Commedia dell’Arte was born in Italy in the 16th Century.
(Actually, the first Commedia dell’Arte company has been established on the 25th February 1545).
In the XVI Century Italy was divided in lots of different small States, where everybody spoke a different language. In each company there would have been someone who could speak the local dialect (not everybody could), while the rest of the players would have used the language they knew or, eventually, gibberish.
So, even if Commedia is a complete form of theatre (it is NOT mime), the performers needed to rely more on their physicality than on costumes and props, to communicate to the audience which character they were playing.
Commedia dell’Arte has been the first form of professional theatre, as far as I know.
They invented the first form of ticket and the concept to pay (whatever they had available, eggs, fruit, poultry, money..) in exchange of the service of making you laugh!
For this reason they needed enclosed spaces where the audience could not simply find a way to watch for free. These spaces where called “Stanzoni” (in English it means Big rooms).
First with no seats, than making them a little more comfortable… Again, as far as I know, these were the first form of Theatres!!
Commedia dell’Arte introduced the Actresses. Before this to happen, women roles were played by men in disguise!
Hope you enjoyed the update I wish you a great beginning of the year 2011 and I hope to see you soon participating to my January workshops.