Improvisation in Commedia dell’Arte (Part 3)


Much of the art in playing Commedia dell’Arte has to do with being constantly on the alert, always ready to jump in to the action or leave space for another mask. This does not just apply when we are on stage. We must all the time be ready if we are needed on stage for a sudden introduced lazzo. We have fist and most the happy circumstance that unexpected things on stage happen. Every time we play, especially outdoors, we have to count on that something “goes wrong”. It may be scenography that falls, dogs that barks, actors does make mistakes, skinheads entering the stage, masks that fall of and so on. This is the actor’s gifts from God.
If the actor only is ready and skillful enough to use the situation it might very well be what lifts a mediocre, tiring performance. It may wake actors who until then have played a well-rehearsed without being ready to take any risks. The obstacles can naturally not be insurmountable.TS60

Another important aspect is that is more or less impossible for a mask to improvise with more than one mask at the same time, since the masks also constantly are improvising with the audience. To keep contact with more the two at the same time, knowing where they are on stage, seeing their reactions, giving them reactions, using a very narrow field of view through the mask is too great of a task.
Therefore there are seldom many masks on stage at the same time, except in opening and closing scenes off course, in Commedia dell’Arte. That doesn’t mean that we are not working as a group the whole time. It is important to work from a group feeling either we are on stage or not. Not just because of the atmosphere we create around us but also for the actor’s feeling of security.
Since it is not always only two masks on stage we have to develop strategies in order to improvise with only one mask or “unit of masks” on stage and create “binary relations”. See more HERE.

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