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2 February, 2013  → 24 February, 2013 - Florence, ITALY

             In Collaboration with                   


FEBRUARY 2nd to 24th, 2013

The Spirit of Commedia dell'Arte


A Three-Week International Intensive Training

led by


and the Helikos Pedagogic Team:



(Photo: Larven Teatro, Mask by Matteo Destro)

The Genealogical Tree of Commedia dell'Arte

Commedia dell’Arte, also known as Italian Comedy, is a milestone in the history of theatre. Historically, Commedia saw its glory days between the 16th and 18th century, throughout Europe. A multitude of companies traveled performing shows (canovacci) based on improvisation; stock characters (types) with and without masks; and a unique talent of physical performing, integrating text, pantomime, music, singing and improvisation. Characters like Pantalone, Arlecchino, Zanni, Il Capitano, the Lovers (Innamorati), Colombina, and Pulcinella became heroes throughout the world, and their theatre had profound influences on the coming generation of actors and playwriters. From Molière to Shakespeare, from melodrama to puppet theatre, from French pantomime to contemporary physical theatre, Commedia is at the roots of an actor-based creative theatre making.

After the second half of the 18th century, Commedia as a style disappeared from theatres, replaced by a new wave of dramatic authors and text-based acting, including such styles as romantic theatre, melodrama, bourgeois drama, and naturalism. Commedia kept living in popular theatre and puppets (marionette e burattini), until the late 1800's and early 1900's when a new interest arose, led by a generation of theatre artists and researchers attracted by the necessity of putting the actor and his theatrical body at the forefront of theatre. Among them was Jacques Copeau, who became the foundation of a lineage that includes Étienne Decroux, Marcel Marceau, Jean-Louis Barrault, Jean Dasté, Jacques Lecoq, and one of his earliest assistant, Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, who in the early 1960's introduced Commedia dell’Arte in the United States.

Thanks to the work of these masters and their students, Commedia is now universally recognized as a milestone in the training of physical actor.

(Photo: Larven Teatro, Mask by Matteo Destro)

The Power of Masks in the training of the Physical Performer

Masks belong to the world of archetypes and have been present in the history of humanity since the beginning. Essential elements of ancient theatre, they were the glorious protagonists in the Golden Age of Commedia dell’Arte in 16th and 17th century. Today, they represent a key step in the training of the physical actor-creator.

Through covering the facial expressions of the actor, the mask allows her to go back to the roots of her own presence in space. Gestures have to be amplified, and everything is brought back to the body, thus giving the actor a complete new sense of space, presence and dramatic expression. The voice has to be masked too, in order to match the level of playing of the mask.

The pedagogy at Helikos evolves on two tracks: Analysis of Movement and Improvisation.  This combination gives students the physical awareness and the skills to explore the world of masks on stage. Mask play (le jeu masqué) combines strong emotional awareness and a powerful body alertness, with a rigorous technique of articulation of the body into dramatic attitudes.

Half masks introduce the actor to a precise physical definition of a character. They are very defined forms in which the main dynamic of the characters appears, as well as his opposite aspects, the so called counter-mask. In Commedia, the actor is faced not only with the mask as a character, but also with a high level of play, brought by the depth of human archetypes. These masks play in a world of survival, where passions, urgencies and human behaviour are pushed to a permanent extreme. Half masks have a specific tragic depth and can bring the actor to a very high level of poetic transposition, where laughter and crying are intertwined.

Improvisation skills, and a kind of play based on the constant unfolding of a comic theme, train the actor both to enjoy very physical and rhythmical play and to develop a sense of playwriting and dramatic crescendo.

This incredibly vital style teaches the actor to truly experience what improvisation means, and how theatre can represent the wonderful madness of human beings, in a jubilation of rigorous fun.

The Spirit of Commedia is a celebration of the true art of the performer: deeply embodied characters playing all’improvviso in the virtuous development of comic themes (lazzi) makes Commedia an amazing training ground for contemporary physical comedy.



The training will unfold in parallel with the classes of the Helikos School's Three-Year Training program. Workshop participants will attend specific classes on the fundamentals of movement-based theatre and then will join Helikos's Second-Year students for a series of master classes on half mask comedy.

Classes include:
- Acrogioco (physical preparation and elements of acrobatics)
- Movement Analysis and Movement Technique
- Introduction to Theatre Masks: Neutral Masks, Larval Masks, Full Masks
- Improvisation
- Vocal Preparation and Voice Technique
- Devising in Commedia
- Creation and rehearsing of a Commedia Canovaccio (scenario).

The process will culminate with the public performance of a Commedia canovaccio (scenario) developed by the participants during the training. The Canovaccio will be presented in the occasion of the COMMEDIA DELL'ARTE DAY, that happens every year on February 25th.

During this training participants will use:

Neutral Masks by Donato Sartori, Abano Terme, Italy

Primary Masks by Matteo Destro, Italy

Expressive Human Comedy Half Masks by Matteo Destro, Italy

Commedia dell'Arte Leather Masks by Stefano Perocco di Meduna


(Photo: Larven Teatro, Masks by Matteo Destro)



The workshop will start on Saturday, February 2nd and will end on Sunday, February 24th 2013.

Classes will run every day for 7 hours.
Each day includes 5 hours of Master Classes and 2 hours of creation

Classes wil be in taught in English.



Please send a resume and a letter of motivation to:

Each applicants will be contacted by the school for confirmation.

(Photo: Giorgio Bellingardo, Mask by Matteo Destro)

The TUITION for the workshop is 850 euros.
In order to confirm enrollment, participants need to send a non-refundable deposit of 300 euros.

For the deposit you can send a check by mail or make a bank transfer.

If you want to send a check, please write it to Associazione Culturale Helikos and send it to:
Associazione Culturale Helikos
Via del Campuccio 88
50125 Firenze

If you want to make a bank transfer, please send it to:
Branch: Via dell'Agnolo 73 R, 50122 Firenze
Account Nmber: 1 132916
EU IBAN: IT17 P050 18028 0000 0000 132916
Swift code:  CCRTIT2T84A
Account Holder’s Address: Via del Campuccio 88, 50125 Firenze   ITALY

Tuition does not include accommodation.
Once your enrollment is complete, we will send you further information about accommodation in Florence, in the area nearby the Helikos studio.


The workshop will be in Florence at the two Helikos's studios:

Via del Campuccio, 88
50125 Firenze


Via della Fonderia,51
50142 Firenze


For further information please contact:

Design & programming : DomRadisson.net