Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dell'Arte School Explained

How theatre is taught and learned at Dell'Arte International School is the subject of a scholarly article in the March 2012 issue of Theatre Topics, a publication of Johns Hopkins University Press in cooperation with the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

The article is by Claire Canavan, a lecturer in the University of Texas Theatre and Dance department, and is based partly on her experience as a student in the four-week summer intensive at Dell'Arte in 2009.  The article examines the teaching and learning styles at the school, partly from an academic perspective, and partly from the perspective of other actor training. 

Canavan writes of the group creativity of actors working together to create and perform a piece, and notes her own surprise that teachers weren't trying to direct a piece in a particular way.  She notes a "productive tension between the idea that the actor is an artist with an original point of view, and yet that artistry and point of view are developed specifically through ensemble and community."

She sees Dell'Arte as challenging "hierarchies" that insist on "individualistic models of art-making."   She appreciated the emphasis on group critique and lack of commercial consideration, while noting that some less experienced students wanted more individual feedback.  "To me, Dell'Arte represents an alternative model of education in general, and acting pedagogy in particular," she concludes.  "There are not a lot of programs that would say they do not prioritize the progress of the individual, but instead what matters is the work."  She writes that the Dell'Arte program stands out in how it "envisions the role of the actor in theatre and also the role of the actor in society."

Coincidentally, this issue of Theatre Topics also contains an article by Theresa J. May, formerly a member of the Humboldt State theatre faculty, now at the University of Oregon.  Her article is about Seattle's Theater Squad.


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