Resources on commedia abound and can overwhelm the novice and even the not so novicey. Below is a three step starter kit that I put together to help get a person started in learning the basics of commedia enough to start having fun with it.
First 3 Steps Into The World Of Commedia
1) List of three books that are your best bet for starting on a long list of commedia books
2) a starter scenario my husband and I wrote for our troupe’s first play
3) a list of warm up theater games that are particularly well suited for skills you need in commedia.
Step 1) Here are the 3 books to start with:
1) GRANTHAM, Barry: Playing Commedia, ISBN 1854594664, Nick Hern, 2000
2) RUDLIN, John: Commedia dell’ Arte, An Actor’s Handbook, ISBN 0-415-04770-6 Routledge, London, 1994
3) SCALA, Flaminio: Scenarios of the Commedia dell’arte: Flaminio Scala’s Il Teatro delle favole rappresentative_, trans. by Henry F. Salerno. New York : New York University Press, 1967.
Barry Grantham’s book is a very easy read with sections on each character and some direction on how to play them. The Rudlin book is a key, primary book for anyone interested in commedia at all, and anyone into commedia should read it. (Rudlin also wrote a book for troupes that you’ll find easily doing a search on Rudlin at any library or book store, and that’s great to pick up early, but I’d suggest reading Rudlin’s Actor Handbook first.) The Scala is “THE SCALA” book with the scenarios from the 16th century by i Gelosi. That’s the one book that’s the closest documentation we have for scenarios done to SCA standards (pre-1600). The problem with it is that all the scenarios require 12 or more people. That’s very hard to get together especially when you’re starting out. But, it’s the gold standard for what scenarios were like in SCA period, so you should definitely read some of them – read from the first half because the second half of the book gets a little weirder.
You will swim in books if you just do a search online or in a library, so these three were picked out as a really good starting point. I and some friends agreed on the selection, but by all means read what’s interesting to you if you find other books.
Step 2) A good starter scenario
The starter scenario “Oratio’s Return” (orazios return scenario Word doc) is one my husband and I wrote originally just for rehearsal to teach our fresh new green actors about the characters when we first started. The gang liked it enough that we actually performed it, and it went great, so I recommend it for your first scenario.
Step 3) Theater games that support commedia skills
The list of theater games (Theater Games for Commedia Building Skills Word doc) is just my favorites for doing the things I think are commonly done in commedia. You can read up more on games here: http://improvencyclopedia.org/games and certainly try out others as you go.
Bonus Step – The Compleat Anachronist!
In the summer of 2016, my dear friend Dina Turnello / aka: Lady Luceta di Cosimo and I finished a year long quest to write a joint pair of booklets for the SCA’s research department that publishes “The Compleat Anachronist.” You can buy copies of our published issues in the SCA Store at this link: https://members.sca.org/apps/#Store You’ll have to search for “commedia” to bring up the issues on commedia. Dina wrote issue #172 “Characters and Scenarios of Early Commedia dell’ Arte”, and she was part of my team writing issue #173 “Bring Commedia dell’ Arte to Life” which also included Drea Leed, Robert Schneider, and Scott Dean. These issues cost US $4 each and shipping turn around is very quick. We wrote these books to focus new performers on the SCA period of 16th century with reliable research sources.
See what others are doing:
Imitation is the greatest compliment! The links I’m suggesting here are just for seeing other people doing commedia in the SCA which will be a key to figuring it out although you will naturally be finding your own style:
- The SCA commedia group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/scacommedia/
- The SCA commedia Yahoogroup (moderated): go to http://groups.yahoo.com/ and search for “SCA Commedia”
- i Firenzi’s group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ifirenzi/
- i Firenzi’s page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/i-Firenzi/276395919159040
- i Sebastiani’s page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/8803314894/ <https://www.facebook.com/groups/8803314894/> (these are the guys who taught me everything I know about commedia)
- i Sebastiani’s web page that they don’t really keep up anymore, but go look at their old one linked at the bottom for more cool resources: http://www.isebastiani.com/
- i Scandali on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/52042945950/ This is the first troupe I built in 2003 in the Dayton/Cincinnati area with some of my best friends on the planet who are still going strong bringing the joy of commedia to people all over the midwest!
- Players Patchwork / i Verdi Confusi: http://filer.case.edu/org/commedia/ These guys are my other favorite troupe run by an early student and dear friend of mine, Jess Rudolf. They branch out into non-period commedia-inspired plays a lot, like Dr. Who parodies called “Dottore Who” which aren’t SCA material, but they’re fun!
- Vagando Stolti (Wandering Fools): https://sites.google.com/site/vagandostolti/home These fools are better than expected! 😉 They play at SCA events and street festivals in Maryland under the direction of Amanda Mulder / aka: Lady Avalina del Dolce.
- i Genisii is another troupe performing regularly in the SCA around the Pittsburgh area. They don’t have a web page, but the writer that authors most of their scenarios is the magnificent Dina Turnello / aka: Lady Luceta di Cosimo, and here is her web page: https://lucetadicosimo.com/
— Baroness Sophia The Orange, Capocomico of i Firenzi