Theatre of Yesterday and Tomorrow Commedia Dell'arte on the Modern Stage

Author: Fisher, James
This is an examination of the widespread influence of commedia dell'arte, one of the rarest of theatrical forms - a non-literary theatre that emphasized the skill of the improvising actor. In the twentieth century an astonishingly diverse group of playwrights, actors, directors, and designers rediscovered the art of commedia in ways that permanently changed the direction of the modern theatre. Luigi Pirandello, Edward Gordon Craig, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Max Reinhardt, Jacques Copeau, Dario Fo, Eugenio Barba, and many more sought liberation from formal literary drama. They viewed commedia as theatrical art at its pinnacle of expressivity and creativity. Includes chapters on Italy, Spain, England, Russia, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, Germany, France, and the United States.


". . . a certain unity is achieved in this study from its focus on the founders of the modern commedia movement and their affinities for and influence on one another. . . . informative notes, and an extensive index . . . help make the book a worthwhile resource for newcomers to the subject as well as for the commedia afficionado." - Shakespeare Bulletin

". . . provides a much-needed overview of commedia's effect on the world of theatre, through the work of many of the century's key performers, directors, and playwrights. (An appendix gives grief summaries of the impact of commedia on the visual arts, film, literature and music). . . . The book is most satisfying in its detailed accounts of commedia's unquestionable centrality in the work of such major figures as Craig, Copeau, Reinhardt, and Meyerhold. But Fisher also writes convincingly of other diverse commedia devotees: Pirandello, Lorca, Barba, Littlewood, Brecht. Other interesting tidbits pepper the text, as Fisher discusses George Sand's private theatre, the plays of Danish writer Ludwig Holberg, or Luigi Chiarelli's teatro grottesco. In his final chapter he demonstrates the impact of commedia on the American practitioners of political theatre in the 1960s and of new vaudeville in the 1980s. . . . has enormous potential as a starting place for future studies. . . . Fisher has created a useful reference book, charting commedia's fascinating history as one of the central obsessions of twentieth-century performance." Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism

"Here is a rich compendium of information, analysis and interpretation on a vastly comparative topic. Fisher's grasp of most western countries' contribution to the Commedia tradition bespeaks a broad erudition, which he mines for consistently interesting discussions. . . . Fisher's copious and painstaking Notes, thorough Bibliography and useful Index all add to the book's allure. So do its 34 black-and-white plates, which offer far more than the familiar images of Commedia history. In short, this volume is indispensable for scholars of Commedia in its broadest context. For this reason, plus the sheer delight of its materials, the work must already be canonical." -- Naomi Ritter