After a week packed with a class trip and lots of reading, this FlexFriday the students warmed up their energy levels by passing an imaginary ball of “woosh!” around. Kate Moore Heaney focused on Commedia Dell’Arte with the students. Kate explained that it’s “comedy of the artisans,” a skill or craft for which the performers were paid. This improv form of performance originated in 16th century Italy and its influence can be seen in Shakespeare (and, as we learned today, in Japanese anime!). Kate showed images of stock characters from commedia dell’arte and told us about the different groups they belonged to: there are the older folks (il vecchi), the servants (il zanni), and the lovers (gli innamorati).
The students were asked to perform lazzi, or comic bits, after choosing a stock character to portray. They hobbled around like Pantalone with his money bag, faked their knowledge of Latin like the Dottore, and played star-crossed lovers like Isabella and Flavio. We all learned about the importance of masks in this art: the character develops from without, not within. And all of the members of the troupes used to wear such masks, except those portraying the lovers since they were repudiated to be good-looking and everyone wanted to see them. Kate talked about the origin of the term “slapstick” comedy and how an actual slap stick was used to make exaggerated sounds. In fact, the students were encouraged to come up with exaggerated movements of those they usually make. Some students shrugged (dramatically), yawned (languidly), or cracked their knuckles (loudly).
To gain focus at the beginning and at the end of their session, the students played a “quarter counting” game. They need to focus on a quarter and count individually without looking at each other. If any two students count the same number simultaneously, they all must start again. This is repeated until they reach 21.
Next week, we hope to explore literature, perhaps some Shakespeare, and put our knowledge to use! In FlexSchool, we’ve read Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, and King Lear among other plays of students’ choosing. Today, one of the students even referenced another reading, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and the notion of a “Bunbury”. We love to see how our academic studies continue to relate to outside experiences!
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