European Pantomime and the Films of Charlie Chaplin
- Toni Bowers
- School of Arts & Sciences
Arts Course Development Grant
Curricular Support Grant
Toni Bowers will teach a new course titled “European Pantomime and the Films of Charlie Chaplin,” which will introduce students to two related subjects: the history of Western pantomimic performance and the place of Chaplin’s work in that history. Readings will trace the evolution of pantomime in theater and street performances, beginning with the Commedia dell’Arte and continuing to British Music Halls and American Vaudeville. The course will focus on the second and third decades of the 20th century, when Chaplin imported pantomime’s tropes into the new medium of cinema. Students will come to understand how Chaplin’s use of pantomime helped establish the global dominance of the American film industry, the reasons for his resistance to sound films, and his efforts, after 1940, to re-present pantomimic features alongside sound. A significant performance piece will be built into the course. At a final, 2-day student conference at the Kislak Center, each student will be required to participate in a short, small-group pantomime, then to present\perform a final interpretive-creative project based on course research. In addition, students will take pantomime into the West Philadelphia community with short “pop-up” performances, and will organize screenings of silent films for the larger Penn community and the surrounding neighborhood, to be held at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues.