27114 - Scenography: Elements, Theory, History

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will be able to: - know in depth the historical and constructive evolution of the scenography and of the scenic space in the West; - analyze specific themes, models and aesthetic principles of scenography and scenic space, contextualize them in a historical-anthropological perspective and develop them using methods, tools and documentation typical of scientific research; - research autonomously a topic using different document sources; - knows how to critically interpret the relationship between ritual and performance, also in reference to extra-western traditions. 

Course contents

The course is divided into a Module corresponding to 60 hours of teaching and 12 credits (cfu).

Beginning: 28 January 2019

End: 10 May 2019
Hours: Monday 11 am-1pm; Tuesday 11 am-1pm; Wednesday 11 am-1pm(Aula Dioniso Fanciullo, Via Barberia 4)

Preparatory course: In search of the traces of the show
The introductory part of the course concerns the history of set design and the theories related to it and intends to provide the student with a guide for the knowledge of the evolution of the theatrical space and of the relative stagecraft from classical to contemporary theater.
Since the subject is extremely vast, we will analyze some crucial moments for the evolutionary process of staging: Greece of the fifth century BC, ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the "Commedia dell'Arte", the Spanish theater, the Elizabethan period scene , the Baroque age and the century of enlightenment, the nineteenth century and the revolutions of the theater, the historical avant-gardes of the early twentieth century, the New American theater, from the birth of "happening" to the "environmental theater".
The analysis of the visual aspect of the staging cannot be separated from a dissection of the various parts of the show (actor, text, audience). In the analysis of the different periods, attention will be paid to the relationship between scene and the actors ability, to the variation of theatrical relationship, to the connection between the scenic code and the dramaturgical code, to the predominance from time to time of one or another, to the material conditions of theatrical work as a whole.
Monographic part: "At the edge of the theater". When art must "awaken the life we are living"
What connects the "happening" and the cults of possession, the African masks and archetypal objects used in Giuliano Scabia's participated works, the performances at the Sorbonne in 1968 and the twelve horses "exhibited" by Jannis Kounellis in the Roman "Attico"?
The course intends to use the paradigm of Performance Studies, the "broad spectrum" of performance as an epistemological lens and as an expressive practice to situate phenomena and experiences at the "limits of theater", between postindustrial Western society and traditional cultures in Africa: moments that require action and participation, in an area halfway between art and life and between ritual and theater.

In particular, the course aims to explore the utopian features of theatrical research of the Sixties and Seventies as an avant-garde experience of the expansion of the possible theater and theater as a "mythical community place".
We will analyze spectacular moments relevant to the dramatic values of space, the "living scene" in dialogue with the contemporary phenomenon of the theatricalization of visual arts in a precise historical moment, the Sixties, when the work became a "theater of poor actions" .
The other object of the analysis concerns the performance skills within the rites of possession: the theatrical interpretation of them by Michel Leiris - developed during the Dakar Djibuti Mission of the Thirties; contemporary analysis of the same rituals in Ethiopia, and trance experiences in modern Western societies. The analysis of rituals will focus on space, on the body in action, on the kinetic-verbal scheme.
For a conscious reflection on today we recommend students attending to formulate a proposal and subsequent analysis of performative experiences that can be defined as moments of moral resistance in the space of the city.


  1. Perrelli Franco, Storia della scenografia. Dall’antichità al XXI secolo, II ed., Roma, Carocci editore, 2013 (Students must read this particular edition of the book)
  2. De Marinis Marco, Al limite del teatro. Utopie, progetti e aporie nella ricerca teatrale degli anni Sessanta e Settanta, Bologna,Cue Press, 2016
  3. Budriesi Laura, Michel Leiris. Il teatro della possessione, Bologna, Pàtron Editore, 2017
  4. Un libro a scelta dall’elenco seguente:
  • Allovio Stefano, Culture in transito. Trasformazioni, performance e migrazioni nell'Africa sub-sahariana, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2008 (prima ed. 2002)
  • Azzaroni Giovanni, Budriesi Laura, Natali Cristiana(a cura di) Danzare l’Africa oggi in: Arti della performance: orizzonti e culture, collana on line a cura di Casari Matteo, Guccini Gerardo.The book can be consulted and downloaded for free at the following address:http://amsacta.unibo.it/5838/
  • Casi Stefano ,600.000 e altre azioni teatrali per Giuliano Scabia, Pisa, ETS, 2012
  • Cruciani Fabrizio, Lo spazio del teatro, Bari-Roma, Laterza, 2005
  • Scabia Giuliano, Teatro nello spazio degli scontri, Roma, Bulzoni, 1973
  • Valenti Cristina, Storia del living theatre. Conversazioni con Judit Malina, Corazzano (PI), Titivillus, 2008

Non-attending students  will have to add one more book: Salvatore Margiotta, Il Nuovo teatro in Italia 1968-1975, Corazzano (Pisa), Titivillus, 2013

Useful iconographic in-depth tool (optional). Mazzoni, Atlante iconografico. Spazi e forme dello spettacolo in occidente dal mondo antico a Wagner, Pisa, Titivillus, 2003.

Teaching methods

In addition to lectures, the course includes the active participation of attending students who will be guided to the analysis of the scenographic elements through the commented vision of iconographic materials, shows, ethnographic documentaries. Meetings will be organized with artists and scholars who will present some of the essays in the program.

An educational trip is planned for attending students, at the end of the course (optional).

In June 2018, 10 students of the recently completed course visited the Greek theater in Syracuse, Sicily, to watch some famous classical works.

Assessment methods

For attending students: preparation of a short project written and reported in the classroom relating to a play / street performance as indicated in the program that can replace the fourth book of the list if the outcome of the project will be positive.
Partial tests consisting in the analysis of iconographic documents, videos or in the critical comment following specific participations in the current theater season which will be recommended by the teacher.
Final interview during the exam.
For non-attending students: final interview.
The final interview will focus on the texts indicated in the program in order to ascertain the student's ability to orientate himself between the different types of stage and theatrical space in the various historical periods, managing to establish in-time continuity and changes of the scenographic forms ; to punctually comment on iconographic materials relating to the most significant moments in the history of theater from the Greek classics to contemporary theater with particular attention to the monographic part of the course itself.
The achievement of an organic vision of the topics addressed in class, the possession of an expressive and lexical mastery and the ability to orientate him/herself within the bibliography will be evaluated with marks of excellence. The mostly mechanical or mnemonic knowledge of the subject, a limited articulated and not always appropriate language will lead to discrete evaluations. Formal gaps, inappropriate language, limited knowledge of the exam material will lead to the threshold of insufficiency. Formal gaps, inappropriate language, lack of orientation within the bibliography will be negatively evaluated.

Teaching tools

Videoprojections of iconographic materials, of plays, of ethnographic documentaries, visions of live shows, visits to one or more theaters.

Office hours

See the website of Laura Budriesi