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Commedia dell’Arte in Florence

The size of truth in Shakespeare, Moliere, and TV. 

The Commedia Workshop is an intensive acting class that engages the physical life of each actor in the pursuit of expanding range of expression. The class will explore the influence of Commedia in Shakespeare and television. Mask work will lead to Shakespeare’s heightened comic characters then on to the stock characters of TV and film. 

"Everyone should study abroad, actors especially. How can we pretend to be people if we haven't been a person? Living and learning in a foreign country is so important in creating a well-rounded person and actor, especially with Commedia. What better place to learn about it but in Italy?"

— Sarah McShane, Commedia dell'Arte in Florence, summer 2016

Program Overview

Through practicing the art of Commedia dell’Arte, learn why Italy has long considered the actor to be at the center of dramatic creation. You will become a part of this Italian tradition stretching from the Middle Ages to the present-day work of Dario Fo and Roberto Benigni.

Delve into the mask work of commedia dell’ arte in order to liberate spontaneity, physical presence, and a sense of play. In recreating the crude as well as the subtle roots of commedia, you will work toward combining popular theatre with social commentary, stock characters with a sense of self, and the absurd with daily dramatic life.

The Professional Company
In residence each summer during the Commedia class is the Continuum Company, a group of NYU Graduate Acting alumni and other artists who come to Florence every summer to develop classical and new works. This professional company works with the Commedia actors during their time in Florence. The Continuum Company has had in residence some of America's most exciting artists, including playwrights Tarell McCraney, (Moonlight, The Brothers Size), and Danai Gurira (Eclipsed, Familiar), musicians Jon Batiste and The Stay Human Band (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert), as well as the actors Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther, This Is Us, The People vs. O.J. Simpson), Nina Arianda, Broadway: (Venus In Fur –Tony Award winner), Andre Holland (Moonlight, The Knick, “42”, American Horror Story), Susan Watson (This Is Us), and Logan Marshal Green (“24’, The O.C. Prometheus) and Shane McRae, Broadway: Take Me Out ,(Sneaky Pete).

Curriculum and Performances

Commedia dell'Arte

ITHEA-UT 2002 | 8 units | Instructor: Jim Calder

Throughout the course, areas of specialty are developed in mask work, circus skills, scene improvisation, individual lazzi (bits and specialty acts), and the search for one’s own clown work. Scene work consists of scenarios, texts, and lazzi from the 17th century, as well as the development of scenarios from present-day topics and texts. Parallel studies of the historical development of theatre and the visual arts in 17th-century Italy and how they influenced each other are integrated with the studio work, creating a larger perspective of the development of European theatre. The course involves students in the local festivals and carnivals and integrates mask makers and specialists from both Italy and Switzerland as it juxtaposes European styles of theatre with American sensibilities. 


Through mask work, the class studies the classical characters of the 15th century as well as exploring how to create the modern stock characters of today. On camera work will give each actor the possibility to work on a variety of scripts and sides that stretch the imagination and build the ability to play with a larger range- from the overt to the intimate. An actor will leave with the ability to perform with ease on both amphitheaters and small screens.


Throughout the 6-week session students will work on scenes that will include Shakespeare, Moliere, improvised scenarios as well as numerous on-camera sessions that incorporate the expressiveness of Commedia into sitcom size work. The class will present work on The Continuum Theater stage (La Pietra’s unique amphitheater), as well as an original 17th century outdoor Commedia stage as they present a Moliere piece for the Florentine public.

Program Dates

Summer 2018 

Student Arrival: Sunday, May 27, 2018
Student Departure: Saturday, July 7, 2018



  • Tisch Drama Majors - Strongly encouraged to complete 4 semesters of Primary Studio Training before participating in this Advanced Studio option.
  • NYU and Visiting students - One year of college or professional training.

Summer 2018 Application Deadlines

Early Decision: Friday, December 8, 2018 at 5:00pm ET.
Regular Decision: Friday, March 30, 2018 at 5:00pm ET. 

Application: Please read the following admissions information.

Application: Acceptance to the program is by audition/interview. Please read the following admissions information before starting your application.


  • Undergraduate summer 2018 tuition: $11,296
  • Registration and Services Fee: $948
  • Program fee: $649
  • Lab Fee: $590
  • Housing: 
        Single on-campus villas w/ meal plan: $4,442
        Double on-campus villas w/meal plan: $3,656
        Triple on-campus villas w/meal plan: $3,340
        Quad on-campus villas w/meal plan: $3,229
  • Students are responsible for arranging their own transportation to/from the program.

Visit the NYU Office of the Bursar for additional information on tuition and fees.

Scholarship and Financial Aid

There are opportunities for financial assistance to study abroad.

Please review the Scholarships and Financial Aid for Study Abroad page for more information.


Visit the NYU Florence website for housing options and descriptions.