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Course Descriptions – Term II

Session I: July 4 – July 17

Instructor: Chiara D’Anna

Term II – Session I (July 4 – July 17)

This course is an introduction to Commedia dell’Arte and its legacy in contemporary performance. The Masks of Commedia are indeed an excellent tool to expand performers’ physical vocabulary, stamina, space awareness and a deep understanding of tempo-rhythm and comic timing. In this course you will learn how to create successful ensemble work, interact effectively with an audience and improvise with confidence, developing skills that are fundamental in any performance setting – not only physical comedy

Following an introduction on Commedia dell’Arte and its history, the course will explore how to apply Commedia’s principles and techniques in the development of character and ensemble work. Participants will have the opportunity to focus on different aspects of actor training including body awareness, improvisation, slapstick, stock characterisation and half-mask technique.

On completion of this course you will be able to: 

  • Develop your physical and vocal vocabulary in the creation of grotesque and comic characters with and without half-mask. 
  • Devise and perform scenes utilising the Masks of Commedia dell’Arte, props, music and costumes. 
  • Improvise and interact with your audience with confidence. 
  • Adapt key commedia principles and techniques to any performance setting. 
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the historical and cultural context from which Commedia dell’Arte originated and its legacy in contemporary theatre. 

Instructor: Sam McGehee and Saso Vollmaier

Term II – Session I (July 4 – July 17)


What does it mean for the body to sing and the voice to move? What is the rhythm of speech? What is dissonance and harmony on stage? In this course we will explore the hidden musicality of theatre, how it can inspire creation and help to establish form. Our time will be geared towards the composition of physical and vocal scores. Particular attention will be given to work on rhythm, voice and the body as they relate to the space. The participants will have the opportunity to work and improvise with live musicians in order to heighten their awareness of the space and the hidden dimensions therein. 

The elements of body, voice and rhythm will be explored on an individual basis in order to uncover hidden potentials, and implemented through ensemble improvisation to stimulate a sense of play. In the end, we will focus on refining a heightened sense of listening in the composition of short études.

Term II – Session II (July 18 – July 31)

Instructor: Elena De Renzio

Term II – Session II (July 18 – July 31)


The clown is not a character but a state of mind, a process that leads us to make it alive and creative at every moment. Emotion and sensation are the prime movers of his creation.

He is listening to his fears, his impulses, and his impediments.  From the smallest sensation to the strongest emotion, it allows us to see and hear what it is that makes you live and act. The red nose, “the smallest mask in the world” (J. Lecoq), allows the actor to show his hindrance, his fragility, his humanity. When he encounters failure he makes his own best friend, he makes it his strength. Open, attentive and present, the clown feeds on curiosity and trust, able let everything to flow through.

The clown allows us to reveal the thousand hidden voices of the ego: the bad ones, the smart, the stupid, the clumsy or … silent. In the game of metamorphosis the body becomes one with the energy that flows through it. It feeds on the complicity of the partner and the public to discover pleasure at any moment of being on stage in a game where even dramas can perhaps become ridiculous.

For me, the clown is the greatest improvisation school, a point where the frontier disappears among the performing arts, a landscape full of surprises, an opportunity to get rid of many stereotypes, one of the few places where you can be “imperfect”, a game with precise rule sat the same time wonderfully joyful and serious, a space for meeting oneself, a point from which one can observe oneself, an unexpected moment from which force is released, liberating a shared laugh, it is a rustic and refined energy, it is a beating heart, one blank page, an open book …It is a precious space to get closer to our unique and singular poetics.

Instructor: Greg Pierotti

Term II – Session II (July 18 – July 31)


The affect we project to an audience is entirely dependent on the quality of our connection to ourselves and to our environment. If our connection is discursive and fear based, our affect and presence are diminished. If our connection is attentive and courageous our affect and presence is magnetic. Our relationship to our audience, our environment, and the experience of our own instruments – our past histories, our present energy, and our fears and aspirations about the future – creates the unique affect in the moment of performance. This is presence.

In this workshop, students will train in a process that helps them locate their personal power as actors. That physical and energetic power can then be carried into any performance they share with an audience. Students will train in just being a performer owning her/his own power while being observed by others. Being fully and nakedly present – physically, vocally and energetically – is a heroic act that resonates with audiences powerfully.

To find their way to fuller presence, students engage in physical/vocal training through Fitzmaurice Voicework. They will practice a variety of exercises to connect them to the energy centers of the body as pathways to a variety of performance energies. Finally, using a variety of compositional practices including Affect Theatre (the devising practice developed by Pierotti and his collaborator Cristiana Giordano), students will structure short theatrical pieces based on a Shakespearean text and their own research. Over the course of the two weeks students will share these pieces in progress with larger and larger groups. Titrating the experience of being seen from small to finally quite large audiences assists students in carrying their physical presence work into more highly charged performance contexts.



Dates (including Arrival and Departure): 

Term I: May 30 – June 26, 2021

Term II: July 4 – July 31, 2021

PLEASE NOTE: The dates above include arrival and departure. The Accademia dell’Arte does not accommodate students before or after these dates, neither in the time between the intensives.


The Accademia dell’Arte undergraduate program is fully accredited by Hendrix College.

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