This course explores the history, style and dynamics of the commedia dell'arte: an originally Italian type of improvisational theater that has flourished from the time of Shakespeare to the present day. As we study, we will also put this theater on its feet. Students with a background and interest in improvisation are encouraged to take the class. (At the same time, no acting background is required to take the course--just a willingness to try.) We will examine primary and secondary texts regarding the Italian "golden age" of 1570-1625, and we will study the flowering of the commedia dell'arte in Paris during the seventeenth century. The influence of the commedia dell'arte on Shakespeare and Molière will be examined, and we will experiment with a new body of French scenarios from the time of Molière that have never before been translated into English. Questions of theater and performance history will be examined, as we consider various historical myths regarding this theater in the light of actual primary documents. We'll spend the final part of the course looking at political uses of this form of theater in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, considering things like the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the radical socialist theater of Dario Fo, and the international Theater Hotel Courage that uses commedia-style performance for social change.
Course Attributes: EN H; AS HUM; AS LCD; FA HUM