The international theater school of Copenhagen, Denmark
The Commedia School is a 2 year actor training program founded by Ole Brekke and Carlo Mazzone in Copenhagen, Denmark. Since 1978, each September, a new group of students from around the world have been attracted to Northern Europe’s oldest physical theater school (fysisk teaterskole) to develop themselves as performers. The school has started students on successful careers in many areas of performing including stage, street theater, circus, puppet theater, magic, children’s theater, performance, cabaret, and film. Performers who have been educated at The Commedia School are today found at the top of their performing professions globally. The Commedia School is a physical theater school (fysisk teaterskole). The basis of the training is movement, the physical aspect of acting, which is often left out of traditional acting programs. The course is grounded in the pedagogical methods of Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, Jacques Lecoq, and Moshe Feldenkrais. Because each class has students from many countries, the English language is used.
Because the performing arts have always been precarious business and even more so today because of the global economic situation, it is vital that performers are able to create their own shows rather than depend on auditions to find work. The training of creative performers at The Commedia School gives graduates a big advantage because of the emphasis on producing new material each week. Graduates of The Commedia School not only create their own shows, but also create new work situations for performers outside the normal venues. The Commedia School develops the skills and confidence that will allow the graduates to develop as independent artists, make their own opportunities and help broaden the theatre ecology.
The Commedia School is truly international. Graduates have come from 34 different nations. That means anyone graduating from The Commedia School joins a truly global community of performers with connections around the world.
“Some say I am an emperor. Some say I am a master. But for you my beloved public, your humble servant ever after. -Pulcinella”
A two year journey of discovery
The course is divided into distinct but related theatre disciplines, primarily movement, including: Analysis of movement (Feldenkrais), mime, acrobatics, and also voice, with classical and modern texts. The course is a two year journey of discovery. Beginning the first year, the students rediscover the world around them, the world usually unnoticed because of the habitual patterns of behavior. A new awareness is developed by recreating, through movement, those aspects which make up our environment. The foundation is established for the development of creativity and expanding the imagination.
Masks teach the student awareness and control of the movement and gesture. The masks demand that the student becomes aware of the essential gestures as well as aware of those not essential and thus distracting. The mask enlarges the performer to a higher level of projection and playing. It demands clarity of intention and precision of gesture and voice. Several different types of masks are studied in order to bring the students to the level of awareness revealing these conditions. Each mask style has its particular demands. These include the metaphysical mask, larva masks, dumpster masks, Javanese masks, and character masks of the students design and construction. During this study, the students discover the fundamental nature of theatre, telling stories whether literary and verbal or gestural and non-verbal. By telling stories, the students learn to connect in a profound way with the public and develop the sensitivity necessary to hold the public and take them on a journey through the story. Everyone loves a charming story, and in this section of study the students discover their own unique charm while creating their own stories. As the students encounter the phenomena of the clown, they develop a freedom of play while discovering their stock comic character, their unique way of making people laugh. Working with the solitude of the clown gives them a sense of being well centered in themselves on stage and in touch with the immediate circumstances. Working with the naiveté of the clown gives each student experience with a basic human condition and their own vulnerability. They discover that their personal vulnerability is what makes them interesting on stage no matter what style they are performing in. Melodrama has a bad name in theatre circles today even though it is tremendously popular in film and TV the world over. During this study the students discover what makes this style alive on stage and relevant to the lives of today’s public. They also develop the movement skills unique to melodrama. The study of melodrama explores that dramatic territory that lies between farce and tragedy touching both at opposite extremes, at one end comic, and at the other end tragic. Working as an ensemble, the students discover how they can move the public’s emotions between these extremes by studying those demands particular to the melodramatic space.
Masks teach the student awareness and control of the movement and gesture. The masks demand that the student becomes aware of the essential gestures as well as aware of those not essential and thus distracting. The mask enlarges the performer to a higher level of projection and playing. It demands clarity of intention and precision of gesture and voice. Several different types of masks are studied in order to bring the students to the level of awareness revealing these conditions. Each mask style has its particular demands. These include the metaphysical mask, larva masks, dumpster masks, Javanese masks, and character masks of the students design and construction.
During this study, the students discover the fundamental nature of theatre, telling stories whether literary and verbal or gestural and non-verbal. By telling stories, the students learn to connect in a profound way with the public and develop the sensitivity necessary to hold the public and take them on a journey through the story. Everyone loves a charming story, and in this section of study the students discover their own unique charm while creating their own stories.
As the students encounter the phenomena of the clown, they develop a freedom of play while discovering their stock comic character, their unique way of making people laugh. Working with the solitude of the clown gives them a sense of being well centered in themselves on stage and in touch with the immediate circumstances. Working with the naiveté of the clown gives each student experience with a basic human condition and their own vulnerability. They discover that their personal vulnerability is what makes them interesting on stage no matter what style they are performing in.
Melodrama has a bad name in theatre circles today even though it is tremendously popular in film and TV the world over. During this study the students discover what makes this style alive on stage and relevant to the lives of today’s public. They also develop the movement skills unique to melodrama. The study of melodrama explores that dramatic territory that lies between farce and tragedy touching both at opposite extremes, at one end comic, and at the other end tragic. Working as an ensemble, the students discover how they can move the public’s emotions between these extremes by studying those demands particular to the melodramatic space.
“ I remain just one thing, and one thing only – and that’s a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician. -Charles Chaplin ”
“ The mask enlarges the actor and “essentializes” the intention of the character and the situation. It makes explicit the gestures of the body and the tone of the voice. It lifts the text above the everyday, it filters out the essential and drops the anecdotal. -Jacques Lecoq ”
Carlo Mazzone-Clementi with Ole Brekke’s version of the metaphysical mask. And the metaphysical mask in action at the studio.
Introduction to the metaphysical mask brings the student back to the condition of basic existence where everything is a surprise, where everything happens all of a sudden. In this condition the students learn to surprise themselves, to discover things, and to respond spontaneously to these discoveries and surprises. This work ensures that every performance is alive. This study of life then proceeds to the mysteries of masks, expressive masks, larvae masks, oriental masks and dumpster masks. The students develop the expanded level of play and precision required of masks. They study the design and construction of masks and make their own under the instruction of master mask makers.
Mask training puts students in touch with different levels of their own energy and helps them develop the control of their energy necessary for playing. It adds another dimension to the student’s awareness and precision of movement and gesture. Masks demand only essential movements and this training gives the aspiring performer awareness of their own movements by rendering useless those movements unnecessary for the mask. This awareness is very important for any performer.
Story telling and the clown complete the first year’s studies. Story telling gives the student direct, total contact with the public. While studying the art of story telling, students create unique personal performance material by learning to draw on their own experience and fantasy while continuing to develop a profound rapport with the audience. Students finish the first year by creating their own comic stock character, their clown, and studying the clown’s solitude and naiveté. They discover their unique way of making people laugh. Performances are given in both styles in the school’s studios, other venues around Copenhagen, and in international festivals.
Although the commedia dell’arte, the Italian comedy, is today a dead form, the study is important historically because it is a modern source of our western performing arts. The important aspect in the actor’s development is the level of play demanded. Someone once described commedia as circus with a plot, and indeed commedia is at its best when the level of energy is at circus level. The students are obliged to push their own abilities to the level of the fantastic discovering another dimension of themselves in the process.
Important aspects of tragedy are the chorus and the tragic space. In the study of tragedy, the students develop a fundamental understanding of the chorus. They can then transpose that phenomenon to the other styles giving all their work a richer quality. The tragic space, being very particular and a dominant aspect of this style, gives the students an immediate sense of the spatial demands of a particular style. These particular demands are discovered in movement, voice and text.
Many aspects of the buffoon relate directly to other styles. The tragic space, the fantastic level of play, the foolish logic, and the direct contact with the public are part of the play of the buffoon. This study then reveals to the students how different styles can be used in the same piece. Students discover how to confront the public about sensitive currant social issues in a manner that is effective and yet not destructive. The theatrical study of the buffoon is a study of human folly touching both the tragic and comic extremes. During this study, the students discover another aspect of the stock character, the grotesque aspect.
The period of cabaret study involves each student creating performing material that is very personal in nature with an emphasis on writing, composing and staging songs. This study pushes the limits of the student’s creativity in areas not otherwise explored, like stand up comedy, magic, burlesque and other more or less obscure areas of performing. For us at The Commedia School, it is important that the students create performance level material in each of these styles. Shows in each style are staged in the school studio and often are later performed in other venues in Copenhagen or at festivals in Denmark and abroad. These performances confirm for the students the attractive power of popular theatre styles.
“If you look at the original Greek theatre, you’ll see that the popular stage has always used grotesquerie, satire, lampoons, low comedy and even – why not? – scurrility to achieve its end of soiling, deflating, and bursting the balloon that the ruling class has always tried to keep pumped up. –Dario Fo ”
“The Commedia Dell’Arté rests on the passions of men and women pushed to their limit. It shows the absurdity of our behaviour. It has nothing to do with elegant entertainment, but expresses the urgency of living, closer to survival than to life, the latter already a luxury. Planted in the misery of the people, in their naiveté as well as their intelligence, Commedia Dell’Arté reflects the hierarchy of a stable society, without the possibility that the valet will revolt against his master. Everyone manages, with all possible compromises, to exist and satisfy his hunger, his greed, his amorous desires; all living together. Everyone tries to cheat and everyone falls into ridiculous traps. The smile does not exist. One weeps or one laughs. – Jacques Lecoq ”
The second year of study focuses on group styles of theatre which expand the dimensions of the students understanding and playing ability. The students develop a range acting skills demanded by these extreme styles, Melodrama, Commedia Dell’Arté, Buffoon, and Cabaret. Again students write and create material in these styles which they perform for the public. The student performances are usually invited to international festivals abroad. This experience reassures the students that people laugh the same in all languages. Also in the second year, they study acting classical texts, the heightened texts of Shakespeare and tragedy.
Throughout both years, classes continue in mime, movement and voice, acrobatics, and the basic exercises of the school, those necessary to make every moment on stage fresh and alive, the basic art of comedy.
Each of the styles have particular demands on make-up or masks. Internationally recognized make-up designers and mask makers (Petra Föhrenbach, Finbarr Ryan) work with the students during rehearsals for each performance to develop with the students their personal make-up and give instruction about the make-up principles unique to each style.
The Awareness Through Movement training forms the foundation of the curriculum. This training is essential to develop the intuitive awareness of the body and correct habitual distortions, to release the voice, and set the performer in the best possible physical and mental condition to play.
“The paradox: You must let it happen but you must make it happen.”
Now taking applications for September 2013!
To apply for entrance into THE COMMEDIA SCHOOL, simply write a letter to us at one of the addresses below giving personal information and telling about your past experiences, especially those related to theatre. Also tell why you wish to attend this school and enclose a recent photo. Include two letters of recommendation from people who know your work in the performing arts. When we receive your application, you will be contacted for an interview. Interviews are held at the school. Other arrangements can be made for those from other continents or who are unable to come to Copenhagen for the interview.
The cost for the school year 2013-2014 is DKK 45,000. approximately US$ 8,000, € 6000.
Taking applications now for the September 2rd, 2013 start.
The visa application process takes months so if you are outside the EU, apply now!
Correspondence post address:
The Commedia School
European Credit Transfer System
It is possible to get academic credit for studies at The Commedia School while enrolled in other University or higher education institutions in Europe. It also ensures graduates of The Commedia School the possibility of getting credit for their studies when seeking further education or graduate studies at higher education institutions.
The ECTS was established to facilitate transfers of credits among European higher education programs, both public and private. Students may get credit in universities in Europe for their studies at The Commedia School. Although the decision concerning credit transfer is with the accepting institution, The Commedia School provides the necessary documentation and certification of hours so that the credits can be transferred to other higher education institutions.
The Commedia School also provides accredited courses at other state institutions of higher education in European countries. For more details about specific cooperating institutions, please contact us.
The following is the Course Catalog with hours indicated corresponding to ECTS credits.
“When you are lost, then you can easily make discoveries.”
Courses in using Theatre in Education have been given by The Commedia School since 1991. At the same time as conducting classes at the school in Copenhagen, the courses are often offered by cooperating institutions and provided by The Commedia School. These courses have been a regular part of the curriculum in the Drama Communications Department of Linköpings University in Sweden. Theatre in Education as a line of study is a part of the cooperative agreement between The Commedia School and The College of Neo-humanist Studies in Sweden. Other cooperating institutions include Visao Futuro in Porangaba-SP, Brazil, the Zonnenlicht Foundation in Den Bosch, Holland, and Metropol, Copenhagen, Denmark.
This course gives both theoretical and practical experience in using a theatrical approach to any educational situation. The course applies the basic principles of The Commedia School to any course material in any educational setting from early childhood to professional and technical studies and including, of course, primary and secondary school settings.
For more information on this program, contact The Commedia School directly by e-mail or by phone.
“The ground is your friend, my friend”
"The ground is your friend, my friend." - Carlo Mazzone-Clementi
Ole Brekke and Carlo Mazzone-Clementi
The fundamental goal of The Commedia School is to develop the creative performer. The school encourages the students to create a theatre which is relevant to their personal lives and which touches the lives of the public.We provide the technical training to develop solid performing skills and an understanding of popular theatre forms. At the same time we draw out that unique performing personality of each student. Being in a group of many nationalities gives the students a rare opportunity for understanding themselves and their own expression as well appreciating many different ethnic expressions.
At the end of two years training they will be at ease in themselves on stage, available and ready to play, confident in their technical ability, and aware of their responsibilities as professional artists. They are ready to continue to stretch their limits of understanding of life, laughter, and its artistic theatrical expression.The principles of training the creative performer are those of Carlo Mazzone-Clementi and Ole Brekke who co-founded the school in Copenhagen. Carlo was active on the teaching staff for for fifteen years. He also founded the Dell’Arte School in California.
The legacy of Carlo’s more than 50 years of teaching the art of comedy to hundreds of performers all over the world is very much present in the classes of the school.The fundamental pedagogical methods used at the school are those developed by Jacques Lecoq of Paris. The school is a combination of the works of those two great figures in the area of actor training who were colleagues and close friends for over fifty years. The work of these two great masters of the 20th century compliment one another here at The Commedia School.
“The text is not the play. The text is the result of the play.”
Studio address: Præstøgade 17, baghuset, 2100 København, Denmark Postal address: Ellemosevej 1a, 2900 Hellerup, Denmark
+45 22 40 33 89
Studio address: Præstøgade 17, baghuset, 2100 København, Denmark