Last week an Italian actor going by the name Marco Luly was kind enough to visit grade 7 for our flex time periods. You may or may not have heard of him, though he is actually quite popular, juggling three jobs; he’s an actor and a director, as well as a theater teacher.
Marco Luly professes in “Commedia dell’arte”, a type of improvised Italian comedy first performed in Italian theaters around the late 16th century. Because of the fact that it’s a comedy, many of the exercises and activities we did were fun and a little bit silly.
Luly started off the lesson by telling us what it was he would actually be teaching us and what it would be doing for us. “I won’t be teaching you how to act”, he said, “I’m going to teach you how to portray yourselves”. He told us about how actors always have two bodies; our normal day-to-day ones and the bodies we use on the stage. He also mentioned that you can’t just be yourself on the stage because you have a role to play. He then followed up by saying “And when I say ‘be yourself’ I don’t just mean your outfit, hair or vocabulary. I mean your body language, articulacy, and projection. You have to know what the character you’re trying to play is like, then you have to change everything about yourself (how you hold yourself, posture, etc..) to match the identity of your character”. After that he gave us some tips on how we could achieve this, for example: “I find that creating a back story for your character helps you become more like your character”.
One of the many exercises to practice this ability came after he separated both classes into A and B. Class A was the class to start us off. Luly instructed everyone in Class A to form a circle, told them to start walking normally, then progressed to make them walk on the tips of their toes and much more after that. They ended up not acting or looking like themselves at all since they were each walking on their tippy-toes, eyes straight ahead, backs straight and knees reaching waist length after every step they took. The same happened with Class B and though we did look a little strange, it actually helped many people like myself understand what he was talking about before.
One of the actual activities we did was also very fun and amusing. He asked for around ten to twelve volunteers to put on the famous Commedia dell’arte masks. Then he gave us instructions on what we had to do: “I want each of you to walk around acting like a person that is not yourself, you also can only move like a castle in Chess (forwards, backwards, left, right). I have a drum with me, and on the first beat I want you to freeze, on the second beat I want you to look to the audience sharply, and on the third beat I want you to play an emotion”, he instructed. We did as we were told, and it was pretty cool.
The last activity we did was something called “Action & Reaction”. In this activity, we had to get into pairs and lightly nudge each other and react. Basically, one person would touch the other’s arm or something and that person would have to move their arm, then bring it back. According to Luly, this exercise helped us gain control of ourselves.
Overall, it was an appreciable experience. We got to learn a little bit more about the world of theater and what it actually takes to be an actor, as well as doing some fun activities. We even got to see a little preview of him acting (with some other classmates).