Here are some free activities for you now!
ENCOURAGE PHYSICAL EXAGGERATION THROUGH PLAY AND COLLABORATION!
We truly believe students need to be prepared to “move” in order to fully explore the characters of commedia. The way to encourage exaggeration needed for this style of theatre is through PLAY. By this we mean having a sense of playfulness in your lesson and having a set of silly games that allow the students to let go of all inhibition. We highly recommend spending a few weeks getting your students to feel comfortable moving on their own and with others by playing a few childhood games, such as Indians and Tipis, chase, or one of your favourites as a warm up! So we definitely encourage you as the teacher to get silly too!
These activities will assist students to free their bodies, ignite the imagination and give them the confidence to take on lazzi (prepared physical comic skits). Play will certainly lead to an open and creative mind, especially when trying to create scenes with the Zanni! (those crazy servants!)
(Play applies to all age groups- even adults!)
A great way to get students moving is to focus on animals! Some teachers like to associate individual commedia characters with a particular animal, but I wouldn't mention this to the students just yet. What you want is for the students to explore the way in which animals move with their bodies and help them interact with others while doing this. Prepare a set of animal names written on small bits of paper, enough for every student. Make sure there are 2 of every animal and get the students to pick them out of a hat. The students are not allowed to show or tell anyone their animal. Begin by asking the students to move around the room in a neutral manner (0%) and as you increase the percentage they have to begin taking on that animal. By the time you reach 100% the students are exaggerating their animal. Throughout this incline, coach the students to begin making noises, finding food, playing and interacting with other animals, protecting their babies, and lastly to find their partner (the same animal) Once they are all in pairs coach the students into an improvisation where they either befriend or fight with their partner in the way the animal would. You might like to include music but mostly let them play!
They may be some laughter, and that’s perfectly normal. What you want to see is students getting up to that 100% exaggeration stage! Please watch out for those students who want are playing a bear and attack every other animal: remind them that bears eat fish, not snakes!
Bring it back to Commedia: It’s important to inform them of the links to social hierarchy or status in commedia dell’ arte. How does their animal react with an animal that is of a higher food chain? How did t feel when you were a small chicken up against a rhinoceros? Remembering how this felt for the kids is important when playing the commedia characters later.
10 Second objects is the title I use for an activity where the students have to improvise and present something in 10 seconds. It can be a great start to working collaboratively and improvising with others to create a scene.
For this you will need to have your class in pairs. If you have just played the animal game above, your class would already be in pairs to begin this game! (very convenient)
Ask them to label himself or herself A or B. Ask A’s to stand on one end of the room and B’s the opposite, facing each other. Tell them that you will ask them to create a shape or frozen picture (tableaux) and they must do it in 10 seconds by running in towards one another and presenting to the teacher in the middle of the room. Begin by giving them a few easy shapes and pictures. E.g. the letter W, a shoe and shoe lace, a washing machine and dirty laundry.
Bring it back to commedia: improvisation, collaboration, exaggeration and silliness. Now ask the students to give expression to their objects E.g. a man and his boat.as “what is the man doing on his boat? How does the boat feel? You want the students to create expressive tableau. You can then get one pair to team up with another pair to create a tableau in a group of 4 using titles now. Some other examples: a flower and vase, Santa’s day off, a fly and a net, space ship, on the moon, skiing on the mountain, fire in the kitchen etc. You might like to get commedia specific and include titles that will help explore tragic events or things that have gone terribly wrong. E.g. lost on an island, hungry in the jungle, in trouble with the boss, the wrong diagnosis, the fright at the funeral etc.
Variations: Play the scenes using sounds, words, gibberish, and include Stop, play, pause, rewind, slow motion.
I hope the kids have a lot of fun with this as it will surely get them feeling confident about creating and collaborating through play!
PREPARE YOUR STUDENTS FOR PLAY AND PHYSICAL MOVEMENT!
In a commedia dell' arte program, we have found that the better prepared students are for highly physical and exaggerated movement the better. Sometimes as teachers we presume that students "just know how" to move in the space with one another. However, most of the time, depending what age of course, they find it difficult, silly or not inspired enough to tackle the characters later on. This game is sure to get the body moving in the space and also connect with the key element of commedia; status. It also encourages a sense of play, and laughter too, which is exactly what we want! We hope that you enjoy it as much as we have, and we'd love to hear some feedback on how it went! Viva Commedia!
We all loved the hand game, "paper, scissors, rock" as kids, but this one is a little different as it requires the kids to make the shapes with their bodies.
The 'paper' stance is similar to doing a star jump, 'scissors' is where the arms make a scissors shape, as well as the legs (one in front of the other) and the final shape is a rock, which is a crouch downward into a ball. The students begin in pairs facing each other and jumping together at the same time as chanting the "paper, scissors, rock" They must make the shape on the word "rock" Best of 3 wins of course!
Now for the Evolution part of this game!
You explain to the students that in commedia all characters must know their place within society, so the evolution component of this is essential to the program and helping them understand this concept.
You can potentially use any form of evolution you like, but we really enjoy the animal kind! An egg, a chicken, a dinosaur, a monkey, a human, a god,...you could stop there, but going further can be funny! (try adding alien, or robot) Make sure the students know who is at the top! Each one has a way of moving so that it alerts the other students to what they are.
How to play the game..
Students begin in pairs facing each other. The begin playing paper scissors rock. Each time the student wins they evolve and have to move like that and find the same character to compete against. i.e. the chickens will find chickens, the dinosaurs will find dinosaurs and so on..Soon enough you will have one student who makes it to top first..they are the winner!