Introductory workshops - 1 or 2 days:
Commedia Dell’ Arte:
A fun, quick-fire over view of the Commedia masks Introducing the physicality, movement and mindset of such traditional characters as the foolish Zanni, the old miser Pantalone, and the hyper-emotional Second Lovers. Emphasis is on physical expression and the enjoyment to be had from playing with this theatre form.
The workshop will involve a number of quickly devised, semi-improvised scenarios performed to the rest of the class.
A playful introduction to Half Masks. From the get to, the workshop encourages students to find new ways for their bodies to express character. The masks give quick sketch characters that allow students to improvise with confidence. The aim of the workshop is to inspire students with the training and theatrical uses of the mask.
The workshop will involve a number of completely improvised exercises.
A very focused workshop, which introduces the neutral state as a training tool to bring the student’s awareness to their inherent body posture. The students are encouraged to observe closely mechanics of simple movements such as walking and sitting.
This is a workshop for serious students of theatre, as it demands immense concentration of focus.
How do you bring an inanimate object to life? Starting with a simple piece of cloth, the students will be taken on guided improvisations that help them to bring an object to life and then play with it. Time allowing, students will be introduced to manipulating objects in pairs.
The aim of this workshop is to introduce students to the special theatrical magic of object manipulation and puppetry.
Longer, more detailed workshops - 1, 2 or 3 week modules.
Commedia Dell 'Arte:
There is always lot’s of laughter in these workshops. Lot’s of laughter! Students learn to improvise, to create scenes very quickly, and to enjoy being on stage. The workshop will cover all the main characters of the Commedia pantheon: Zanni, Pantalone, the First and Second Lovers, Harlequin, Polchinella, Il Dotore, Il Capitane.
Students will learn about the games of Commedia, the powerful dynamics of the Commedia, and how to be empowered in both the creation and editing of their work. At the end of these workshops, students will be more expressive, have more confidence in their work, will have a template for working effectively in groups, and will have been introduced to an exciting and vibrant form of theatre.
The workshops leads to a showing of pieces that the students have created, often in interesting outdoor spaces. These can be shows to fellow students or to a wider audience.
The workshop begins with an induction, through play, into the mask state of awareness. From this seed beginning, the students will develop their individual mask character: finding it’s physicality, it’s obsessions and it’s voice. They then learn how to improvise with other masks, how to find Game.
Mask work can be a powerfully transforming experience for students. Whilst the workshop is fun and there is a lot of laughter, there are also some very poignant moments of theatre that are created.
Longer workshops will lead to a showing of pieces - either in groups or as solo pieces in a theatre studio.
A more in depth study, which will train the students to focus and hold attention. It will look at students own postures in depth. It will engage the analytic mind. Students will work on letting go of inherent postures, chorus work, and stage dynamics. It will introduce students to minimalist body posture and how they can used as a basis for creating character.
This is an intense workshop, not for the faint hearted. Students will learn to focus, and have a greater knowledge of their internal thoughts and body tensions. This is the beginning of releasing those postural and mental habits, giving students greater potential range as actors.
There is no showing at the end, but sometimes I’ll give an open workshop talk, with the students illustrating it.
These workshops vary on the needs of the students and school. They are best conducted as a creation of a show, and can concentrate on object manipulation, rod puppetry of glove puppetry. It is not a workshop on making puppets, but in manipulation.
The modules work particularly well when combined. My favorite combination is to start with Commedia, as the students really enjoy the freedom and madness of the Commedia form. Then to work on the Neutral masks, as they are almost diametrically opposed to the Commedia masks. Then to work on the character half masks, as the students are by then well primed for the deeper emotional exploration that they offer.
What I would like, ideally, in terms of facilities:
I can work in most spaces and conditions, but there are a number of things, that experience has shown, help the work:
Good work space - not too hot, not too cold, with wooden or studio flooring (not concrete!), in which one can make noise, and where not too much outside noise will disturb.
Actors/Students (university and above) to wear fairly neutral comfortable work clothes, with no logos. Committed students of maximum twenty per class. Bigger class sizes can be managed by splitting the classes. With large year groups, I can also work with my Ophaboom partner who is an experienced teacher.
Some form of lighting is useful, especially for the Neutral and Half-Mask modules. A simple ceiling lighting rig in a studio works well, as does a couple of free standing lights.
Access to some props and simple costumes - skirts, shirts, hats is useful.
A sound system that can take an ipod.
Some sort of screening/back drop that can be put up to create temporary performance spaces whilst working. This doesn’t have to be a professional flats, indeed often the simpler the better.
For the showings - an outdoor space is preferable for Commedia, but can be done in a studio or the work room, or theatre. Half masks work best in a theatre studio setting, as do Neutral Masks.