Commedia dell'arte

Acting and mask making workshop



Commedia dell'arte

Acting and mask making workshop

Commedia dell'arte

Introduction to the principles and techniques of Commedia dell’Arte

Quick overview
Rooted in Italy and in its thousand-year culture, the heritage of Commedia dell’Arte continues to the present day, providing us with a repertoire of extraordinary dramatic, interpretative, communicative and expressive skills. At the same time, the “on the spot” creation feature of Commedia dell’Arte makes this art a powerful tool for innovating theatrical language and technique in contemporary theatre, and as such is studied and practised in the curricular courses of Scuola Paolo Grassi. Its study brings a tremendous specialisation, which makes it a fundamental training ground for actors, directors and playwrights.
This workshop is designed to introduce Commedia dell’Arte, its characteristics and techniques, through the study of gestures, the use of masks, canovaccio improvisation skills, and the acquisition of basic procedures to create your own masks.

a cura di Michele Bottini, Andrea Cavarra

date: 3 febbraio - 1 aprile 2021


(Admission is free)
Payment must be made by credit card upon enrolment. Online registration procedure.


Deadline: 7 January 2021

To register for admission:
Send email to Stefania Cito s.cito@fondazionemilano.eu with your personal details and contact details, attaching your CV, complete with passport size photo in PDF + motivational letter in PDF. Specify whether you prefer the morning or evening course.
Notification of admitted students: from 11 January 2021 (via email)

Evaluation of submitted documents

Admission will be evaluated using the documents submitted:
evaluation of the CV + evaluation of the motivational letter + verification of the arrival order of all registration documents for complete admission.

ENROLMENT AND PAYMENT Notification of admitted students: from 11 January 2021 (via e-mail) / Enrolment deadline for admitted students: 14 January 2021 (online procedure only)

Enrolment: enrolment should be completed online and followed by course payment, according to the instructions you receive via e-mail in the notification of successful admission.
If admitted students forfeit their admission or do not enrol within the specified deadline, students on the waiting list will immediately replace them.

A certificate of attendance will be issued.
Absences: in order to receive the certificate, students must not miss over 25% of required attendance hours. Make-up lessons are not possible.

Upon request, the recorded lessons can be viewed for up to one month after the end of the course.

Frequenza: Obbligatoria ATTENDANCE
Mandatory - Online

Attendance is online, live and in interactive mode, via Zoom platform.


You will need:

• Access to a *computer or tablet
• Access to a free ‘Zoom’ account
• A relatively strong and stable internet connection
• A safe space to participate freely, and with limited disruptions/distractions
(*Certain features on the Zoom app work better on computers than on tablets/phones)


The course begins with a brief history of popular theatre, followed by the introduction of the main masks of Commedia dell’Arte: Arlecchino, Zanni, Pantalone, the Amorosi (Lovers), etc.
Students will work, each in their own private space framed by their webcam and with live monitoring by the teacher, on the physical and verbal techniques of Commedia’s characters, on their relationship with space and their continuous communication with the audience (specially structured via videoconferencing).
This will be done both by developing short improvisations starting from the concept of canovaccio and topical moments of scenes taken from the great masterpieces of European theatre (Shakespeare, Molière and Goldoni).
At the same time, mask construction work will take place under the guidance of Maestro Andrea Cavarra. Using a paper model from the catalogue of the Zorba Officine Creative atelier and using easily available materials such as scissors, glue, plaster and watercolours, each participant will create one of the typical Commedia masks. The Maestro will follow the students online through the various mask-making steps and will guide them in particular in the choice and creation of the essential facial features, which are fundamental for giving life to the character of the mask and its meaning.
In the final lesson, students will take turns performing a short piece prepared during the workshop, displaying what they have learned together, before the final feedback.

Course programme

  • DAY 1: Introduction and brief history of Commedia dell’Arte (CdA) and popular theatre up to the present day, followed by a general presentation of CdA structures
  • DAY 2: Mask-making;
  • DAY 3: Mask-making;
  • DAY 4: Mask-making;
  • DAY 5: Conclusion of mask-making. Presentation of the main servants’ masks in CdA: Arlecchino, Smeraldina, Brighella, Zanni, etc.;
  • DAY 6: The middle-class: Pantalone, the Doctor, the Captain, the unmasked characters of Commedia, the types, the lovers;
  • DAY 7: Proxemics and stage language in Commedia. Punctuation in Commedia: masks and the relationship with the audience;
  • DAY 8: The actor’s suitcase, his repertoire: jokes, abstracts and fixed schemes. The language of Commedia and use of the “grammelot”;
  • DAY 9: Student experimentation and trials;
  • DAY 10: Presentation of the pieces that the students have prepared during the week (also without using a mask or with improvised masks), time for further questions and insights; conclusion with a brief review and salutations.
Teatro International Courses 01