The “Theater Practicum Model Project”, made possible thanks to the Center for Language Study and the Department of Italian Language and Literature at Yale University, presents itself as an innovative and dynamic approach to teaching modern languages. The first embryo of this project dates back to the 2006 summer, at the end of the traditional “Yale Summer Session Program” at Siena, when, during a train trip with Prof. Millicent Marcus, the idea of a new course for our Italian Department at Yale University was born: teaching Italian through the theatrical works by Pirandello. Even if the study of Pirandello’s short novels was already part of the Intermediate Level of Italian language course curriculum, no one has ever thought to use theater as a way for teaching a foreign language at Yale University. The project, in which the literary and theatrical components identify with the cultural, linguistic and expressive ones, seemed very ambitious and beyond my abilities. I was familiar with some of works by Pirandello, one of my favorite authors, but I did not have any previous experience in a theatrical production. The problems to be overcome – the choice of the play, the search for an available venue both for the rehearsals and for the final performance, the direction of actors, the costume design, the setting of the stage … – seemed endless and such to discourage any beginner. Nevertheless, for me who I have always loved teaching by trying to involve students more actively in the learning process, the challenge was too exciting to give up an idea that, however hard, seemed rich in potentiality. And now, after teaching the “Pirandello Theater Practicum” course for four years, performing both Six Characters in Search of an Author and Henry IV, I can state with confidence that every performance was a success: for me, as teacher, for the students who really enjoyed the entire process of learning, from the analysis of the play throughout all the phases of the production, and, eventually, for the public. I really believe that theater directly lends itself to the teaching of the language, as the modern theorists of the linguistics pedagogy begin to understand it: language used for conversation and dialogue and not as pure result of grammatical rules; language as a meeting point, just like it takes place on the stage, among different worlds and cultures; and, finally, language as a way of auto-representation and comprehension of what our interlocutors convey to us.
I hope many language teachers throughout the world will benefit from having a ready model to follow, or to modify and make their own, since every language, as a mirror of a culture, has a specific linguistic, literary and philosophical complexity. I have nothing more to say than … “Welcome to the Theater Practicum Model Project!”