Fall & Spring Semester Physical Theatre Program
This program is an introduction to the world of physical theatre and offers participants the opportunity to learn from world-renowned masters of their craft. Students concentrate on various phsyical theatre techniques and forms including contact improvisation, mask performance, Commedia dell'Arte, voice, special workshops with guest instructors in various forms, Italian language, and the philosophy of performance.
September 3 – December 7
Fall Break: October 12 - 20
Fall Semester Application Deadline:
January 27 - May 2
Spring Semester Application Deadline:
for this program
Please visit the Tuition & Fees
page for complete details on all program costs.
In the spirit of the actor-creator, this semester provides ensemble-based physical theatre training with an intense focus on movement/body work, vocal techniques and Italian language. Students will learn new approaches to performance through their encounter with Commedia dell’Arte, interwoven with mask-making and other related performance topics.
Students will be guest artists in residence during a working excursion to either Venice or Naples, participating in a professional-level workshop with Accademia faculty. Students will have the opportunity to see professional performances, as well as present their own work generated during the semester both in-house and locally, as assessed by the faculty.
Throughout the semester students will reflect on the nature of their class work through a philosophical lens in the academic seminar the Philosophy of Art and Performance.
Semester Courses (3 credits each)
Commedia dell'Arte: Acting I
Voice and Performance
Extended Performance Topics: Theatre
The Philosophy of Art and Performance
Italian Language I and II
TART I15 Commedia dell’Arte: Acting I
From the sixteenth to the late eighteenth century the itinerant performers 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 futurist’s experiments, as well as individual artists such as Meyerhold, Gordon Craig, Samuel Beckett, Lecoq, Mnouchkine and many others. A study of the traditional techniques developed by Commedia provides modern actors with a vastly expanded artistic repertoire from which to develop a personal style.
This acting class will develop the practical use of the masks of the stock characters of the Commedia dell’arte. Through work on gesture, voice and movement within a specific socio/historical context, students will explore the characteristics of Arlechino, Zanni, Brighella, Pantalone, Colombina and others, with the intention of developing the student’s own personal version of the character.
The class format will be based on intensive studio work with daily exercises designed to develop the masked character. Students will work on improvisational techniques through work on various scenari and lazzi. Scene study in the form of short scenes, or canovacci, takes place in the final phase of the work.
The application of Commedia masks in comic traditions from Goldoni through Gozzi to Molière and Marivaux may also be a feature of this course, depending on faculty.
In addition to the intensive studio component, this course will include a mask-making workshop. Students will sculpt a clay version of one of the stock Commedia masks, making a mold from this that serves as a “negative” for the fabrication of a mask in latex and fiberglass or in leather. The student then completes the mask through applying layers of finishing coating and finally paints and highlights its dramatic potential.
Informal class presentations of studies and scenes are a regular part of the class schedule. At their discretion, faculty may present students’ work before a wider public at the Accademia or a local venue.
TART I20 Voice and Performance
This course is designed for the student who is engaged in the specific demands of physical theatre and masked performance. The student actor will be led through a carefully guided but very thorough vocal and physical warm-up, right up to performance. A series of rigorous exercises and improvisations will stimulate the students’ integration of voice, body and imagination and will extend the boundaries of vocal potential to explore the monstrous, the grotesque and the ridiculous. Students will develop greater range, flexibility, sustaining power and emotional presence through concentrating on the sung sound and systematically challenging their boundaries in terms of pitch and quality.
This approach to the vocal and verbal training of the actor is derived from the work of Alfred Wolfsohn and Roy Hart in England, and works to broaden the parameters of what is possible for the human voice, thus offering a protean raw material for the investigation of character and voice in physical theatre and mask work.
This vocabulary of vocal and verbal skills will serve us for the challenge of vocal presence in Commedia dell’arte. Not only must the actor mold his physical expression to the mask, but also they need to find the vocal quality that fits with the character of the mask. This course provides the foundation for creating a specific vocal design for mask work.
A choice of textual support, including monologues, short scenes and some Greek choruses and extracts from Shakespeare will provide the material for small-scale studies and presentations both in class and to a wider public within the school.
TART I35 Extended Performance Topics: Theatre
Designed as an introduction to the methods and aims of physical theatre, this course is a selection of movement and acting options that reflect the inter-disciplinary thrust of the program. Depending on visiting faculty and on-going developments in the program, students will be exposed to techniques that integrally connect to the core substance of the training.
During the first month of the semester the course includes concentrated physical training designed to prepare students for the intensive needs of commedia and mask work. Subsequent segments concentrate on specific physical and acting skills with an emphasis on ensemble playing.
This course will focus on four principal areas of training:
• Movement skills, including acrobatics, contact improvisation and group dynamics
• Personal and small group improvisation and composition
• Contemporary mask workshop
PHIL I20 Philosophy of Art and Performance
The many paradoxes of the modern world, perhaps first clearly articulated by Rousseau, continue to provide a backdrop to all of our social activity: greater personal freedoms incased in a world of greater social regimentation, increased diversity of choice amidst an inexorable drive toward homogenization, increasing production of wealth along with the dramatic growth of poverty, vastly expanded communications providing the tools to increased isolation and so on.
These paradoxes often go unnoticed as they appear a natural part of life, but these phenomena had an historical development that in turn profoundly affected individual perception. Through an exploration of the development of mass production, the fragmentation and specialization of life and work, the development of the information age, the commodification of culture, the compression of time and space, the disassociation of the body and the aesthetic shifts that have accompanied these developments, this class will philosophically analyze the significance of each. We will think about art—about its nature and its important place in human life.
To facilitate this, the course brings together the writings of philosophers and the work of artists from a variety of domains. The goal is not to intellectualize art but to understand the intelligence that goes into it, to enrich our experiences of art, and to foster our own creative sensibilities. We will consider famous writings on art by thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Schiller, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Breton, Artaud, Eisenstein, Debord, Baudrillard, Foucault and others in relation to important works of literature, theatre, painting, music, architecture and film.
A philosophical analysis with help the artist situate both the work of art and the actual work of the artist in a broader framework where the role of social mediation between the artist, the work of art and the reception of the work is revealed. Likewise, the potential role of the artist and work of art as social mediation can emerge as a stimulus to the creative impulse itself.
The class format will be based on lectures and seminar-style discussions where each student will present a critical summary of at least one of the readings. A portion of the class, when possible, will include a critical examination of the student’s own experience in a particular workshop and may include Butoh dance, clown training for actors or other special workshops or master classes in which students participate.
ITAL I10 or I11 Italian Language
In the first semester course introduce students to basic grammatical structures of the Italian language. Students acquire a basic vocabulary and speaking practice.
In the second semester course, students begin moving toward fluency in Italian by focusing on communication and the exposure to a not stereotypical, more complex and up-to-date picture of modern Italy and Italians.
The readings in the text will provide a point of departure for conversation, which will be an essential component of both classes. These courses will cover aspects of Italian culture and society, as well.