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All drama departments should have to hand a body of video resources which allow them to teach about theatre forms from around the world and throughout time. But how often have you looked at the catalogues for performing arts videos and DVDs, compared their prices to your budget, sighed and put on your mask and costume for yet another one person show?
Well, good news is at hand for at least one theatre tradition, in the form of Marco Luly and Luciana Codispoti‘s hour long DVD The Spirit of Commedia.
Marco will be a familiar practitioner to many students and teachers in the Asia Pacific region as well as in his home country of Italy. He has run master classes at ISTA/IB TAPS events and also directed student drama festivals in International schools in Bangkok and Beijing. Actor, workshop leader and founder of the Commedia troupe Luoghi dell’Arte, this DVD is Marco’s first venture into the realm of film.
The DVD shows Marco and Luciana in interview with Roger Jenkins and all three in performance. The history of the theatre form, the masks and stock characters are discussed and presented through performance, sometimes in English and sometimes in the original Italian. Marco and his fellow actors bring commedia to life in a way that it is impossible to envisage using pictures and written scenario. They provide a lively insight into the masks, showing them in lazzi and monologue as well as working through some of the later Commedia inspired texts such as Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters. The influence of Commedia on later writers and theatre forms is discussed, as well as the Commedia today.
Often filmed in front of a live studio audience, we also see the characters working in improvisational situations with audience members, although it would have been good to see the actors out on the street where Commedia began life.
The DVD provides a lively and fact filled resource for any teacher wishing to approach the Commedia dell’Arte, most probably suitable for students aged 14+. One might be tempted to criticise the camera work which featured profile shots with a mirror, which exposed the camera and its operator on occasions, giving the DVD an amateurish feel at times. Better sound quality might have helped to draw watchers in more closely, but the performances and characters soon engage attention and provide an invaluable resource for any classroom teacher.
This is the first DVD in a planned series, and hopefully the next films will look in more depth at the physical aspects of being a Commedia performer, as well as characters such as the Innamorati, and maybe some history of famous Commedia pioneers such as the Andreini troupe. I know I will be using this DVD on a regular basis, both as a whole and in parts thanks to the conveniently organized chapters.