Don't miss this one!
Avner Eisenberg - American vaudeville performer, clown, mime

"Commedia Del'Arte is the foundation of most modern comedy. Unfortunately it is often presented like an exhibit in a museum, frozen and without life. Then I saw the show created by Fabrizio Paladin. With only two actors, in an early production of the show at the Celebration Barn Theater in the US, the world of Commedia is brought to life in such and exciting way that you have to see it to believe it. Don't miss this one.”


The Theatrical Creation Method


conceived and directed by
Fabrizio Paladin

31th July - 5th Aug
Budapest - Hungary

The goal of this course is to methodically walk the students through all of the necessary techniques and understandings needed to effectively and authentically perform Commedia. We start out with the characters of Commedia. We will work physically to find each character’s essential shape and movement. Students are introduced to the masks, and we explore techniques of using them effectively. Students are also given a thorough understanding of the history of Commedia and the historical scenarios that feed the situations used in performance.

Once the students have been brought to a comfortable familiarity with the characters and the technique of Commedia performing, we move on to simple improvisations, adding new theatrical techniques as we go, such as the use of props and music, and techniques of stage fighting.

Finally, students begin to write their own canovaccio, and we study the actual technique of assembling a Commedia performance, step by step. At this stage of the course, each day ends with the students presenting their work in the form of a “show.”


The students will work with original Commedia leather masks made by Antonio Fava, Fabrizio Paladin and Carlo Setti.

Character works begins with rigorous physical exercises designed to help the student find the “scenic presence” and “physical structure” of the character and ensure the effectiveness of the masks.

Conscious Movement

  • Mirror exercises
  • The elements of the movement (shape, rhythm, speed, power)
  • The “yellow ball”
  • Physical interpretation

Introduction to Acting with Masks

  • Historical introduction to Commedia dell’Arte
  • Meanings and symbols of the Mask
  • The 3 positions (domination, collaboration, submission)
  • Dilatation of body tensions to rebuild a “new scenic body” for the actor, an ‘alternative’ body created expressly for the stage and for the effectiveness of the mask.
  • Improvisations with the mask without facing the specificity of each character.

The Characters of Commedia dell’Arte

  • The Servants - The “Zanni,” or male servants, and “Servetta,” or female servants. These include the more popular characters Arlecchino, Colombina and Brighella. Includes also “Infarinati”: male servants without mask with white make-up.
  • The Elders - These include the Miser, Pantalone, as well as the Doctor, the Lady, the Notary and Tartaglia.
  • The Captain - The glorious soldier – a braggart
  • The Lovers - The “Innamorati” - Isabella and Flavio (non-masked characters)

Next, students move on to improvisations on simple themes, from basic entrances, introductions and exits, to character interactions, such as two servants meeting, the Captain and his servant training for war, and so on.

Theatrical Techniques and Props of Commedia

  • Use of Zanni’s tool – the batocio, or “slapstick”
  • Commedia fighting techniques
  • Use of music on the stage
  • The aesthetic of “ritardo” (“the late”)
  • Theories and techniques of the lazzo (“the joke”)
  • The Slapstick Comedy
  • Realism
  • Le macchine (the “mechanics of the body’ of Commedia dell’Arte)

The Canovaccio System and the Assembly of the Show

After working with these simple improvisations, we will begin an analysis of historical canovacci (the Scala Scenarios, the Correr Scenarios, etc…). Then the students themselves will work on creating their own original canovacci. Roles will be assigned, and the students will begin the actual process of developing the show:

  1. Improvisation of the scene in question from the canovaccio
  2. Analysis of the improvisation
  3. Recovery of the ‘good’ scenic material (material that is effective for the goals of the show)
  4. Repetition of the material selected from the improvisation, and fixing of the scene
  5. Improvisation of the subsequent scene
  6. Analysis of the improvisation

and so on…

About the Commedia dell'Arte

Commedia Dell’arte (also known as Improvvisa, Commedia Zannesca or Italiana) began in Italy during the first half of the sixteenth century, and went on to become the primary form of theatre performed by professional actors. Unlike modern theatre, where set lines and cues are set down in a script, most Commedia performances follow what is known as a canovaccio – a kind of outline, or collection of sketches that provides the fundamental framework for the action: the themes, the entrances and exits, etc. Commedia actors improvise, following the structure of the canovaccio and the fixed characteristics of their own characters.

The improvisation techniques of Commedia also differ from more modern styles of improvisation. Commedia improv is not based on quidquid in buccam venit (whatever comes to the mouth), but rather an almost extemporaneous assembly of a plurality of elements which make up the technical repertoire of the actor: the role, the character, the gestures, the monologues, the jests… Because of this, we can see that Commedia is not a style of theatre but a method of theatrical creation

In learning to perform Commedia, the actor, like a jazz musician, must know perfectly his own instrument (in this case, the body and the mask) and he must also know and respect the rules of the game he’s involved in. When the actor can ‘give’ himself generously to his art and to his audience, his own peculiar sensitivities will fill the sketch provided in the canovaccio with color and shade – a process I call “strategic acting”.