Relationship of Oral and Literate Performance Processes in the Commedia Dell'arte Beyond the Improvisation/Memorisation Divide

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Beyond the Improvisation/Memorisation Divide
This study argues that the performers who developed the commedia dell'arte in the 16th century did so by applying oral storytelling techniques to a multi-performer genre. The book argues that the predominant documentary evidence of this theatre phenomenon, the eight hundred extant scenarios, can be examined as specific literate elements in a theatrical production process which can be delineated in relation to other well-documented oral processes. Extensive analysis of scenarios from different collections demonstrates how the scenarios are structured for, and might have functioned in, performance: they provided a series of clear schematic units for which the performers could develop specific formulaic material able to be quickly and fluently strung together to create a seamless whole. Further analysis distills the scenarios into a finite list of categorized performance units to create a notional compendium of all the sorts of schematic material for which the performers would have needed to generate formulaic utterances and actions, a sort of 'encyclopedia of the performable which influenced not only this genre but much subsequent theatre practice.

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