The Actors Centre

From Aristophanes to the Marx Bros: The Science of Physical Comedy

WHAT IS IT? What makes something funny? Why do we still laugh at material written over a thousand years ago? Is what makes us laugh biologically wired in to us? If so, what are the scientific rules and mechanics of comedy and how can one harness them successfully in one’s own work? There is a saying that comedy is more difficult than drama. The premise of this practical, hands-on, physical class is that comedy is an exact science, requiring razor-sharp precision and specific tools that can be learned, acquired, applied, and executed. And that just may make it, in the end, easier. HOW WILL IT WORK? We will examine, analyse, and dissect the routines of such physical comedy geniuses as The Marx Bros, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Lucille Ball, identifying the exact mechanisms at play and how to master [use] them. We will identify and work on such essential components as rhythm, counterpoint, narrative structure, repetition, contrast, expectation, set-up and pay-off, The Rule of Three, and, of course, timing. The class will also look at improvisational as well as script-based, techniques, including Commedia dell'Arte lazzi, and the creation and successful (and safe) execution of comedic violence. WHAT WILL YOU GET OUT OF IT? A greater understanding of how physical comic structures work and how to use them successfully in rehearsal and performance, and the confidence that comes with the courage to be funny. Price: £30


Erica Gould

Erica Gould is a theatre director and teacher from NYC.  She recently directed a 15-theatre UK tour of a play she developed and directed about Muslim-American women that has been featured in The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and on Radio 4 Woman's Hour.  Her directing credits include three world premieres of plays by Neil LaBute and productions at The Public Theatre, Cherry Lane, and The New York Musical Theatre Festival.  She has directed numerous works of Shakespeare, Restoration, Jacobean, and Georgian plays; original opera-theatre; and radio-theatre for National Public Radio.  She has taught at Yale, NYU, Fordham, Pace, Bard, Red Bull Theater, and the New York Conservatory of Dramatic Art; has been a returning guest director at the O’Neill National Theatre Institute, and has directed productions for educational institutions including The Shakespeare Theatre's Academy of Classical Acting, Yale University, Pace University, Connecticut College, and University at Buffalo.  She is also a fight choreographer, and has been a featured speaker for the American Theatre Wing’s Masters of the Stage Series on fight direction and physical staging.


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