Read the glowing review in the Chicago Reader

Read the warm and glowing review on the Improv Review

Ad-libbed 1980s teen angst movies in the Italian Renaissance tradition

Commedia dell'High School: The Productions

Commedia dell'High School: The Show

Commedia dell'High School aims to ad-lib 1980s teen angst movies in the style of The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and so on. If that weren't neat enough, it's all done in the Italian Renaissance style of Commedia dell'Arte. It was created by Dan Goldstein in 1996.

Commedia dell'High School: The Cast

The last cast comprised Tara Copeland (Snooty Girl), John Gemberling (Geek), Curtis Gwinn (Handsome Jerk), Jason Mantzoukas (Good-Natured Boy) and Jessica St. Clair as the Shy, Yet-To-Blossom Girl. Sean Conroy, Danielle Schneider, Jackie Clarke, and Jane Borden sat in on occasion playing various snobs, bullies, coaches, dads, principals, jocks, stoners and surfers. John Bourdeaux and Jake Fogelnest are producers and Brian Berrebbi did the art. I'm Dan Goldstein, and I played the host.

Commedia dell'High School: The Roots

Commedia dell'High School is based on two ideas: Structured Improvisation (which made its debut with SITCOM), and the comedic style of the Commedia dell'Arte of Europe past. Structured Improvisation dictates that actors must study the basics of plot structure to help them navigate through long-form improvised pieces. The Commedia dell'Arte style uses stock characters, plots, scenarios, and gags (or lazzi) in improvising plays. To my knowledge, this will be the first time since the rebirth of improv (which happened at the University of Chicago in the 1950s) that these classic techniques are re-incorporated into long-form. Since its sold-out opening run at the University of Chicago in February 1997, Commedia dell'High School has been staged professionally in Chicago, at Harvard University, and at Improv Boston.

Commedia dell'High School: When and Where

Email me (Dan Goldstein at dg-goldstein-3 at alumni dot uchicago dot edu to find out about putting up Commedia dell'High School in your neck of the woods, or to put in your own ideas for Commedia dell'High School.

Commedia dell'High School: Stock characters

Commedia dell'High School uses the old tradition of stock characters from the Commedia dell'Arte. However, instead of using such cherished types as Harlequin, Pantalone, Pierrot, The Doctor, The Captain and Zanni, we use the types which inhabited 80s teen angst films: jocks, prom queens, brains, basket cases, criminals, attractive yet-to-blossom girls, overly busy parents, caring parents, divorcing parents, wicked school administrators, sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, and so on. Why mess with the classic types which have served comedy so well for so long? Let's face it, 1980s society was structured a little differently than 1580s society.

Commedia dell'High School: The Plots

Also, in the old tradition, Commedia dell'High School uses stock plots that audiences know and love. The geek falls for the attractive, yet-to-blossom girl, who's in love with the handsome rich boy (who has a rick jerky girlfriend, and rich jerky pals), and so on. You get the picture. Additionally, beloved devices from this genre of film (such as the rock montage) are incorporated into the improvisations. In a new mix-form style, the host of the show can periodically stop the action to inject improvisational elements, such as audience-suggested product placements or fantasy sequences. Yes, elements of long-form and short-form improvisation are combined in this 90 minute show.

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