[I gave this lecture series about a dozen times at Accademia Dell’Arte and Goddard. It’s some of the stuff I love most and I would love to share it again. Hear that, Universe?]

Knowing about comic masks can be a creative boon.  Embedded within the make-up, the leather and the traditions that accompany them are formulas, which unleash comic creativity, originality, and appreciation. This lecture series is designed to introduce participants to timeless comic personas, their behaviors, and how they interact with one another to create comic situations out of thin air.    

Part One: Masks in Disguise.

W.C. Fields once said, “We know what makes people laugh.  We do not know why they laugh.” The comic, too, is an enigmatic figure, stumbling between contradictions: foolish but cunning, lowly but powerful, frail but indestructible.  Drawing upon such diverse sources as history, philosophy, literary criticism, and dramaturgy, this introductory seminar attempts to expose the veiled meaning behind the comic mask, and the obvious but hidden truths that its folly has helped reveal to us.      

Part Two: Attack of the Puppet People – A Lecture on Commedia dell’arte.

The braggart soldier, the know-it-all professor, the miser, and the doltish but crafty servant all have ancient roots but underwent their greatest development through two hundred years of exploration on Italian fairgrounds. This lecture will examine Commedia dell’arte as an art form and as a historical phenomenon, introducing participants to the principle masks, their roots in earlier traditions, the regions they drew inspiration from, and many of the recognizable modern characters that were inspired by these personas. 

Part Three: The Incredible Shrinking Mask – From Mask to Make-up.

This lecture will pick up where the Commedia lecture left off, discussing the development of modern clown types, from the harlequinades to the circus to vaudeville and beyond.  This lecture will demonstrate how these masks interact with audiences and with one another to create brilliant comic sparks. 

Part Four: The Invisible Mask – Modern Comic Masks and Clowns.

This final portion of the Comic Masks and Clown-types lecture series follows the clown’s rise to popularity in the 20th century as these masks are transmitted and transformed through new media, such as modern theatre, films, cartoons, and television. 

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