Before “Friends” and “How I met Your Mother”; before “I love Lucy” and “I Dream of Genie”; the most popular sitcom was Commedia delle’arte. It began in the early 1500s in Italy. Actors donned masks and spoke an unintelligible language called Grommelot or “emotional babblespeak”. (For an understanding of the impact the Commedia Dell’arte had on theater history, I recommend this video, published by The National Theater.)
Each scene, or Lazzi, consisted of characters from the same collection of stock characters, extrapolated from contemporary society. We studied eight of these characters. Each week the students were given paper mache masks that resembled the commedia mask the actor playing this character would have worn. Then, the students painted these masks, to reflect their interpretation of this character.
After the masks were completed and the students learned about how the characters moved and thought, it was time to do a BLS Revamp! The campers were challenged to work together to write a story using these Commedia characters. They created a problem based on the character’s desires and flaws. Then, they were asked:
“If you had the whole world’s attention, what would you want to teach them in order to make the world a better place?”
The campers from week #2 focused on the Trickster who likes to take advantage of the foolish and greedy Pantalone. The students created a story in which the Trickster learned that it is better to look deeper and discover the root of people’s flaws rather than taking advantage of them. Or, as they chose to put it…
“Pranking people and taking advantage of their weaknesses only makes people feel like things will never get any better”.
The campers from week #3 made Magnifico the Protagonist and explored the idea of learning to love yourself for who you are. Magnifico resorted to force and magic to earn the love of his people by trying to make himself beautiful but all of these attempts quite literally, blew up in his face! These enlightened artists will never forget that…
“You can only be loved for who you are and that the only thing that matters is who you are on the inside.”
I am so proud of all of the campers for challenging themselves to understand plot structure but more importantly, learning how to be creative and constructive as a team in order to spread such worthy messages into the community. Good Form, indeed!