Curriculum and Organization

Master of Arts SUPSI in Theatre

Specialization in Physical theatre

According to the Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance (revised edition, 2017), “Physical theatre generally denotes performances that do not begin with a written theatrical text, but instead evolve from the adaptation of a story or another non dramatic text, improvisation and conception, movement and dance, or from a starting point that is visual, thematically or beyond disciplinary boundaries”. If we add the key notion of the creative actor (“cre-actor”), which combines the three functions of author, director and actor, this is an appropriate description of the creative practices and necessary skills that the ATD Physical theatre course aims to convey.

Specialization in Teatro di figura: material, object and puppet theatre.

Theater with figures focuses on a form of theater that uses puppets, objects, or simply different materials instead of living actors. Its fascination is the way inanimate matter is set in motion and therefore comes alive, it appears alive. The “Animation Theatre”, therefore, can be understood as a model for the actor’s work in traditional literary or dramatic theater: to give life, the possibility to exist, to fictional characters, the sum of the words “death”.
The addition of this new specialization to the existing Physical theatre underlines the central element of MA’s program at the ATD, the expressive medium of the body. By comparing the living human with the animate material body we stimulate the discourse on the body itself: what makes a body “human”? What is the meaning and value of the body in contemporary society? What is its future?

Master Course Structure

For both of the specializations, Teatro di Figura and Physical Theatre, students are invited to present a scheme or a rudimentary concept of a creative project they wish to develop during their studies. During the MA program the two paths are combined in more general courses of acting, movement, composition and dramaturgy.

The curriculum consists of three groups of modules. These include basic courses for all students and workshops oriented to the particular creative challenges of physical theatre or Teatro di Figura.

First group - 'Campus' (modules taken within the Master Campus CH)


  • Seminars dedicated to practical and theoretical aspects of theater, performance analysis, artistic research, project management.
  • Individual research related to the student’s specialization and the requirements of the project


Second group - Acting and staging


  • Practical courses of physical training, acting and animation of inanimate matter
  • Methods of conceiving a theatrical performance
  • Workshops for the practical research in the movement / Workshops for the construction of objects and puppets for the spectacle


Third group - Production and theoretical reflection


  • Staging and performance of a short original piece
  • Conception and performance of an ensemble piece staged by a director
  • Specialization Physical theatre: develop a Master’s project from idea to performance / Specialization Teatro di Figura: develop and present a Master’s show as a group work (2-4 members)
  • In addition to practice, a theoretical reflection is necessary, to be presented both as an essay and as a recitation of a paper, or in another written or visual form that combines different media


The first two semesters of the Master program are based on groups 1 and 2. The objective of these introductory courses is to offer tools for the analysis of a performance on the one hand and to explore the creative possibilities of contemporary stagecraft on the other. The third and fourth periods focus on the modules of the third group. It offers a wide variety of courses with the common goal of encouraging students to be bold and adventurous both as creators and performers.

Competences and objectives of the Master course:

Acting - Actor skills

The courses are designed to develop the physical and mental abilities of the actor in all their subtle nuances. The teaching focuses equally on physical training, acting and animation as mutually enriching means of preparation for the creative actor. The daily exercises prepare the body for use as an articulated tool of expression. The basics of puppetry, the construction of stage objects and the transformation of the material as a theatrical act are conveyed in a workshop.

What to communicate - find and define a theme

The courses are oriented on practical research and theatrical preparation of the selected material. In group work students are invited to communicate their ideas and suggest ways to develop them. Students learn to change perspective from actor to spectator and vice versa. The themes are explored through improvisation and experimentation, presented to colleagues at various stages of the work in progress. The individual creative process, therefore, is part of a continuous exchange and dialogue with the designated audience who provide feedback, thus underlining the fact that theater is a form of communication.

Dramaturgy - create a structure

The dramaturgy lessons investigate structures and narrative forms adapted to specific themes and stories. In this sense, dramaturgy is the study of how to organize actions on stage. Dramaturgy offers a set of tools for theatrical creation, while at the same time students are given guidelines on how to critically evaluate their own work and that of their colleagues.


The courses in this section offer students methods and techniques that help them transfer their visions onto the stage. We develop and try different ways of stage composition and consider the importance of specific acting styles. The crucial question is: how can I create that moment, that image or that special atmosphere that is transferred to the memory of the audience, thus preserving the transience of the performance over time?

Analysis and reflection

It is critical for the program to provide a stimulating environment for theatrical exploration. We promote an atmosphere of openness and frankness in the group of colleagues to share ideas and criticism, and encourage them to respond analytically and reflectively, rather than judging, to students’ presentations. By learning to perceive stage action at all levels of communication, students adopt methods to monitor their creative processes. Analysis and reflection are important to develop a project from an idea to a piece mature enough to be presented to the public.

Teaching Methods

The main format for teaching is the workshop. Each workshop of this type is an art workshop that offers both professional training and a free space to experiment with new ideas. A small staff of teachers specialized in directing, choreography, theater animation, different stage practices as well as history and theory of theater, follows the students in the development of their Master’s projects and their artistic aims. The core staff is completed by guest teachers, all experts in their fields with long experience in acting and teaching.
We pay particular attention to the importance of the group, which is composed of only 6 – 7 students in one or the other Master of Arts in Theatre specialization option. The group of students can serve as a discussion group, audience, art group, critics class or consultants.

Candidate Profile

The requirement for admission to the MA program is a Bachelor’s degree in drama, physical theater, dance, circus arts, theater animation or an equivalent diploma. Aspiring students without an academic degree may be admitted based on their outstanding artistic talent.

In addition, candidates are required to:

  • to show a strong interest in working within one of the two specialized forms of physical theatre or figure theater: puppet theater, material theater, objects theater.
  • to define the area and theme of their artistic exploration and formulate questions to which they seek answers during their studies
  • to outline a creative project that will become their graduation work

Career prospects

The idea and structure of the MA program is based on years of practical experience and expertise in the specialized forms of physical theatre and figure theater – their history as well as their current events on the professional stage and their representation in the curriculum of theater schools. The staff of the program consists of professionals, stage artists and internationally active directors who work at ATD or are affiliated with it, as well as theorists. During their studies, students have the opportunity to attend courses at other theater schools or to train with theater companies to learn about the professional work of contemporary theater. Daily contact with students and teachers and joint work on selected projects will introduce students to a variety of opportunities after their studies.

Official Partners

Theatre schools and academies

  • Master Campus Theater CH
  • E:UTSA – Europe: Union of Theatre Schools and Academies
  • Department of Alternative and Puppet Theatre, Theatre Faculty, Academy of Performing Arts, Prague (Master of Arts)
  • Department of Puppetry and Department of Play and Object, The Ernst Busch University of Dramatic Art, Berlin
  • Bachelor Puppetry and Animation, Institute of the Performing Arts, State University of Music and the Performing Arts, Stuttgart
  • School of Visual Theatre, Jerusalem

Theatre companies and institutions

  • Continuo Theatre, Malovice, Czech Republic
  • Società Svizzera di Studi Teatrali
  • Society for Artistic Research
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