Ciao everyone! My name is Jillian, and I am blogging from the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy! Each semester many junior Muhlenberg theatre and dance majors choose to study abroad at ADA, and come back with nothing but positive things to say about the program. After being here for four weeks, I can confirm that the wonderful rumors are true!
I, along with ten other Muhlenberg students and five students from other colleges, make up the undergraduate physical theatre program at ADA. Here with us are twelve music students from Furman University in South Carolina. All of the students live on a villa, right upstairs from all of our classrooms, practice rooms, lounges, and the mensa, which is where we eat all of our meals with the faculty. All of our meals on weekdays are provided, and the kitchen staff (headed by the fun-loving cook, Ricardo) makes the most delicious meals using only the freshest ingredients. The villa was built in the 1400s, and while it has been updated since then, it still has a beautiful, old-fashioned vibe. From the windows of our dorm rooms and classrooms, you can see the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside and the cathedral in the downtown area of Arezzo. Sounds like a dream, right? I’ve been here for a month, and still have not gotten over the view. Sitting outside to watch the sunset over Tuscany is one of the best parts of each day.
Surprisingly enough, Muhlenberg students do not just go to ADA to witness the beauty of Italy. Coming to the Accademia is a great way to continue your acting training while getting an abroad experience. Our core performance classes are Movement, Voice, and Commedia dell’Arte. Movement is exactly what it sounds like; we work on becoming aware of all of the things our bodies are capable of, and finding out how we can relate this to characters we will play onstage in the future. Our voice class is taught by Kevin Crawford, who was a guest artist at Muhlenberg two years ago and directed the mainstage production of Bartholomew Fair. In this class, we use our bodies to help us free our voices, both for speaking and for singing. Commedia dell’Arte is a newer class we have started, in which we study a traditional form of theatre that uses stock characters, improvisation, and masks to tell stories. I will explain this more in depth in a later blog post.
In addition to performance classes, all theatre students are required to take Italian and Philosophy courses as well. These have really helped me to feel more involved in the Italian culture, and have raised some important questions about why it is important to create art.
There are also many smaller courses that meet fewer times throughout the semester, but are still very important and fun! We had a few juggling workshops, and many of the students here picked up three ball juggling very quickly, along with some other fancy tricks! ADA also focuses on circus traditions, and throughout the semester we will be working on headstands and some light acrobatics to add to our juggling expertise! Another small unit is a dramaturgy class in which we learn how to write commedia scripts.
I hope this basic overview helped explain what generally happens at the Accademia dell’Arte! I cannot wait to blog some more about classes, the traditions of Commedia dell’Arte, group travel adventures, and other important villa happenings! (And of course, pizza and gelato!)
Pictures below: All of the ADA students bonding during the first week of classes, and me standing with the Arezzo sign!