December 5 9, 2022
Melbourne, Australia


An Introduction to Italian Comedy

and the theatre of HALF-MASKS

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 glorious 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, acrobatic, music, singing, in the rigorous folly of improvisation. Characters like Pantalone, Arlecchino, Zanni, Colombina, Il Capitano, the Lovers (Innamorati) and Pulcinella became heroes throughout Europe, and their theatre had profound influences on the coming generation of actors and playwrights. 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 genre disappeared from theatres, replaced by a new wave of dramatic authors and script-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 and Suzanne Bing who led the foundation of a lineage that includes 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.
The collaboration between Jacques Lecoq and the Italian sculpture Amleto Sartori, in Padova, led to the rebirth of the mask-making process and to the beginning of the return of half masks to modern theatre.

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


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 them to go back to the roots of their own presence in space. Gestures are amplified and transposed, 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.

In the pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq, Commedia dell’arte holds a crucial position, informing the whole vision of devising theatre through improvisation, starting from very strong physically based characters, or, more in general, masks.  His pedagogy of Commedia 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 offer an introduction to the traditional types of Commedia dell’Arte as well as an exploration of their contemporary manifestations in Australian culture and society.
Classes include:

  • The Body in the Theatrical Space: Movement Analysis and Movement Technique.
  • The dramatic urgencies of Commedia dell’Arte: animal states, human passions, emotional drives and social roles.
  • The play of the half- mask: from the dynamic of the mask to the dramatic drives of the types.
  • The body of the type: traditional and contemporary types.
  • Voice Technique: the voice of the half-mask.
  • Improvisation.
  • Rhythm: lazzi and “botta e risposta”.
  • Devising in Commedia and the creation of a Canovaccio (scenario).

During this training participants will use:
– Commedia dell’Arte Leather Masks by Stefano Perocco di Meduna
– Half Masks by Beth Twentyman



This workshop is for theatre practitioners with previous experiences in movement-based theatre and the Pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq.

The training will take place in at Hotham Mission, 2 Elm St, North Melbourne VIC 3051, Australia

Classes will take place each day from 9:30 to 17:30, with one hour lunch break.

There is no application form. To apply to the workshop, please email a letter of motivation to In your letter please share the essence of your story, vision, dream, desire, fear or inexplicable intuition that leads you to this workshop. Please include in your letter your experience with movement-based theatre and in particular with Commedia.

Giovanni will contact you after receiving the application.
Giovanni will choose students from the applications received. Places will be given in order of email submission.

The class will be confirmed as soon as it reaches 8 participants. Once 16 participants will be confirmed, the workshop is full and a waiting list will be created.
If you intend to participate, we encourage you to apply as soon as possible!

Once accepted, you will need to confirm your enrolment with a deposit of 300 AUD.
Please note that the deposit is non-refundable.


Early Bird Registration: AUS $ 750
(Full tuition is due by Nov 1st, 2022.)

Full Price: AUS $ 850.
(If you pay after Nov 1st.)

For those interested in applying to more than two workshops of the series, there is a reduction of 10% on the cumulative tuition if you apply to THREE workshop, and 20% if you apply to FOUR. Please enquire for further details.

A limited number of ‘reduced tuition scholarships’ are available for this course. It is up to you to identify if you think you are in need of a reduced price. If you are interested in taking advantage of this please outline it in your letter of motivation.

Please note that tuition does not include accommodation and that participants will be responsible for organizing their staying in Melbourne.

APPLICATION DEADLINE : November 15th, 2022

Enrollment situation as of October 10th: the workshop is currently FULL and a waiting list has been set up.

Before the beginning of the workshop the participants will receive a message outlining all practical details about the workshop.

The workshop will be taught in ENGLISH and a basic understanding of this language is required.


For further information about the content of the workshop
and for APPLICATIONS, please contact Giovanni Fusetti at

For enrollment and practical enquiries please contact


Tel: 04 68664466


The training will happen in the rigorous respect of the National and Regional anti-Covid regulations.
All participants will have to agree in engaging with these rules. On the first day of the class, all participants will have to present a COVID negative test (Rapid Test or PCR), taken in the 24 hours before the start.


(1) Helikos School, 2013
(2) Maschere di Capitani, Stefano Perocco di Meduna
(3) I balli di Sfessania, Jacques Callot, 1623
(4) Pedagogic Training HELIKOS 2019, Masks by David Poznanter

(5) Dell’Arte School, California, 2006