Commedia dell’Arte - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

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Commedia dell’Arte

Last Monday, we saw these wonderful masks:
Did you wonder about them?  Today, Catherine Pardeilhan, explains them to us.  Catherine is in her first year of teaching Lower Middle School Art (both tracks) at SLO Classical Academy.

The Commedia dell’Arte began as improvisational street theatre for the common people in Italy in the early 16th century. It quickly spread in popularity all over Europe, and has evolved over the centuries to include a set of archetypal characters which have laid the foundations for modern comedy and theatre today. Many of the popular plot lines which began in commedia dell’arte have been used by writers such as Shakespeare & Moliere.  Characters have appeared in operas and ballet compositions by Mozart and Stravinsky, to name a few. SLOCA students even found some modern examples of characters, including Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter (Il Capitano), Han Solo from Star Wars (Brighella), and Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers (Arlecchino)!
Our mask project started with a stock “blank face” papier-mache mask, on which SLO 5th and 6th graders began to sketch. Facial features were based upon the particular emotional expressions typically seen in their chosen character. They then modified eye shapes and added prosthetic noses made of cardboard from a cereal box, applied with glue and papier-mache. Next, they fleshed-out the eyebrows, noses and other features with Sculptamold sculpting medium, a commercial lightweight paperpulp-plaster mix. For fine finishing and smoothing, they used fine dental plaster (and lots of sanding!). Then they applied gesso and paint, antiquing the features with shadows and highlights. Lastly, some students added hair mustaches and eyebrows for added texture. Then we put them on and acted silly!

photo by Catherine Pardeilhan


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