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Course Descriptions

Instructor: Roberto Andrioli

From the sixteenth to the late eighteenth century the itinerant players of the Commedia dell’Arte developed a style of acting and performance that was to have a tremendous impact on the development of the European theatre. In the twentieth century this style was rediscovered and once again influenced such movements as the expressionist theatre, theatre of the absurd, and the futurists’ experiments, as well as individual artists such as Meyerhold, Gordon Craig, Samuel Beckett, Lecoq, Ariane Mnouchkine and many others.

A study of the techniques rooted in Commedia dell’Arte provides modern actors with a vastly expanded artistic repertoire from which to develop a personal style. Through work on gesture, voice, and movement, this acting class will explore the features of Arlecchino, Brighella, Pantalone, Capitano, Colombina and other masked and unmasked Commedia dell’Arte stock characters, with the intention of developing the student’s own personal version of the character.

Instructor: Greg Pierotti

In the theater we are often preoccupied with making meaning. What’s the narrative? What’s the metaphor? What does it all add up to? But performance is as much about creating affect as it is about creating sense. Using the devising grid, we let go of our meaning-making-mind for a while and unearth stories and images from where they reside in the body and where they reside in time: the imagined past and future, or the presently-unfolding now.

After mining our deep stories and images, we use the practice of affective devising to put these texts, sounds and images into dialogue with the other elements of the stage to see what kinds of meanings and affects might emerge. These practices help us set aside our clever editor’s mind to allow fresh narratives and affects to emerge out of the collaboration between our bodies, space and time.

Instructors: John Kellam & Stefan Haves

The hybrid required to conceive a Cirque show blends the Actor with the Performer, the Acrobat with the Singer, the Comedian with the Dancer. It takes courage and innovation. It blows up preconceptions and boundaries. Stefan Haves, a Cirque du Soleil collaborator, and Jon Kellam, creator of Superdrama, will guide the newly formed ensemble through a rigorous two-week process as it careens towards a deadline: presentation of an ambitious Performance.

Participants will be guided through a journey of physical training and character development by Mr. Kellam and these will be implemented into a story – one with an interface of circus skills – by Mr. Haves. These two Directors request that Participants bring all variety, comic, actor, gymnastic, song and dance, fine art, and storytelling skills to the party.


Stage One: Creating the Persona with SUPERDRAMA (Mornings)

SUPERDRAMA* is a contemporary theatrical language and unique approach to training and creating persona. This approach incorporates the stock characters and lazzi, of Commedia dell’Arte, the exaggerated situations and ‘strange’ worlds characteristic of German Expressionism, Surrealism, Dada, and Clown, the urgency, precision, direct address and spectacle of the Chinese Opera, and the Nōh theatre principle of Jo-Ha-Kyu. The term SUPERDRAMA is borrowed and inspired by the Alsatian surrealist and expressionist poet-playwright, Yvan Goll, who postulated the term “superdramato define and provoke an artistic call to arms. The theatre he speaks of — the superdrama — is an enormous, larger-than-life theatre. It is particularly expressionistic, explosive, confrontational, and demands “a fantastic truth”.


Here, we will introduce the actor to this unique heightened theatrical language, training and devising process. At the heart of SUPERDRAMA is the belief that with its implementation, the theatre that is created is simultaneously enormous and intimately true — a theatre of enormous intimacy.

Stage Two: Devising Cirque (Afternoons)

Participants will work with the Directors to devise the Cirque performance. Cirque Director, Stefan Haves, customizes professional arena, stage and big-top shows globally. These spectacles are created quickly, in which all participants become instant collaborators. The content of the show is generated from the special skills drawn out from the performers as a collage, a formulated story, or ‘script.’ This two week, 336 hour, deadline will culminate in a performance in front of an audience.

Meeting as ‘strangers’ and attaining Thriving-Ensemble-Status quickly, this spontaneous troupe will craft a fully realized spectacle incorporating story, music, dance, cirque and clown skills along with character work and foundational elements discovered in the SUPERDRAMA Lab. Re-imagining the relationship of the performer within Contemporary Performance, the students will be introduced to a multifaceted approach to theatre devising: playwriting, choreography, lights and sound, set and costume design, production and stage management all in the service of an impossibly ambitious show created in 30 hours.


Expectation: Participants are expected to participate vigorously in the training and character development. It is also important for the success of the devising process that the participants commit to working outside of class when needed: 336 hours to build a performance!

The story, theme, or situation will be decided by the instructors at least one month before the summer intensive begins


Class and Production Needs: Participants should bring a basic make-up kit including clown white, and any costumes, wigs, hats, and other accessories, as well as musical instruments.

Cirque: Contemporary circus, or nouveau Cirque (as it was originally known in French-speaking countries), is a genre of performing art developed in the later 20th century in which a story or a theme is conveyed through traditional circus skills. Animals are rarely used in this type of Cirque, and traditional circus skills are blended with a more character-driven approach. Compared with the traditional circuses of the past, the Cirque approach tends to focus more on the overall aesthetic impact on character and story development, and often, but not necessarily, uses lighting design, original music, and costume design to help convey thematic or narrative content.

A Brief History of SUPERDRAMA: Superdrama is inspired by the postulation of the surrealist expressionist writer, Ivan Goll and derived from a technique known as The Style. The Style is extracted from the methodology of Le Theatre du Soleil (Arianne Mnouchkine) and The Actors’ Gang (Tim Robbins). In 1984 Le Theatre du Soleil came to Los Angeles to perform in the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. The Actors’ Gang participated in workshops lead by Le Theatre du Soleil lead actor George Bigot, who introduced the group to the Theatre du Soleil‘s methodological adaptation of Commedia dell’Arte. The Actors’ Gang then synthesized what they learned into what is now known as The Style. Jon Kellam trained and performed the technique with New Crime Productions in Chicago, and then worked and served as a resident director, performer, and director of education, with The Actors’ Gang for over a decade. Superdrama is an expansion and re-invention of The Style.

Instructor: Dénes Döbrei

This workshop is about researching a harmony within opposites, to help awaken the body’s memory in order to activate dormant information experienced since birth. We will explore a new language through movement that will eventually become a dance – a pre-existing dance from the depth of our cells. This dance can be full of energy or empty, fast or slow, harmonious or disharmonious, etc. Dance, movement, while in representation can express the past and the future of a given space through the actor’s body.

The quality of a body that moves, dances, stays still, fully depends on the state it is in while onstage. It is this state that will be made visible through its impact on the space it occupies. To approach this here and now we will focus on the physical state, relaxation and exercising to enhance imagination in the creative process.

The first cry at birth, the final breath at death, the balance of life in between. Our cells hold a lot of information within, hidden in our body’s layers. Our objective is to use our potential by discovering and uncovering our body’s map.

This will be explored through and implemented into:

Individual exercises: to enable us to meet ourselves while integrating our experiences and the uniqueness of everyone else’s body.

Partner exercises: to help us know our partners (the experience of what the other body carries within), but also to find multiple modes of communication between two bodies, to exchange, share, receive…

Group exercises: which will allow us to find our place with and amidst others.


Dates (including Arrival and Departure):

June 25 – July 21

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


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