Commedia dell’arte is the type of performance where improvisation plays the leading role. It can be most aptly translated as a “comedy of craft”, meaning the craft of improvisation. Commedia dell’arte was first introduced in the theatres of Italy in the 16th century marking a comparatively new stage in the artistic play and featuring the coming of the actress and improvisations that are based on scenarios and sketches.
Nowadays, we can observe the influence of the Commedia dell’arte on ballet d’action, Moliere’s comedy, literature, music and dance, visual art. We can find the traces of it practically everywhere which only proves the importance and popularity in the way of transition of the intended meaning to the viewers and readers.
Dancing and music play a vital role in the commedia dell’arte bringing new choreographic moves and musical tunes into each performance. They help to express more naturally the main themes of love, jealousy, adultery, and sorrows of many people who are getting older but dreaming to stay forever young. These elements have always been the most burning subjects of the commedia dell’arte, dating as far back as to the Roman comedies of Terence and Plautus (Palleschi, 2005).
Commedia dell’arte widely applies contemporary novellas and classical works, too. It can be used to attract attention to some topical problems or striking news which are not comic all the time – there are plays which are quite tragic.
Commedia dell’arte features three main roles: master, servant, lovers who are frequently referred to as the “masks” that cannot be really separated from the characters. The characteristics of the actors and masks are the same. The Zanni are the clowns, or the servants, which include Pedrolino, Brighella, and Arlecchino (Harlequin), Sandrone, Pulcinella, Innamorati, Colombina, Pantalone, Tartaglia, etc (Palleschi, 2005).
This beautiful art of improvisation has many advantages for the actors as well as for the viewers. Improvised roles give me a lot of pleasure as in such a way I challenge my skills all the time. I need to be very self-confident, hide real feelings, and naturally express those that correspond to the role. However, in the commedia dell’arte it is more difficult to do, as you do not know what your co-actor will say next and which reaction will be required. On the other hand, this is all the beauty of this type of commedia dell’arte – you have to feel your role very well to act as naturally as possible, even when you are not sure what to do or say next.
Improvisation is challenging, but it is also exciting, intriguing, and enigmatic. And the more natural the improvisation is, the more the viewer sees a professional play with an interesting, often quite unexpected turns of the performance. Commedia dell’arte brought a new flavor to the world of acting giving the opportunity to apply your creative mind to the fullest. Often, such plays are quite heart-felt and contain a lot of biographic elements when the actors feel well the role.
The main disadvantages are the lack of confidence of the actors, their stage fright, and, therefore, poor improvisation. Many people may think that if you do not need to learn lines, it is very easy to act, however, to be able to not learn lines, you need to be very skilled and good at improvisation so it will not look stiff, unnatural, and therefore not selling and time-wasting for people who come to view it. Creativity and confidence are crucial for commedia dell’arte performance.
In conclusion, I would like to say that commedia dell’arte is a real invention that made a difference in the theatre art. Its uniqueness is proved by its influence on many others fields of art. Commedia dell’arte is for those actors who love challenges, risky situations, and are eloquent enough to word needed thoughts beautifully as well as create expressive silence.