Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Classical Dramatic Improvisation in Venice
For this last day of the Carnival in Venice, I thought my post would not be complete without talking about the wonderful and distinctive plays that originated in Venice in the 16th century; namely, ‘La Commedia dell’Arte’ - Commedy of the art or profession. Although the plays were scripted and the actors, plot and material were all in place, there was room for additional individual expression.
Actors were allowed to bring more to the piece through their own creative additions. This was either done through mimes, acrobatics, singing, or any other form of expression that enabled the actors to embellish their parts while bringing lively entertainment to their audience. The plays always dealt with love schemes and conspiracies, the aristocrats, and heroes of the times. The main idea was comedic art that brought laughter and often mocking of past and present situations.
Throughout the centuries certain characters became conventional ‘musts’ of la Commedia dell’Arte. Carnival time in Venice was no exception. And- no play would have been complete without traditional masked and costumed figures such as Pantalone; a not-so bright little (but big-mouthed) shop owner from Vienna. Another character, Pulcinella- the long pointed nose hunchback who was always ready to scheme people, and of course, Columbina, the maid servant, are just of a few of the Commedia’s favorites. The one that most people would recognize the most, I think would probably be Arlecchino (Harlequin), the colourful clown.
La Commedia dell’Arte, in its improvised technique of acting, set stage for the later plays that we have all come to love and recognize as classics. (This inevitably brings us to the ‘great one’ of Venetian Theatre- stay tuned for my next post on the brilliant Goldoni).
To see some illustrations of characters of La Commedia dell’Arte see: http://www.fulltable.com/VTS/c/cda/cda.htm
Posted by Lucy at 7:51 AM