Commedia dell’Arte in Florence

Comedy in Shakespeare, Molière, and on camera. 


The Commedia Program is an intensive acting workshop 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, Molière and television. 

"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.

Students will:

  • Experience mask work to heighten spontaneity, physical presence, and a sense of play.
  • Develop the ability to explore play in Shakespeare, on-camera work and modern texts.
  • Delve into popular theater and biting satire through the understanding stock characters from around the globe.

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

Discovering the comedic world - past, present and future - through the lens of Commedia Dell’Arte.

Throughout the course, areas of specialty are developed in:

  • Improvisation
  • Mask/character work
  • Ancient and modern archetypes
  • Scene study in Moliere, Shakespeare and Clown
  • Creation and development of monologues
  • A skill set for productive self analysis and non-judgmental critique

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 17thcentury outdoor Commedia stage as they present a Moliere piece for the Florentine public.

Program Dates

Summer 2019

Student Arrival: Sunday, May 26, 2019
Student Departure: Saturday, July 6, 2019

Arrival and departure dates are subject to change.



  • 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.


Early Decision Application Deadline: Monday, December 3, 2018 at 5:00pm ET.

Regular Decision Application Deadline: Friday, March 1, 2019 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 2019 tuition: $11,608
  • Registration and Services Fee: $972
  • 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.

*Estimated rates from summer 2018.

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.