arte was a major figure head in the Arts at the time prejudices towards female actors were changing. </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>Comedia’s influence on Play writes in years to come. It is suggested that Moliere (France: 1622-1673) the influential French play write, known for his talent for comedy and renowned as a pioneer of his time was influenced by the story lines often used by Commedia Troupes. This fact is sometimes stated as a compliment to his work and at other times, an accusation of Plagiarism. Moliere's work, in which Commedia influence is visible are - The Doctor in Spite of Himself - based on a Commedia story line, centred around Ill Dottore, a Commedia character Signorelli - is a funny one-act farce based on the Commedia dell' arte tradition The scheming of Scapin - a farce about a scheming servant who tricks two fathers out of money The scheming servants of Moliere’s ‘Scapin’ are clearly based on Commedia’s Zanni. Arlecchino, (later Harlequin) of course, one of the most favoured and amusing Commedia characters, is a Zanni. Moliere clearly was enamoured by the charisma of the Arlecchino character. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>It is interesting to learn that Shakespeare, the most famous and influential play write to date, writing over a hundred years after Commedia first emerged, was very much influenced by the style of the Commedia Dell’ Arte. One can easily see the influence of the Commedia on Shakespeare's work. In addition to the pervasive use of Italian names, many of Shakespeare's characters are right out the Commedia's cast of characters. The joking, mischievous servant, the clever wise-cracking clown, the old pedant, and the ancient father all come from the repertoire of the Commedia. There are scenes in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew and All's Well That Ends Well that come directly from the Commedia. </li></ul><ul><li>More recently, Commedia’s influence can be seen in the Marx Brothers movies, where much of the action and dialogue is improvised. The brothers used standard lazzi and costumes, and fused them with their versions of the stock characters. Mainstream audiences of today can certainly recognize many of commedia’s stock characters in the cartoon The Simpsons. Homer, Bart, and Mr. Burns are all examples of these characters. </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Commedia’s Influence on the English Punch and Judy one of the main characters of the Neapolitan branch of Commedia was Pulcinella, a hook-nosed, mischievous buffoon. The name comes from the Italian word pulcino (“chicken”), because of the character’s beak-like nose and squawking voice. When Commedia spread to France and England, it merged with other forms of popular entertainment but the established comic characters remained. In England, the Pulcinella character became Punchinello, who rapidly became a favourite with audiences wherever he appeared. Although there was a tradition of glove puppetry in England, Punchinello and the other puppets often used on stage with him became string operated marionettes. As it was with the performances of the Commedia Troupes, the shows could be enjoyed by all classes - demonstrating enough intelligence and rowdiness to be a winning combination. Around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, Mr Punch himself became a glove puppet, which meant one operator could put on the whole show from a small booth. Another benefit of being a hand-held puppet is that you can hold things – such as a big stick. As Mr Punch left the elegant surroundings of the theatre and became a street entertainer, his long-suffering wife, originally known as Joan, became Judy. This demonstrates how a known and loved English Treasure, Punch, descended from the Commedia Dell’ Art - a form of Theatre that many people in this day are ignorant of. </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>Politics and their influence on the characters of Commedia At the time Commedia Dell’ Arte was evolving, Italy was not a single unified country but an “amalgamation of monarchies: kingdoms, dukedoms, states and the Venetian Republic an oligarchy”( 4) The time in which the Commedia would have evolved, Naples was under occupation by the Spanish. This fact is thought to have influenced the types of characters displayed in the Commedia. Also, other aspects of the Italian Landscape at the time are thought to have played a role in the formation of characters. The ranks in which Italian society was ordered played a role in how the characters would interact with each other. The character, Old Pantalone, for example is a merchant from the Venetian Republic on the Adriatic Sea. The comic servant Arlequino is from lower Bergamo, the furthest inland outpost of the Venetian Republic. The cowardly braggart soldier Il Capitano could be a foreigner from Spain. This simply goes to demonstrate how the Political landscape at the time had such a major effect on Theatre. </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>“ For two centuries, Commedia dell’arte thrived in Europe. In that time, this now almost forgotten art form infected its audiences with joy and revolutionized theatre as it was known. The changes that it inspired have been integrated to such an extent that we are unaware from this distance of its influence. Literary dramatists, directors, and comedians ranging from Shakespeare and Moltere to Charlie Chaplin and Marcel Marceau, have freely used its plots, characters, and comedic bits.”( 3) </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>References: </li></ul><ul><li>(1)http://www.commedia-dell-arte.com/commediainfo.htm (2)http://www.sharlot.org/archives/history/dayspast/text/2001_06_17.shtml (3) http://www.sharlot.org/archives/history/dayspast/text/2001_06_17.shtml (4)http://www.nytheatre-wire.com/ss06021t.htm (5)http://www.sharlot.org/archives/history/dayspast/text/2001_06_17.shtml (6) http://www.nytheatre-wire.com/ss06021t.htm (7) http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris/LatinAuthors/RomanComedy.html </li></ul><ul><li>(8)http://www.theatredatabase.com/16th_century/commedia_dell_arte_001.html </li></ul><ul><li>(9) http://www.theatrehistory.com/italian/commedia_dell_arte_001.html </li></ul><ul><li>(10) http://www.theatrehistory.com/italian/commedia_dell_arte_001.html </li></ul>
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