Home / Courses / COURSE D 2019: Comedy & Tragedy: ‘The Twin Masks Of Theatre.’- Mitch Michelson

COURSE D 2019: Comedy & Tragedy: ‘The Twin Masks Of Theatre.’- Mitch Michelson

Even one of most famous tragedies in the Western theatre canon, Aeschylus’s ‘The Oresteia’, has a joke in it, (only one!) from Agamemnon at the expense of his wife, Clytemnestra. And the Watchman who opens the first part of this tragedy, ’Agamemnon’, has comic potential in his search for light.  

Comedy and tragedy are neighbours who knock each other about to occupy the same turf. As the Buster Keaton scholar Gabriella Oldham points out, a life battered comic hero like Keaton teeters on a precariously thin threshold between comedy and tragedy. Comedy and tragedy both evoke tears. The darkest of tragedies contain a shadow of consolation and at the core of the most whimsical of comedies lies a heart of darkness.  

The workshop will explore texts , styles and forms from both genres. Dark buffoons will herald the tragic passages and tragic heroes and heroines. Comic techniques, devised routines and business and improvisation will access the dark heart at the root of comedy. The rhythms of the tragic chorus will be explored . Silent movie comedians, Shakespearean fools and comedic zanies will mine their comedic and tragic dimensions. The two genres of comedy and tragedy will be further explored and fused with some scene studies of a Commedia dell’ Arte adaption of Euripides tragedy ‘The Bacchae’- slapstick with the poetics of the Euripidean text and tragic. trajectory of the original story.

The workshop will be accessible, non-aerobic, but playfully physical and verbal. Suitable for anyone interested in the fluid identities of these contrasting classic forms of theatre and their masks.


Mitch Michelson is a freelance director, teacher and performer. He has worked extensively at drama schools and universities in the UK.

He has run workshops for the National Theatre (UK)Royal Shakespeare Company  and National Youth Theatre (UK). He also has an international profile running workshops in Hong Kong, France, Italy, Austria, Belgium and Ireland and Luxembourg.

He collaborated with the Turner prize artist Jeremy Deller on re-enactments of the routines of Jacques Tati on the beaches of Folkstone. As a film consultant for the National Centre for Circus Artshe work-shopped and introduced the Harry Potter actor Danial Radcliffe to clowning and slapstick.

He has run workshops in the art of farce for the Bernard Shaw Theatre in Carlow, Ireland.

Directing projects include Arnold Wesker’s “The Kitchen” for Fourth Monkey Theatre Company“Lysistrita” for actors of Dionysus, devised productions of the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Italo Calvino for Theatre On Your Door Step, Twickenham, London, and one-act plays by Dario Fo and Feydeau for a student drama festival at St Mary’s University, London. He has recently worked as an associate director for Osborne and What, adapting and co-directing a circus theatre version of William Wharton’s novel “Birdy” for a national tour. He has just completed an intensive programme on theatre devising producing one-act plays with young acting students.  He recently directed Alan Ayckbourn’s “A Small Family Business” at Theatre on Your Doorstop, Twickenham, London. 

Mitch’s Recent Theatre Labs:

  • Ramor Theatre in Virginia, Co Cavan
  • New World Theatre Company in Luxembourg
  • Social drama in Folkestone, England
  • Commedia with Intermission Youth Theatre in London