Studying at The Commedia School is a two-year journey of discovery. In the first year, students rediscover the world around them, the world usually unnoticed because of our 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 developing creativity and expanding the imagination.
The course is divided into distinct but related theatre disciplines, primarily focussed on movement. These include:
- Analysis of movement (Feldenkrais and recent research by the Axis Syllabus group)
- Mime and acrobatics
- Voice — with classical and modern texts
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, 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. This training gives the aspiring performer awareness of their own movements, rendering useless those movements unnecessary for the mask. This awareness is very important for any performer.
Storytelling and The Clown complete the first year’s studies. Storytelling gives the student direct, total contact with the public. While studying the art of storytelling, 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.
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. An intensive workshop gives the students experience designing and constructing their own mask.
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.
[quote author=”Charles Chaplin”]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. [/quote]
[quote author=”Jacques Lecoq“] 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. [/quote]
The second year of study focuses on group styles of theatre which expand students’ understanding and playing ability. The students develop a range of 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 often 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.
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 and vital to making this style alive. 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. Melodrama emerged in the mid 19th century as an art form addressing the social and economic circumstances of the time. The similar circumstances we face today make melodrama a very relevant theatre form.
Although the commedia dell’arte, the Italian comedy, is today a dead form, the study is important historically because it is a source of our modern 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.
[quote author=”Dario Fo“]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. [/quote]
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.
[quote author=” Jacques Lecoq“]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. [/quote]
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 basis of all the study at The Commedia School is movement. This movement study is constantly transforming as new discoveries in bio-mechanics are made available particularly through The Axis Syllabus. This dynamic training system gives students knowledge of the body so they can have a long dynamic injury free career. Also the Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement training system adds to 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.
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.