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Set the Stage!

Set the Stage!: Teaching Italian through Theater

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Set the Stage!
    Book Description:

    Set the Stage!is a collection of essays on teaching Italian language, literature, and culture through theater. From theoretical background to course models, this book provides all the resources that teachers and students need to incorporate the rich and abundant Italian theater tradition into the curriculum.

    Features of the book include

    • the "Director's Handbook," a comprehensive guide with detailed instructions for every step of the process, from choosing a text to the final performance,

    • an exclusive interview with Nobel laureate Dario Fo,

    • a foreword by prize-winning author Dacia Maraini.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15275-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Both the study of theater and the study of foreign languages have long-standing traditions at all levels of education. Yet only in recent decades has an interdisciplinary approach joining the two come to light as a subject of both practical and scholarly interest.Set the Stage! Teaching Italian through Theateris founded on the belief that theatrical texts and techniques have the ability to catalyze learning and foster curricular innovation in numerous interesting ways. With this premise, this book intends to “set the stage,” if you will, for a meaningful dialogue among scholars and practitioners who wish to move in...

  5. Prologue: Theater Performance with American Students
    (pp. 19-24)

    Working alongside people who portray one’s own characters onstage is always a good thing for a playwright. The theater is the most choral of the arts, one that is elaborated in a group, in the presence of and with an exchange among professionals who act, direct, and handle the lights, music, sets, and costumes. Each of these specialists is a necessary part of the performance, and it would be impossible to do without them. In theater, an author cannot reach the public without good actors, good directors, a good lighting director, good musicians, a good costume designer, and a good...

  6. I. Theater in Italian Literature and Culture

    • CHAPTER 1 Authors, Texts, and Innovative Movements: An Overview of the Italian Theatrical Canon
      (pp. 27-49)

      In every period of Italian literature, many writers and poets have often found a congenial form of expression in the theater. This brief overview of Italian theater highlights those authors and works that more than others may best fit in university curricula of Italian literature, in order to help students better understand the broader historical sweep of drama in Italy and of Italian culture in general. To this end, this overview provides a chronological outline of some of the most significant moments in Italian theatrical expression from the Middle Ages to the present.

      Two forms of theatrical expression in early...

    • CHAPTER 2 Acting Italian: From the Piazza to the Stage
      (pp. 50-80)

      The essence of drama is conflict, and conflict comes from the desires and drives of the characters and forces—social, divine, natural, psychological, or ideological as they may be—in a play that are at cross-purposes with one another or in opposition to one another. Konstantin Stanislavski (1863–1938), the foremost theorist of modern acting, considered the focus or goal of these desires and drives to be the “objective” of the character. The character’s objectives provide him or her with motivations for actions. Aristotle (384–322 B.C.), in hisPoetics(360–322 b.c.), defined drama as “the imitation of a...

  7. II. Theater Courses in the Italian Language Curriculum

    • CHAPTER 3 The Theatrical Workshop in the Italian Curriculum
      (pp. 83-113)

      This chapter presents two different but equally successful models of teaching theater courses combining academic content and theatrical performance within the Italian academic curriculum: the first model at the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) and the second at the Italian Language School (ILS), Middlebury College, Vermont. The theater and performance courses offered at UTM are part of the undergraduate curriculum and are offered for a full academic year (seventy-eight hours of instruction equally divided in twenty-six weeks). The ILS courses, open to both undergraduate and graduate students, are part of a summer intensive and full-immersion program (thirty hours of...

    • CHAPTER 4 Creative Connections: The Theater Practicum and the Integration of Language and Literature Study
      (pp. 114-143)

      More and more teachers of second languages have come to recognize and regard theater as a vehicle for generating communication among students and enhancing both their linguistic abilities and their understanding of foreign literature and culture. Many instructors have developed and regularly offer courses involving a variety of performance projects, the most common of them consisting in the staging of a play in a foreign language. Rather than the pursuit of a full-scale production of a play in Italian, the model discussed in this chapter more specifically aims at providing third-year students with a positive, rewarding experience in the study...

    • CHAPTER 5 Theater Texts and Techniques in the High School Classroom
      (pp. 144-168)

      Full-scale theater productions and theater-based courses constitute a vibrant part of the foreign language programs in many universities. But is this a valid model for the high school level, where school, state, and national assessment criteria drive curricula and where classes are composed of students with a wide range of intellectual and motivational levels? This chapter will explore techniques for using theatrical texts to provide high school students with rich and meaningful encounters with literature. A theatrical text can form a basis for activities that cater to a variety of learning styles, while successfully implementing the national standards established by...

  8. III. Genres, Themes, and Techniques of Italian Theater

    • CHAPTER 6 Epic Theater, Comic Mode: Understanding Italian Society through the Works of Dario Fo and Franca Rame
      (pp. 171-186)

      It has become common practice to use the texts of Dario Fo and Franca Rame in Italian language courses in North American universities. Since the late 1970s, Fo and Rame have been the Italian authors whose works are most widely translated and performed in the world, and their texts are excellent instruments for introducing students to Italian popular culture and language. As of 2008, Fo has written eighty theatrical works; his theater lessons are available on video; he has directed nineteen works by other authors (from Molière to John Gay to Rossini); he has written essays and journalistic works, completed...

    • CHAPTER 7 Commedia dell’Arte’s Techniques: Theater Research and Italian Language Interplay
      (pp. 187-211)

      From the point of view of a theater practitioner, learning a foreign language is close to the process of an actor’s creating a character, which typically follows a three-step sequence: to assimilate, to rehearse, and to perform the words of a text. The difference for the second language learner is that the text does not preexist in a finished written form, but is the result of a series of choices based on the knowledge of a lexicon and of the rules of grammar making use of it. Nevertheless, in both cases the initial assimilative step is essentially an act of...

    • CHAPTER 8 Opera as Theme, Opera as Theater: A Content-Based Approach to the Teaching of Italian Language and Culture
      (pp. 212-236)

      These are exciting times of renewed interest in modern language education in North America. The pitch of the debate about content and method has risen. While the communicative approach, with its focus on proficiency, has made its influence felt at most colleges and universities and in most textbooks over the past twenty-five to thirty years, critics point out a number of shortcomings: it is still inadequately realized in the teaching of grammar (Aski 2003), and even when fully realized, the approach is inadequate to the teaching of literacy and often results in insubstantial content (Patrikis 2003). At the same time,...

  9. IV. Methods and Assessment in Italian Theater Workshops

    • CHAPTER 9 Full-Scale Play Production: Filling the “Empty Space” between Language and Literature with Fo and Pirandello
      (pp. 239-266)

      Instructors of foreign and second languages (L2) who use full-scale play production as a central component of their teaching are a small community with much in common.¹ They share intellectual curiosity for innovative methods, a rich and varied approach to the use of literary texts in the L2 classroom, genuine enthusiasm for theater, and, most of all, the belief that theater can be a transformative experience both personally and pedagogically.² In addition, many of them combine the profile of L2 and literature teachers with that of theater aficionados; in most cases they have acted, attended diction courses, or devoted themselves...

    • CHAPTER 10 Community, Culture, and Body Language: Staging the Female Voice in the Italian Drama Workshop
      (pp. 267-290)

      In the past decade, one of the principal goals of departments of foreign languages has been to offer and design new courses that incorporate the many and different interests of students and encourage them to consider a double major in the target language and another branch of learning. Living as we do in an age of globalization, although its meaning is still rather unclear, as Alessandro Baricco wisely points out in hispiccolo libro(small book),Next, it is vital that the cultural identity and historical background of countries all over the world be preserved and taught through a broader...

    • CHAPTER 11 Proficiency and Performance: Assessing Learner Progress in the Italian Theater Workshop
      (pp. 291-320)

      The reasons why an instructor might direct a theater production, offer a theater workshop course, or include dramatic texts and techniques in a foreign language curriculum may be many, ranging from a personal passion for theater to a desire for pedagogical variety (creative ways to make students exercise various skills in the target language) to a more formal effort to connect the study of foreign language with other academic disciplines.¹ Likewise, the scope and objectives of combining foreign language and theater vary greatly, depending on the nature and level of the course. While the focus for some may be linguistic...

  10. V Director’s Handbook
    (pp. 321-382)

    The following discussion and list of dramatic texts are by no means intended to be either comprehensive or encyclopedic but rather attempt to provide the aspiring director with a point of departure, a frame of reference, some thoughts for consideration, and some suggestions. Before beginning, keep in mind that, unless you are selling tickets and charging entrance fees to your performance, you will not need to pay for performance rights to the plays.

    In choosing a play, the first criterion to keep in mind is the potential cast—the makeup of your course: your enrollment or available actors; their gender,...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. Afterword: An Interview with Dario Fo and Franca Rame. Thoughts on Theater, Engagement, and the Comic. Examples for a New Pedagogy
    (pp. 383-396)

    Q:Is it possible to trace a progression in your work as an actor and author?

    Dario Fo:Actually, my early artistic training was in painting and architecture; that is, the main components of scene design. My growth as an actor was linked to my activity as a writer. On the other hand, I learned to write and to think for the theater while growing as a performer. When I write a comedy, or a monologue, I’m not particularly interested in depicting the state of mind of various characters. Rather, I’m interested in the scenic fact, the main event, which...

  13. Index
    (pp. 397-405)