THS drama department welcomed Gale McNeely to the Templeton Performing Arts Center to do a series of workshops this week with our theater and drama students specifically focused on Commedia del Arte which was popular in Italy hundreds of years ago.
Students learned that Commedia is a form of theatre characterized by masked “types” which began in Italy in the 16th century and was responsible for the advent of actresses and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. A commedia is both scripted and improvised. Characters’ entrances and exits are scripted. A special characteristic of commedia dell’arte are the lazzi. A lazzo is a joke or “something foolish or witty”, usually well known to the performers and to some extent a scripted routine. Another characteristic of commedia dell’arte is pantomime, which is mostly used by the character Arlecchino. The characters of the commedia usually represent fixed social types and stock characters, such as foolish old men, devious servants, or military officers full of false bravado. The characters are exaggerated “real characters”, such as a know-it-all doctor called Il Dottore, a greedy old man called Pantalone, or a perfect relationship like the Innamorati.
“It definitely took me outside my comfort zone doing something I had never seen or heard before but it was fun. I liked learning about something new.” — Jenna Sanders, THS Freshman
Drama teacher Catherine Kingsbury shared her reasons for bringing in theater professionals. “I like to bring in other theatre professionals to work with students to broaden their understanding and experience with live performance. There are so many different forms of live performance, and so many different career paths. Every theatre artist has their unique “bag of tricks” that they can share with students. One never knows where that spark and motivation for students to pursue a passion or interest could come from — I want to provide them with as many opportunities for that as possible.”
Mr. McNeely has been performing professionally for 45 years and has been involved with the Pacifice Conservatory for the Performing Arts (PCPA) for 34 years. He shares that his goal is “to share Commedia del Arte with students from around the country.”
“I like to bring in other theatre professionals to work with students to broaden their understanding and experience with live performance.” — Catherine Kingsbury, THS Drama Teacher