Playing Commedia

**Readily available in most libraries AND through and
Books without asterisks may be more difficult to locate. A good university library should have any of these listed.

1. **Barry Grantham's Playing Commedia: A Training Guide to Commedia Techniques (London/2000), is a great book for teachers, and for students wanting to know how to play the characters. It describes good training drills for warm-up games, improvisations, word games, and movement skills. He provides a brief history, and then clear descriptions of the major and minor characters with sample scenes and dialogues. The appendix includes an annotated bibliography worth perusing, a very limited description of pictures resources, a concise mask-making lesson, and a limited list of UK and Italian mask makers

2. **Commedia dell'Arte: A Handbook for Troupes by John Rudlin and Ollie Crick is another excellent book for playing Commedia, especially the chapter, "Forming, Training, and Performing" with practical suggestions for improvisations, scene building, and performing techniques. It includes 37 "Impro cards" to generate ideas for partners or trios, and outlines for scenarios. The appendices include writing a scenario, mask making, the stage, backdrop, costumes, and songs and dances. An excellent book (like Grantham's) for performers and the list of mask makers includes Fava and Sartori. For methods of playing the individual characters, see #3 below.

3. **Commedia dell'Arte: An Actor's Handbook by John Rudlin (Routledge, London/1994), describes origin, status, mask, stances, walks, gestures, movement, speech, relationships, and characteristics for playing the major and minor Commedia characters, with sample dialogues and improvisations. He was a student of Antonio Fava, (see #4 below). The third part of this book is an introduction to those twentieth century theatre artists using or influenced by Commedia such as Craig, Meyerhold, Copeau, Dullin, Piccolo Theatro di Milano, Lecoq, Fo, Mnouchkine, San Francisco Mime Troupe, TNT, Boso, and Fava. This is a good resource for finding comparisons of Commedia to contemporary theatre.

4. Antonio Fava's The Comic Mask in Commedia dell'Arte: Actor training, Improvisation, and the Poetics of Survival, (Andromeda, Italy/1999) is currently in Italian, but will be translated into English soon. It is an excellent actor's book with improvisation techniques, and sample scenarii. The section on masks includes beautiful color plates of Signor Fava's leather masks of the major stock characters. Even though it's in Italian, I put it high on the list because he was my Maestro and the excellent skills he offers are useful for any kind of acting, not just comedy. Hopefully we will have the English version soon.

5. **Commedia dell'Arte: A Scene Study Book (Persona Products, CA/1977) and **Farces, Italian Style(Persona Books, CA/1978), both by Bari Rolfe, are two concise handbooks for playing Commedia. The first book deals with well written character descriptions followed by 35 scene studies plus a full scenario in 8 scenes (with text suggestions). The second book has 5 full scenarios drawn from a variety of primarily French soursces with suggestions for staging and playing scenes in the Introduction.

6. **Impro by Keith Johnstone (Routledge, NY/1981) is not a book on Commedia but on improvisation. The skills he describes are so useful to playing Commedia that I find this book essential for concepts and improv ideas (master/servant, comic situations, etc.)

7. **Lazzi: Comic Routines of the Commedia dell'Arte by Mel Gordon (Johns Hopkins University Press, NY/1983) is a nifty book of stage tricks and physical antics described in various Commedia scenarios, ranging from lazzi about food, acrobatics, stupidity, social class rebellion, trickery, word play, sex, illogic, and transformation. He gives the description of what happens in the lazzi, not necessarily how to do it. Also included are two full Pulcinella scenarios (18th c.) and a selected bibliography.