Commedia Movement

Learning Objective

Students will be able to understand the role movement plays in creating Commedia Dell’Arte characters by demonstrating the differences in characters walks through participating in an improvised scene.



Materials Needed

Open performing space, white board, marker, copies of Commedia Character Descriptions (students pull out there’s from previous class)




When the students enter the room, have them walk around in a neutral position. If the stage is available, move over to the stage to do this exercise. Once they have established a neutral walk have them lead with different parts of their body. Lead with their forehead, hips, stomach, nose, knees, heels, toes. Work through each of these walks. As the students are experimenting with the walks tell them to take notice of the differences between each walk—how does it affect your attitude, your sense of power and control, or your interactions with other people in the room.



Step One-Discussion

Ask the students what was your experience like?  How did each walk make you feel? Which walk was challenging? Have students share.



Step Two-Transition

Have the students get with a partner and identify what body part they lead with when they walk. The more we are aware of our bodies as an actor the more we can use it as a tool to create other characters.



Step Three-Instruction

Have the students pull out the character sheets from last class. On the board draw the circle diagram. Within the world of Commedia Dell’Arte the social status you held and the people you know told a lot about how you presented yourself through your stance and walk. Go through each circle and have a student read the description of the walk for that character then have the students get on their feet and try walking like that person. Go through each of the circles. The location of the circle is a literal representation of the level your character is at in society as well as the body position.

 Doctor=Belly—weighed down by the knowledge he has, weight on the back of his heels, hard to move fast.

Lovers=Shoulders, very grand,

Pantalone=Bent back, legs slightly apart, small stiff steps, hands in front of him, lead with forehead (CHICKEN)–Mean

Captain=full of swagger

Zanni= Head is stationary—the nose points at things, pointed feet, legs come up bent then go straight. (PIGEON)—wants to please

Brighella= (in between servants and masters—looking for a way to raise up) bent legs, rounded back, tip toeing, proud of himself.

Arlecchin=Bent knees, low center of gravity, very aerobatic, elbows bent, hands placed at hips, appears as if he is about to spring up



 Step Four- Practice

Start the students from the top of the diagram and work towards the bottom. In the first two circles are the lovers, read descriptions, talk about dynamic between the two, practice walk. Second two circles are Pantalone and Dottore, middle circle is Capitano, next two circles are Brighella and Arlecchin, and the bottom circle is Zanni.  Spend about 15-20 minutes on this activity.



Step Five- Transition/Instruction

Have the students get into partners.  Each student should pick a character. You two actors will pick a simple scenario and improvise a scene as those two characters no longer then 2 minutes—showing the physicality of your character as well as the relationship between the other person in the scene. Instead of developing dialogue you are going to speak in gibberish.



Step Six- Practice

Give the students plenty of time to prepare their improvised scenarios. Walk around the room and couch them if needed as well as give them encouragement. Give them 5-8 minutes to prepare.



Step Seven- Peer Sharing

Once each group looks ready have them get with another group and share their improvised scenes for each other. After one group perform then once done have the watchers give that group feedback and then switch.



Step Eight-Performance

Ask for a volunteer who would like to share their performance in front of the class. Before this group performs tell the class to take notice of the commitment and focus each actor has to their body movements, how power is dealt with within the scene, and the differences between characters.



Step Nine- Discussion

What was your experience creating these characters? What was challenging? What did you learn about body language and its relationship to power today? How do you use your body language daily? Does it help you get what you want? If yes, how?




Students will demonstrate meaning of character movement by participating in a partner improvised scene.