For the second half of our summer intensive physical theatre students either took Body Memory taught by Heni Varga and Dénes Döbrei or Commedia dell’Arte taught by Chiara D’Anna. In the Commedia dell’Arte course they explored and learned the history and traditions of Commedia dell’Arte and how to use those tools to in a contemporary way. Below we hear from Chiara about her experience teaching at the ADA this summer.
Chiara D’Anna is an Italian actor, director, lecturer and Commedia dell’Arte specialist with over 20 years of experience. She trained in Italy, Poland and the UK. Her work on the contemporaneity of Commedia dell’Arte culminated in her PhD “A Journey back Home: The Legacy of Commedia dell’Arte in Post-dramatic Theatre with particular focus on the centrality of the Actor in Devised Performance” (The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design- London Metropolitan University 2014-18). She regularly teaches and runs workshops/masterclasses on Commedia dell’Arte and Physical Theatre at RADA, East15 Acting School, Rose Bruford College and the National Centre of Circus Arts. As Associate Artist of the research group ‘The Quick & the Dead’ she worked for over eight years in developing a new methodology for Actor Training known as the ‘Core Training’. The outcome of this research was published by Routledge in a DVD-pamphlet: ‘Core Training For the Relational Actor’ (2013) and documented by Peter Hulton for the Exeter Arts Archives. Chiara is co-founder of Natural You Dance, a movement meditation practice that draws on Yoga, dance, physical theatre and meditation.
Is there a focal point of your intensive or a main concept that you hope the students take away?
I think the main idea would be an understanding of the principles of commedia dell’arte that is an ancient tradition, it was born in Italy in the 16th century. But that those principles can be utilized today in another context. Fundamentally we use the classical masks and we look at some scenarios and some of the traditional approaches. The idea is to see how those can be utilized to talk about topics, people, events that are relevant to us today. So we’ve worked a lot with American culture.
What is something that has struck you in work with the students so far?
CHIARA: I think that it’s a lovely group. Yes there’s a tiny thing but it’s quite significant. They are very brave in many ways. They are really keen in showing the work, what happens sometimes in some groups I teach in England, I ask “Okay so who wants to show the work?” and normally they’re very shy and I have to pick the volunteer, while here the problem is that they fight and they say “we’re first” “no we’re first” and it’s very nice that they’re keen in sharing. That’s something that specifically peculiar about this group. There’s always a question of who is first, who is second. It’s the first time I have to have a list of who’s first and then think okay if we’re not first then we’re second or then we’re third. That’s been really sweet.
How does all living together at Villa Godiola influence what happens in the classroom?
CHIARA: It’s something that I think you can elaborate a bit more if you spend a longer period of time here. You can see and go back and reflect about it. The thing is once you are in it you haven’t had the distance to focus, like when you focus a lens and you need to zoom out in order to see. But I guess for me there is a very interesting relationship with the space. You feel inspired or influenced by the actual space. For example we spent a night out in the fields, and there is a sort of sharing things that goes beyond what you’re doing in the room, whether it’s, as you said, food, or looking at the stars or looking at the sun. Sharing those things, I think, I don’t have proof, but I would say it’s an ideal working condition because it creates a much better understanding of the performers and the stage. Part of the work is finding out how do we read each other, how do we learn as a group how to tune, as a group tuning in, feeling themselves or feeling their partners, and I guess this communal living and sharing all the moments of the day, and sharing spaces because their very inspired by space will influence the work in a positive way…unless there are some people that hate each other..
What will you be working on when you leave us this summer? What is your next project? Is the work you’re doing here at the ADA related to that? Will it help to prepare you?
CHIARA: The immediate next thing is commedia but i’m going to work with a company as the movement director with a company in a small town, Darby, outside of London, Darby Theatre. I think it’s difficult because that is very specific and I’m going to be with them just for a day, a long day, with a very specific task. But then thinking about the next thing I’m going to do, I will start teaching again. Teaching in different universities. Being here reminded me of something that I’ve always loved which is working outdoors, and I’m in London, there are beautiful parts though, and I can at least once or twice and take students outdoors, it’s something I haven’t done for a while though. So I think being here really reminded me how nature helps it can be really brilliant to work with nature, working outdoors and with groups. So it’s a reminder of that.
I hope to come back again. I loved it and I loved the work.