Thursday, May 10, 2007

Trouble in Mind

The production of Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress inherently has underlying characteristics of racism and prejudice simply due to the time period in which it was writen. It was created in 1955, during the introduction of the Civil Rights Movement, which explains some of the racially motivated refrences throughout the play. I found it particularly interesting to see how all of the white actors and white director interpret this play as a portrayal of the positive influence associated with racial integration and tolerance within their society. On the other hand, most of the black actors clearly disagree with the presence of a positive influence incorporated in the message sent to the audience. For example, the black actors are playing roles that could be depicted as stereotypical roles, almost subserviant ones, that clearly establish their secondary place in society. The message defining differences in racial class is illustrated by the actions of the characters in the play Trouble in Mind because we gain a "behind the scenes" look at the 1955 production of the play within the play. The character development and relationships formed throughout Trouble in Mind show the true to life racial tensions experienced during this point in time between whites and blacks.

Joe Turner's Come and Gone

After reading Sandra L. Richards' article, Yoruba Gods on the American Stage: August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, I realized that my previous reading of "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" by August Wilson had barely scratched the surface of its meaning within the different layers of the plays complexity. According to Richards, there are distinctive "elements of memory and desire" that are central to Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Set in 1911 at the time of the Great Migration, there was an overwhelming presence of racial inequality and prejudice instilled in society that still has an immediate impact on contemporary society and culture. In relation to Richards' claim about elements of memory and desire, I've found it plausible to account Loomis' rejection of the Juba to his unwillingness to return to his memories and past experience as a slave working for Joe Turner. Loomis' search for indepence is fueled by his desire to escape from his unwanted past yet there are deeply seeded factors within his past that won't allow him to disconnect without somehow becoming severly displaced.

Questions of Rosmersholm

Really, there are a lot of questions concerning Rosmersholm, the most obvious being that of; what is the deal with Beata? All of the main characters hint and allude to her “spirit”, which seems to be almost interchangeable with the white horses, yet never expressly reference a spirit. They claim that there are horses but never directly see them. Also, I was confused about the letter. I wondered why the key piece of the puzzle was introduced if it was never to be read? I mean, I know that’s the effect Ibsen was going for but it remained a question in my mind never the less. Also, I got a bit tripped up on the past of Rebecca, her childhood and such. I know, of course, that there was some big secret in her past that John forbade her to reveal and that in itself is another question. Ambiguity leads to a lot of questions and, in this context, it just didn’t do it for me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Catastrophe Performance

Catastrophe by Samuel Beckett was written in 1982. The play holds a political theme while also being a sort of biography of the life of Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright that was sent to prison. Regardless of the interpretation of Catastrophe when it is performed Beckett wanted the protagonist to be a martyr rather than a victim of sacrifice and conformity. My groups chose to use a modern day example of oppression. The stage was set where instead of having the protagonist be a prisoner we had him in a business suit, a young college graduate who was ready to work to make it to the top. However, as the play goes on the director, the boss and “the Man” striped the protagonist of his dreams and privacy to break him down into a 9-5 machine. The assistant was the one doing the bidding of the director, this was an essential action for her to retain her own job, although she did not agree with all his ideals.

Trouble in Mind

Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress was written in 1955 at the beginning of the civil rights movement. Throughout the play there is a conflict between the director and actors. The play is partly centered on equality for African Americans and how they maintain their individuality while supporting their race as a collective. Chaos in Bellville is a melodrama, Meta-theatre (Play within a Play) and a Microcosm (Smaller version of Something Larger). Al Manners, the director manipulates the actors to become one with their character. Manners takes a dictatorship approach to having progress on the stage. The two characters that are at odds most frequent are Willetta Mayer and Manners. Manners views himself as superior and demands that Willeta should pick up a crumbled piece of paper, which he threw on the ground for the purpose of having her pick it up. Since the play takes place in 1955 and judging by Manner’s actions, it is not a stretch to think that he may be racist and resent African American actors getting jobs almost equal to whites in the theatre.


Rosmersholm brings a unique characteristic to the theatrical world. The play has the ability to take on two different meanings that the audience gets to decide. The whole production is centered on the death/suicide of John Rosmer’s wife Beata. The conflict that the audience deals with is throughout the performance evidence Beata’s suicide is presented but it can also be used as clues to connect a character on the stage with her murder.

Through my own interpretation of the play I believe that Mr. Rosmer murdered his wife and left calculated clues to make it appear to be a suicide. I think that it was a combination of the idea of being with Ms. West and his desire to start life fresh that drove him to push her from the footbridge into the millrace. New ideas, new personal faith, and a need to go out with the old and in with the new are key motives for Beata to be murdered by her husband. Yet, it is possible that Mrs. Rosmer never actually jumped from the millrace because nowhere in the play does it mention someone seeing her fall or her body ever being discovered. Lastly, I believe that in the final scence when Mrs. Helseth looks out the window and see Mr. Rosmer and Ms. West jumping from the footbridge into the millrace she claims that the “dead wife-she has taken them.” I do not see this as a physical pulling into the water by Beata but a self-conviction by John Rosmer admitting his guilt for having murdered Beata. The final combination of denial, purposeful diabolical bits of evidence to clear his name, and his desire to keep religion at an arms length can only be solved through Mr. Rosmer’s jumping into the river to cleanse his sins.


The concept of realism in theatre is an attempt made by the author and producer of a production to make the plot of a play the least complex and artificial as possible. The goal of those composing the play based on realism strive to achieve is an atmosphere and interaction among the characters that objectively depicts a reality which the audience can closely relate to. To accomplish this the settings, rhetoric, and environment the play are set in frame a natural environment based on the concept that life is shaped by our social acquaintances and physical environment.

The discussion of the term realistic is slightly more ambiguous. For something to be realistic it must be an exact, or as close as possible, replica of the original situation or object. However, I do not believe that these criteria are contingent upon the other to for something to be realistic.

Melodrama, the use of music with drama to elicit emotions, has a deep history in theatrical performances like opera. Today it can be seen daily in courtroom drama TV shows and action movie series. The best use of melodrama I have seen in the last year was a montage in the movie Babel by Alejandro Gonzalez. For about five minutes the movie explored a plethora of emotions through the use of music and action scenes. The realism in this sketch was overwhelmingly, which helped contribute to my heightened desire to pay attention. Although I knew that these were unlikely situations for me to find myself in, I found them to be highly plausible and realistic.

Talley's Folly

Talley’s Folly, a love story of passions, dreams, and uncertainty is set in picturesque Lebanon, Missouri. It is July 4th, 1944 and Matt Friedman, played by Michael Brahce, appears from a door located on upstage-left. He has just stepped on a dock that has been in the Talley family for generations. Matt prefaces the play with his anticipations on how the performance should take place stylistically, “like a waltz”. He predicted that the moving parts should flow smoothly and with certainty. Mr. Friedman helps coax the imagination into believing that we are in the scene and completely removes the concept of the invisible fourth wall. He states that he will perform on the dock while we are all regrettably stuck in the lake water. Occasionally we are graced with the presence of some forties swing music coming from across the lake. The opening monologue had a unique characteristic of verbatim repetition. It was performed twice in a row, only faster the second time. Using the reason of wanting those audience members who entered late to have heard what was just said, Matt is now viewed as a loveable and personal character from the beginning. The unique introduction had me entranced from the beginning of the play.

Joe Turner's Come and Gone

In August Wilson’s lifetime he strived to be an advocate for Black Empowerment. His greatest accomplishment is ten plays based on social and religious progression that outlines ten different decades. Upon reading Joe Turner’s Come and gone I felt intrigued to discover Wilson’s original intentions for the symbolism. I find it intriguing in Sandra Shannon’s article, “The Good Christian’s Come and Gone”, how she makes the astute observation that Wilson is trying to biblically justify black oppression. Through Wilson’s depiction of strong black agnostic men he is able to show us how a judgmental majority can have long term effects on the less influential minority. Shannon uses the story of Job to illustrate how some individuals are punished whether they have done something to deserve it or not. Job was punished by God to show the Devil how faithful Job was and how much undeserving punishment he could handle. The distinct difference between Job and African Americans that Shannon describes is Job was consistently faithful and through his lifetime did not resent God. I believe it is the creation of African Americans as a subculture which generations experienced that made it almost impossible to overcome social and political boundaries.

Vagina Monologues

Well this was certainly an interesting, and shocking piece. Shocking in that it delivered exactly what I expected it to, which is indeed an all-together different type of shock. I think as a male, it’s hard to assess the piece. Well, at least as a inartistic male. While I do believe that the message is powerful, I’m not sure that the way in which is presented is the most tactful. Now I know that’s exactly the point of it, the shock-factor is very purposeful and no doubt meant to draw extreme focus to its ultimate message of female empowerment but I just can’t get away from how socially crude and atypical it was. It almost seemed like shocking for the sake of shock, which, to me, takes away from its truly important message. Those monologues that utilized humor were more meaningful to me because they took such a serious issue and removed some of the taboo nature gently so that the core idea was what stuck out. Also, it’s not as though I feel like the vagina, sex or any of those things are taboo and should never be discussed in such a setting, but I’m realistic to know that such schemas exist in today’s society. That while denotatively these issues are a fundamental part of human, and specifically female, experience, one still must take into account the connotative, social aspect which is still one that may not respond so well to this type of subject matter.

Purpose of Theatre

Theatre is textbook defined as the occasion that is made up of an actor(s), pretend character(s), and the audience. First, the actors do their best to attempt to portray themselves as a character different from their original personality. The actor must capture and maintain the audience’s attention while constructing a perfect performance. The audience chooses what to watch, whether to attend, and how to respond the performance. Throughout the performance the actor and audience are fully aware of each other, which gives both parties power to the final interpretation and direction of the play. Theatre as a means of rehearsed action in our everyday lives takes three forms. First, daily we try to convey a certain message through our actions and words. Secondly, when a community is attempting to convey a unified message it is necessary to be concise. Examples would be rituals such as weddings and graduations. Lastly, thespians give a professional performance that is well-rehearsed and designed to play to certain emotions of the audience.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Play reviews

The Shawl by David Mamet
Character list:
John- a man in his fifties
Miss A- a woman in her late thirties
Charles- a man in his thirties
Summary: Miss A goes to John for advise in the form of a séance. John pretends like he is psychic in cohorts with him is Charles.

-life to stage life

Shakespear in Love movie directed by John Madden
Tagline: A Comedy About the Greatest Love Story Almost Never Told

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson
Seth Holley, owner of the boardinghouse
Bertha Holly, his wife
Bynum Walker, rootworker
Rutherford Selig, a peddler or sellsman the people finder
Jeremy Furlow, a resident looking for companionship
Herald Loomis, a resident the main character who is in search for his wife after they got separated due to Joe Turner capturing him and turning him into a slave. He now travels with is daughter
Zonia Loomis, his daughter
Mattie Campbell, a resident
Reuben Scott, a boy who live next door and plays with Zonia
Molly Cunningham, a resident that ends up hooking up with Jeremy
Martha Loomis, wife of Herald
Summary: people who travel stop to live a the boarding house. The people finder find Heralds wife. 2 important scenes stage directions The Juba in Act 1 Scene 4 and Act 2 scene 5 when Herald meets his wife cuts himself then more interesting stage directions

-identity and playwrights vision

Talley’s Folley
Sally Talley
Matt Friedman

Trouble In Mind by Alice Childress (Play with in a play Catastrophe or Trouble in Bellville about voting rights in 1955)
Al Manners- director who at first conceals his true racist feelings but in the end explodes because of Wiletta constant antagonizing.
Wiletta Mayer- plays the mother that gives her son up to be lynched. But she as an actress wrestles with this part because it is no something she would do in real life and she gets into it with the director pushing him to show his true colors

John Nevins- plays character that is about to get lynched because he rallies blacks to vote. In real life is a young and inexperienced actor
Millie Davis-
Sheldon Forrester
Judy Sears
Eddis Fenton- stage manager, young aspires to be like Manners
Bill O’Wray- celeb in the play, director tries to get him to socialize with other actors
Summary: A play to make people aware of social injustices

-actors vs. directors collective and individualism

And The Soul Shall Dance by Wakako Yamauchi
Murata, 40 Issei farmer
Hana, 35 Issei farmer’s wife of Murata
Masako, 11 nisei daughter of Murata’s
Oka, 45 Issei farmer married to the crazed Emiko has a daughter that wants to come live with him. He neglects his wife and give all she has to his daughter.
Emiko- wife of Oka goes crazy because how her husband treats her and because he settle for her after sister dies. She ends up going crazy singing then leaving.
Kiyoko, 14 Oka’s daughter from first wife was staying with grandparent in Japan

Fires In The Mirror by Anna Deavere Smith
It is a play composed of different people accounts of statements of events in Crown Heights. “The central theme of Fires in the Mirror is the racially motivated anger and violence in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the early 1990s. From the many perspectives in Smith's play, the reader is able to piece together a representative variety of emotions that blacks and Lubavitcher Jews felt toward each other. The play also provides many contradictory descriptions of the violence that resulted from these emotions, which helps flesh out the truth of the historical events.”
Rain- Al Sharpton interview
“When Smith performs her play, she acts in the role of each interviewee, embodying his/her voice and movements, and expressing his/her message and personality. These perspectives combine to form a profound explanation of the conflicts between the different Crown Heights communities. Smith examines many of the historical causes of the situation, many of the racial theories that help to explain it, and a broad variety of opinions on the events and people involved, in order to come closer to the truth about what happened and why. Her play, which is the thirteenth part of her unique project On the Road: A Search for the American Character combines journalism and drama in order to examine not just the racial tension and violence in Crown Heights, but much broader themes, including racial, religious, gender, and class identity, and the historical conflict between these communities in the United States. ”
Seven Verses
“The first speaker in "Seven Verses" is Professor Leonard Jeffries, who describes his involvement in Roots, the classic book and then television series about the slave trade. Letty Cottin Pogrebin argues in the next scene that blacks attack Jews because Jews are the only racial group that listens to them and views them as full human beings. Minister Conrad Mohammed then outlines his view of the terrible historical suffering by blacks at the hands of whites, stressing that blacks, and not Jews, are God's chosen people.
In the scene "Isaac," Letty Cottin Pogrebin reads a story about her mother's cousin, who participated in Nazi gassing in order to survive the Holocaust. Robert Sherman then contends that the English language is insufficient for describing and understanding race relations.”

-approach to characters
-constructing encounters

Catastrophe by Samuel Beckett
D- director
A- assistant
P- protagonist
L- Luke in charge of lighting

Rent by Jonathan Larson (“based on La bohème which is an opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini. The plague of Puccini's opera, is replaced by AIDS in Rent; 1800s Paris is replaced by New York's East Village in the late 1900s. The names and identities of Rent's characters also heavily reflect Puccini's original characters”
Mark Cohen, a struggling documentary filmmaker, the narrator of the show and the person who creates a final movie which details his friends' lives and journeys throughout the story.
Roger Davis, an HIV-positive musician who is recovering from heroin addiction; Mark's roommate and Mimi's love interest
Tom Collins, a philosophy teacher and anarchist with AIDS; friend and former roommate of Roger, Mark, Benny, and Maureen; Angel's love interest.
Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III, landlord of Mark, Roger and Mimi's apartment building; ex-roommate of Mark, Collins, Roger, and Maureen. Now married to Alison Grey of the Westport Greys and thus considered a yuppie sell-out.
Joanne Jefferson, a Harvard-educated lawyer; Maureen's lover
Angel Dumott Schunard, a drag queen street percussionist/musician with AIDS; Collins' love interest.
Mimi Marquez, an HIV-positive pole-dancer and heroin junkie; Roger's love interest
Maureen Johnson, a performance artist; Joanne's girlfriend; Mark's ex-girlfriend.

Looking For Richard by Robert Dinero
-love and lust
-how to approach text

Rosmersholm by Henrik Ibsen
-melodrama and realism

What I've Learned from Theatre

Subject:Besides the technical language that is associated with this art form I have learned to see theatre in a new light. The depth and intricacies of theatre and how people manipulate it to portray a certain image or complicate it for a viewers own interpretation. Reading Joe Turner's Come and Gone, I learned that identity and collectivity are some of the themes for plays with such sensitive social aspects. Also, the intricacies of stage direction and how a director can take multiple perspectives in a play and decipher and disconnect all these view within one another. In Fires in the Mirror I learned the power of an an actor and how she can use her talent to convey such profound and insightful monologues in the times of social unrest. From RENT I learned that life portrayed in the way of song can have a profound meaning because the melody is meant make the meaning more powerful. After watching Looking for Richard I discovered the importance of authenticity and realism in the process of interpreting text, as well as the diversity in the nature of theatre. All the plays we studied this semester have placed entertainment in a new light, no longer will I just watch a show or a movie absent minded, but I will think about the work and interpretation that put in to create the mise-en-scene that I am watching.

Plays Read and Seen Throughout the Semester

The Shawl was written by David Mamet and depicts a character, John, living an everyday life. This shows the realism that theatre can portray. Miss A feels the need throughout to be controlled.

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone was written by August Wilson. It is set in 1911. The study of the play is in how the Juba is displayed. It is shown both in pieces and its entirety. The play questions identity and our search to find our own. Loomis is trying to find his own identity and spirituality after becoming a freed slave. This play helps describe African Americans background is relation to oppression. The character list includes:

  • Seth Holly, a owner of a boarding house
  • Bertha, Seth’s wife
  • Herold Loomis was the main character who cut himself at the end of the production. This symbolized pouring ones own blood as an act of purification.
  • Martha Loomis was his wife
  • Zonia Loomis was his daughter
  • Each character has their own unique song

Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress was written in 1955 at the beginning of the civil rights movement. Throughout the play there is a conflict between the director and actors. The play is partly centered around equality for African Americans and how they maintain their individuality while supporting their race as a collective. Chaos in Bellville is an melodrama, Meta-theatre (Play within a Play) and a Microcosm (Smaller version of Something Larger) The Characters include

  • Wiletta Mayer
    • One of the main characters who is often uneasy taking stage directions from her boss Al Manners
  • Henry
    • The Irish stagehand who provides some relief from frustration throughout the play.
  • John Nevins
    • One of the only educated black actors
  • Millie Davis
  • Sheldon Forrester
    • A thesbian veteren and easily grabs the attention of the audience through his wisdom.
  • Judy Sears
    • A young inexperienced white actress
  • Al Manners
    • The white director who is often bossy and internally struggling with giving African Americans power to think freely.
  • Eddie Fenton
    • The stage manager
  • Bill Owray
    • The famous white actor that will help bring in the crowds.

Fire in the Mirror by Anna Deavere Smith was based on interviews she conducted following the 1991 Crown Heights Riot in New York. It is based on the racial conflict amongst minorities fighting for equal rights, particularly African-Americans and Jews. Fire in the Mirror attempts to answer questions about racial politics and multiculturalism.

Carmel Cato was the father of the African American boy that was riding his bike when he was hit by the Jewish driver.

Catastrophe by Samuel Beckett was written in 1982. The play holds a political theme while also being a sort of biography of the life of Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright that was sent to prison. Regardless of the interpretation of Catastrophe when it is performed Beckett wanted the protagonist to be a martyr rather than a victim of sacrifice and conformity.

Rent’s music and lyrics were written by Jonathan Larson and opened in 1996. The term “rent” can also mean to be torn apart. This musical is atypical with its style of music. The style of music in this play is rock but unlike the rock genre individual songs this play provides a storyline of depth and allows characters to converse on top of each other. Also known as Polyphony, multiple voices simultaneously singing different things. The characters include:

  • Mark Cohen is a white underground filmmaker in his mid 20’s.
    • He is the narrorator and creates a movie as the end result of his experiences.
  • Roger Davis is the suave leader of a rock band with a gritty sound
    • Has HIV and is recovering from a heroin addiction.
    • He is Mark’s roommate.
  • Tom Collins is an African American who is a philosopher, anarchist, and aids activist. He is also Angel’s boyfriend
  • Roomate of Roger, Mark, Benny, and Maureen.
  • Benjamin Coffin III, Benny is an African American who has gone from the projects to riches
    • Landlord of the apartment building.
  • Joanne Jefferson is an African American lesbian that graduate from Harvard Law School
  • Angel Dumott Schunard is a male drag queen in her 20’s
  • Mimi Marquez is a latina in her 20’s drug addict with aids
  • Maureen Johnson is a supporting actress with a young and hip attitude
  • Joanne’s girlfriend and Mark’s ex

Rosmersholm was written by Henrik Ibsen in 1886. The play is based around a claim of physical evidence by the characters to explain the death of Beata but the audience never sees any of the discussed evidence. This play contains melodrama and realism. The audience must continuously translate the actions on stage. The characters included:

  • John Rosmer
    • Is a former clegy man that is influenced by Rebecca to give up his religious views. He is also the owner of Rosmersholm
  • Beata
    • Was John Rosmer’s wife who “committed Suicide”
  • Rebecca West
    • Is a resident of Rosmersholm and has a great deal of influence of John Rosmer
  • Professor Kroll
    • Is John Rosmers brother in-law and the headmaster of the local school house
  • Ulrik Brendel
    • Was a previous tutor of Rosmers
  • Peter Mortensgaard
    • A publisher of a local political newspaper
  • Mrs. Helseth
    • Is the housekeep at Rosmersholm

Talley’s Folly was written in 1979 by Landford Wilson. It takes place in a boathouse in Missouri during 1944. The characters, Matt Friedman and Sally Talley, unfold their web of distrust and uncertainty

Vagina Monolouges was written by Eve Ensler in 1996. The play attempts to talk about a taboo subject and educate the audience.

Looking for Richard is a documentary that debuted in 1996 and stared Al Pacino. It served as an examination at Shakespeare’s writing style and his continuing influence in popular culture. Pacino plays both Richard III and himself. The documentary interviews fellow actors working on the project, civilians, and Shakespeare scholars. The movie shows the process characters go through to become believable.

Shakespear in Love hit movie theaters in 1998 and was directed by John Madde, and written by Tom Stoppard. While watching the movie the audience must be able to suspend disblief for authenticity and accuracy. The audience must also make the distinction between love and lust.


  • Theater
    • The word comes from the Greek word meaning theatron, to see or place of seeing
    • A building with a stage designed for live public performances
    • Subculture of artists and craftspeople who spend their ives in the business of “adult Make-believe”
    • Theatrical art
      • Art of telling stories by performing them for an audience.
    • An exchange of information on the occasion of an event
  • Theatre occasion is made up of the Actor, pretend character and audience member
    • A = actor X = Character S = audience member
  • Ephemeral
    • There is nothing left of the performance once it has been preformed
    • Traces of the event remain, mostly in the memory, but event has vanished.
  • Mimesis
    • Representation or an imitation of an event
  • Most distinguishable characteristic of drama is the use of dialogue
  • Natyasastra wrote in 100 AD that “the purpose of theater is to be a mind altering drug” which helps the audience escape from reality.
  • Oscar Brockett discusses the three questions about a performance
    • Understanding
      • What were they trying to do?
    • Effectiveness
      • How well do they do what they were trying to do?
    • Worth
      • Was it worth doing, my time, and what about it is worth doing?
  • We read a critics essay to:
    • Findout more about the performance and background of a play
    • Gain insight to know purpose and meaning
    • Hear an opinion as a judgment or argument
  • Phenomenology and Semiotics
    • Realistic drama help audience get “through” the work
    • Reactualist drama wants to look “at” the work
  • Two models for How Directors direct
    • Top Down Model “Authority”
      • Stage Picture
      • Process
      • Artists
    • Collaboration: bottom up organization of the artists themselves.
  • The actor is her own instrument made up of
    • Body
    • Voice
      • Mood and tone
    • Thought
      • Imagination, memory, intelligence.
    • Discipline
      • Observation, control, style
  • 4 approaches between director and text
    • Transcription
      • Take script to be literal meaning of the writer
    • Translation
      • Translate spirit while staying true to the text
    • Transformation
      • Reshape material as seen fit
    • Transcend
      • Invent in the medium of the stage
      • Write in the Mis-en-scene
  • Director’s relationship with the team
    • Partnership (Saxe-Meiningen)
    • Auteur/Visionary (Wilson)
    • Collective (Brook, Lecompte)
    • Playwright (Mamet)
  • Power in the theatre comes from the director, actor, and audience.
    • Director controls the image and actors in a way they see will seduce the audience
    • The actor must capture and maintain the audience’s attention while constructing a perfect performance.
    • The audience chooses what to watch, whether to attend, and how to respond the performance.
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  • Lozze
    • Bits and pieces of a sketch spoken at moments notice
  • “Utile ed dulce”
    • to delight and inform
  • Mythos
    • Art of building a myth.
  • Mis-en-scene
    • The overall feeling of the performance
  • Saxe-Minagan
    • Using stage direction and picture to make a direct reflection on life events
  • Agon
    • Root of protagonist
    • Means struggle or game
  • Tragic hero
    • Character divided against themselves and are reason for their own demise
  • Melodramatic Hero
    • May die but for a noble cause from outside forces.
  • Subtext
    • An example of inner-monolouge
  • Realism
    • Theater rejecting romantacism and speaks with natural, unforced, style of language
    • Way of looking at world with measurable qualities
  • Guesanvert
    • The total work of art, from Vaugner
  • Melodrama
    • Drama with music that accompaniew the text. Often a clear sense of good v. evil from iconic clues.
  • Exstasis
    • Out of body experience. Pleasure or pain, physical or emotional.
  • Life Lie
    • Often an unspoken.
  • Special Lighting
    • Area accented by lights for a particular reason
  • General Lighting
    • Lights that light the whole action area

Important Terms in Theatre

Key Terms:

Theatre: theatron, which means “to see” or “place of seeing”. It’s a building or a stage designed for live public performances. The theatre is a subculture of artists and craftspeople who spend their lives in the business of “adult make-believe”. It’s a noun and verb, as well as both culture & subculture. EQUATION: A (actor) pretends to be X (Character) while S (Spectator) looks on.

What (Live) Theatre includes: Reality (time, place and people), occasion and action. Ephemerality, nothing left of the work of art itself, traces remain, but the event itself is vanished. Mimesis, has representation and imitation.

A Critics Basic Questions: Oscar Brockett
Understanding: “What were they trying to do?” ex. Vagina Monologues
Effectiveness: “How well did they do it?”
Worth: “Was is worth doing?”

Why do we read a critics essay? To find out more about the performance, to share the experience with someone who hasn’t seen it and should or not see it. To gain some insight and to hear another person’s opinion.

What is the nature of the performance? Not a summary of events, but an account of the experience.

What is distinctive about this performance?

What leaves an impression?

What’s the story and how has it been told? Understanding what’s the story and what the performance is trying to tell.

How is the performance done?
Acting: how have particular characters been constructed?
Design: how has the environment been constructed?
Direction: What’s the overall sense of mise-en-scene? That which you perceive in the theatre.

What is distinctive about this performance? How are the choices difference from other choices you have seen, or choices that might have you have made?

How well has the company done? Is the story effective in its own terms.

How Successful is the performance?
Technical Judgment: effective choices, distracting errors
Aesthetic Judgment: is the story worth telling?
Personal Opinion

Directors: looks at the whole picture as opposed to an actors one part. He looks at the mise-en-scene, the whole of the audiences’ perception and this is his medium. There are two models of controlling elements: authority—top down control of the stage picture, collaboration—bottom-up organization of the artists. Approaches to the Play:
1. Transcription: “I render the playwrights vision faithfully “on stage”.
2. Translation: “I translate the spirit of the play to the stage”
3. Transformation: “I transform and re-shape source material to create a new play” mostly true of film and Shakespearean plays.
4. Transcend: “I invent in the medium of the stage” eliminates the playwright

Relationships with the Team: 1. Partnership
2. Auteur/Visionary
3. Collective
4. Playwright/composer
Melodrama: music accompanying dialogue it is a technique used to intensify the emotional pace of a play.

Two Theatrical Approaches: Phenomena (observation, AT, real concrete)
Semiotics (interpretation, through)

Catastrophe reading

Reading Catastrophe on my own, I was suprised that such a short play was performed in front of an audience. I also thought that people would take time to travel to the theatre in hopes of spending at least 45 minutes to an hour there in order for it to be worth it. As far as the play goes, the director seemed kind of like an ass and more superior than his assistant. This was especially evident when he repeatedly asked her to light his cigar for him.
When I met with my group to prepare for a staged reading, we did a little background research. We found out that we could stage this to where the director and the assistant would be dressed in military like costumes and would be examining a prisoner. We added some lines in a few places, such as when the assistant tells luke what to do with the lights in technical terms. We also added in towards the end of the play where the director says, "there's our catastrophe". After that line we added: "the perfect citizen". From our research we found that this play was written before the fall of the Soviet Union in order to describe what they felt was the "perfect citizen".


Reading of Catastrophe

When first introduced to the script of Catastrophe, I was very excited because it was so short. My first thoughts were is this it, is there another piece missing? I quickly skimmed the play and realized that it didn’t make any since to me at all. Then Dr. Everist announced that we would be divided into groups and we would perform a stage reading of the script for the other members of the class. I soon became worried. The next class period we came back and evaluated the play. Just like every other script we had read, it began to come clear. All of the stage directions in the play made it hard to read but they provide excessive detail to the mood and actions of the characters. They didn’t make since at all until we did our first read through as a group. After we read through it twice, we began to make decisions on who would play who and how we were going to do it. We decided to do more research. I found out that the play was just one of a series of short plays written by the author. This was written for an acquaintance of his who was imprisoned for writing plays deifying the government. It was written before the fall of the Soviet Union and was written to describe “the perfect citizen.” Words that we added in to the script for our stage reading, to add that element of the time period to the performance.

Defining Theatre

The first things that comes to mind when I think of the world theatre, is a building where you go to see plays in particular. After some brief research, you discover that the world theatre just involves a place where some dramatic performance takes place. This I found interesting. I began to wonder what classifies something as a dramatic performance. When I think of the word drama, I instantly think of the word conflict. A conflict between two people speaking to one another. So a theatre is a place to go see conflict. Class notes state that theatre is a place where people can go to express themselves. That makes since. Expression is a huge part of theatre, but is it self expression or expression of another character. Yet another reason we cant put an exact definition on the word theatre.

Joe Turner's Come and Gone

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone was written by August Wilson in the 1950’s. On the surface it addresses the issues felt by black people after the abolition of slavery. However, it also deals with connecting your heritage with the person that you have become. There are both Christian and non-Christian beliefs expressed by the characters in Wilson’s play. Herald Loomis is the stranger that comes to Seth’s boarding house on his path to finding his wife, Martha. Herald cuts his own skin to symbolize that he is the one who can save himself. Bynum believes there is some type of salvation to be found in Herald because he believes that he is the “shinny man” that his father once told him to look out for. He asks a man named Selig to help him find the shinny man. Selig may or may not be given credit for finding the shinny man, but he does reunite Martha and Herald. Over the course of events the characters learn about themselves as well as how to be part of this new make shift family in the boarding house.
References: and also articles assigned in class.

I did not attend this years production of the Vagina Monologues so I can not write a review about that specific performance. However, I did attend the production last year. The thing that I remember the most is wondering how well the production was accomplishing its goal. One goal is obviously to raise money to help support victims of domestic violence. The other is to educate people about domestic violence issues. I feel like they did a good job of reaching the female viewers but not as good with the males. To me the production should try to educate males because I think that we as a group are less aware of those type of issues. The play was so up front and in your face that I feel like it alienated a lot of men within the first few minutes of the performance.

Fires in the Mirror

Fires in the Mirror was written by Anna Deavere Smith. She performs this as a one woman show in which she plays every single part. Anna Deavere Smith was involved in researching the vocal style and speech patterns when the Crown Heights riots began. Most of the monologues in Fires in the Mirror revolve around the problems caused by race issues between Lubavitch people and blacks. The catalyst for the riots was the death of Gavin Cato, a young black boy who was run over by a Jewish man. Later that night a Jewish man named Yankel was murdered; many people thought it happened specifically because he was Jewish. The main characters in this production are Reverend Al Sharpton, Gavin Cato’s father, and Yankel’s brother. This play addresses not only race issues, but issues about how people relate to other people. Smith got to know the people she interviewed by studying their speech patterns, clothing, and habits.

Staged Reading Performance

I had never been a part of any performance before the staged reading of Catastrophe. I didn’t really know how to approach the text, but my group helped out a lot. We decided to go with a stripped down version of the play. We performed the script verbatim, and we also matched the stage directions as closely as possible. Other groups read the stage directions out loud, however, we felt that reading the directions would only serve as a distraction from the play. Compared to the other groups, I think that we had the simplest performance, but their readings were very good as well. The interpretations differed from group to group and it was fun to see the different acts. After performing the piece, I had a new found respect for anybody in the acting business. Overall, I enjoyed the experience of the staged reading, however, I am no hurry to do one again soon!

What does one get from theatre?

I know that when I go to a theatrical performance, I plan to be entertained. I feel that the level of entertainment varies for the skill level of the viewer. Skill level relates to spectating a theatrical performance just as it does any other activity. The more you do it, the better you get at it. When I go to a theatre, I like to watch the play and be entertained by good actors playing believable roles. People who study theatre and have been involved in it for years, tend to search for underlying meanings, metaphors, etc. This type of viewing comes with time. The great thing about theatre is how the performance can be put on for two people at the same time and they can take the meaning of it, or be entertained by it, in two different ways for two different reasons. That is why so many performers like theatre, over movies for example, because of all of the lose ends. Over the years, theatre has been used, not only for entertainment, but to spread views, entice revolutions, and provide ceremonies to ancient gods. What one expects to get out of theatre really lies in the mise en scene. The entire situation, from the point one gets in the car to head to the show, can influence ones perspective on what they are seeing

Joe Turner Come and Gone

After reading the play, I found the article very helpful. The article that I chose to read was “Yoruba Gods on the American Stage”. From the title, a gathered that Yoruba Gods have to do with African Heritage and that there aren’t many appearances of them in or on the American stage. Stated in the article, the two central themes that build throughout the entire play are desire and memory. These are two things that I didn’t specifically get out of my reading of the play. I thought about it and I remembered that the characters in the play told many stories to each other and shared numerous past experiences in order to explain who they were, where they had come from, and things they had seen. When I began thinking about he desires of these characters, I thought immediately of the people finder. It seemed that he was in business, because people had the desire to stay in touch with one another. With little knowledge of African heritage, I came to gather that as independent as they wanted to be, it was as a culture. They wanted to be free from their history. They also wanted to stick together, and it was through sharing these memories that they would do this.

Trouble In Mind

Upon my first reading of trouble in mind, I found it to be one of the easier plays that we read. It seemed to me just to be a script written to be performed just for sheer entertainment reasons. Upon further analyzing, this was far from the case. Trouble In Mind is a representation of the relationships between two specific races in the U.S. during the time-period that it was written. The more I read and took the play apart, the relationships between the characters were never quite right. The words that they spoke to each other, especially that of the director to the cast, never seemed like what people with respect for one another would say. The conversations, that appeared like line after line of meaningless words, represented one of the biggest problems America has ever faced, racism. Mr. Manners, the director, eventually tears the entire play apart upon his discovery of both sexist and racist feelings (that were previously unknown to him). One begins to wonder if these were really his feelings of if they were just “installed” in his head by his parents who raised him to believe certain things. Because he didn’t know he felt this way, and it didn’t ever seem intentional, this was probably the case.

Talley's Folly Review

In making observations for my review of Talley’s Folly, I looked at the work of the actors, looking particularly for the amount of thought that they put into creating their characters. There were only two characters that appeared for the play Matt Friedman, played by Michael Brahce and Sally Talley, played by Averie Bell. Michael used an inside-out approach to create an accent that kept me interested in the play. It was very creative and convincing. What was more impressive was that he had to maintain the accent for nearly two hours! Averie didn’t have to change anything about her, except she did have to show emotions. I didn’t think that she was very convincing playing her role. I thought that she could have been less of a bia and smiled more. Overall, I think the play showed that love conquers all, since Matt saw past Sally’s shortcomings and vise-versa.

Beauty and The Beast Review

My review of Beauty and The Beast tries to compare this performance with other performances I have seen. And in this case, the live version I saw has been the best as of the current date. Also, I noticed that the live version I saw was word for word with the animated Disney film. This allowed me to get two perspectives with the same storyline. The live version allows me to witness the raw emotions the actors portray…letting me come closer to the text. I also noticed that the music in the performance differed from the performances we saw for class this year. Most of the performances had background music and no songs, while Beauty and The Beast had no background music and a lot of songs. The songs acted as a bonding agent between the performance and the audience. Catchy songs stick with the audience and draw them nearer. I think this is what the director had in mind.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Overview of what I've learned

The Shawl by David Mamet: the con of theatre. Dialogue. The literature of theatre. Miss A and John. Miss A feels the need to be told what to do.
Trouble in Mind by ?: Wiletta Mayer – musician first. Frustrated. Henry – Irish stagehand. Old. John Nevins – educated black actor. Millie Davis. Sheldon Forrester – black actor. Been in the business a while. Has the moment of recollection that causes the crew to stop. Judy Sears – young inexperienced white actress. Al Manners – white director. Bosses everyone around and denies his racism. Eddie Fenton – stage manager. Bill O’Wray – famous white actor. Big name in the play. . Themes – conflict of actors and director. Collective but individual. Race. Melodrama. Meta-Theatre: Play within a play. Microcosm – smaller version of something larger.
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wison: Seth Holly – owner of boarding house. Bertha – his wife. Bynum Walker – rootworker. Everyone has their own song. Selig – white peddler. The “people finder.” Herold Loomis – main character. Revelation at the end cutting himself. Self-mortification of the flesh to purify sin. Shining like new money. Zonia Loomis – his daughter. Martha Loomis – his wife. Themes – collective identity. Stage complications in terms of the Juba – seeing the whole and its pieces at the same time – layers of meaning or “palimpsest.”
• Rent - Mark Cohen, a struggling documentary filmmaker, the narrator of the show and the person who creates a final movie which details his friends' lives and journeys throughout the story. Ex-Boyfriend of Maureen.
• Roger Davis, an HIV-positive musician who is recovering from heroin addiction; Mark's roommate and Mimi's love interest.
• Tom Collins, a philosophy teacher and anarchist with AIDS; friend and former roommate of Roger, Mark, Benny, and Maureen; Angel's love interest.
• Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III, landlord of Mark, Roger and Mimi's apartment building; ex-roommate of Mark, Collins, Roger, and Maureen. Now married to Alison Grey of the Westport Greys and thus considered a yuppie sell-out.
• Joanne Jefferson, a Harvard-educated lawyer; Maureen's lover; lesbian.
• Angel Dumott Schunard, a drag queen street percussionist/musician with AIDS; Collins' love interest.
• Mimi Marquez, an HIV-positive S&M dancer and heroin junkie; Roger's love interest
• Maureen Johnson, a performance artist; Joanne's girlfriend; Mark's ex-girlfriend
Not a typical musical. Idiom of music theatre. Role of music. Something a musical does that a rock song doesn’t – character’s goals are different. Ephemerality of life. Polyphony – multiple voices simultaneously singing the different things. “agon” from protagonist – struggle or game.
Rosmersholm: John Rosmer, a former clergyman and owner of Rosmersholm Rebecca West, a resident at Rosmersholm" Professor Kroll, Rosmer's brother-in-law. Ulrik Brendel. Peder Mortensgaard. Mrs. Helseth, housekeeper at Rosmersholm. Well made play or Scribean – depends on material evidence of which there is none in this play. White horses represent death. Ambiguity. Realism. Melodrama.
Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deavere Smith. Actor technique. Meansof communicating by presenting an encounter between those who might not otherwise interact.
Shakespear in Love – love and lust. Authenticity. Do I suspend my disbelief? During “what is theatre” portion.
Theatre: comes from Theatron – “to see” or “place of seeing.” Adj. and verb. Both the action and place. Subculture. The exchange of info on the occasion of an event. Actor pretends to be the character while the audience looks on or A pretends to be X while S looks on. A and S are fully aware of each other. Mimesis – representation, imitation. Reality – real place time and people. Audience is critical part. Only recently has theatre crowd differentiated itself from rock concert crowd. Ephemeral – nothing left of the actual event, only intangible recollections. Mimesis – representation and imitation.
Critics basic questions: Understanding – what were they doing? Effectiveness – How well? Worth – Was it worth doing? Why read a critics essay – find out more about the performance, to gain some insight (purpose, meaning), to hear an opinion (judgment, argument).
Phenomenology verses Semiotics: P – what happens on a basic level? Look at it. Real, concrete. S – big picture. Interpretation. Looking Through it.
Actor is own instrument – body voice thought imagination. Discipline observation control style. Key question the actor asks themselves – “WHAT IF?” Body, Voice, Thought, Discipline, observation, control – stimulate, recreate. Style. Creating a role: preparation – table work, read-through. Exploration – movement, blocking, speech, gesture, intonation, articulation. Memorization Performance.
MISE EN SCENE: director’s instrument. Cohesiveness of the play. The overall affect of the play as a whole.
Director: Transcription – loyal as possible to original text, faithful rendition. Translation – capture the spirit of the play, even if there is slight departure. Transformation – create a new play. Transcend – invent something new, known as “writing in the mise en scene.” Virtually eliminates the playwright. The script alone is inadequate as basis for other productions. Two styles. Authority – director envisions, everything else is to make that vision happen. Collaboration – opposite, process of input. Director controls the image and controls/seduces the actors. Seduces the audience. Roles: leader/observer, critic, disciplinarian, teacher, friend. Relationships with the team. 1. Partnership (saxe-meiningen) 2. Auteur/Visionary (wilson) 3. Collective (brook, LeCompte) 4. Playwright/Composer (mann, Mamet).
Melodrama: Drama with music. Accompanies the text. Current connotation” emphasis or intensification, often to excess. Melodramatic hero – fights circumstance. Clear good vs. evil. Black cars, bad guys in pursuit, etc. Tragic hero – role in their own destruction, divided against themselves.
Exstasis: out of body experience. Pleasure or pain, physical or emotional.
Realism: contrast to idealism. Movement in literature and theatre. In theatre, move to prose. Class conscious. Even if it’s reality, we want to see the extreme – a condensed reality. We look at it not through it.
Sturm and Drang: “storm and stress.” Perfect characters in perfect situations until this point. After we see imperfection in characters and content.
Dumbshow: brief, non-verbal summary of the play right before it, a synopsis.

What I've Learned from Theatre

Subject: Besides the technical language that is associated with this art form I have learned to see theatre in a new light. The depth and intricacies of theatre and how people manipulate it to portray a certain image or complicate it for a viewers own interpretation. Reading Joe Turner's Come and Gone, I learned that identity and collectivity are some of the themes for plays with such sensitive social aspects. Also, the intricacies of stage direction and how a director can take multiple perspectives in a play and decipher and disconnect all these view within one another. In Fires in the MirrorRENT I learned that life portrayed in the way of song can have a profound meaning because the melody is meant make the meaning more powerful. After watching Looking for Richard I discovered the importance of authenticity and realism in the process of interpreting text, as well as the diversity in the nature of theatre. All the plays we studied this semester have placed entertainment in a new light, no longer will I just watch a show or a movie absent minded, but I will think about the work and interpretation that put in to create the mise-en-scene that I am watching.

Theatre Arts Introduction overview

Theatre- the workload of an upper level pre-med class, but opened my eyes to things that I never would have noticed or learned if not for this class.

ecstasis- out of body experience. Being ripped apart from your body.
Theatre- a place to see or place of seeing. Comes from Greek word, Theatron
A Theatre- a building with stage. Both a noun and verb. Also both a culture and subculture.
Theatre Equation: A (actor) pretends to be X (character) while S (audience) looks
Live Theatre- reality- real time, people, and place
-ephemerality- traces remain, the event vanishes
Memesis- representation or imitation- we are always imitating something. key
element in A pretending to be X

The Critics Basic Question
-Understanding- "what were they trying to do?"
-Vagina Monologues good example
-Effectiveness- "How well did they do it?"
-Worth- "Was it worth doing?"
-Why do we need a critics essay?
-to find out more about the performance (background)
-to gain some insight (purpose, meaning)
-to hear an opinion (judgement, argument)

Two Theoretical Approaches
Phenomena: observation at real concrete stuff
Semiosis: interpretation- looking through-hyper real (imagined)

The actor is her own instrument:
-thought- imagination, memory, intelligence
-discipline- observation,control (actor is in control of what he does on stage- doing the same thing night after night), and style (doing the appropriate movement for a particular period or class)
-table work- engaging the text- primarily verbal

Creating a role: acting procedure- actor's extraordinary ordinariness- there's something extra that an actor does that lets you know they are present
-exploration- movement, gesture, business (stage business)
-speech- intonation (pitch), articulation (control of sound), speed (interupts a particular pace)
-memorization- regulatory, polish
-performance- previews, performance, maintaining the role

-mise en scene
-blocking- supports image of the action rather than just presence of performer
Directing: Approaches to play
-transcription- I render the playwright's vision faithfully (as possible) on stage
-translation- I translate the spirit of the play to the stage
-might depart from the playwright’s suggestions
-transformation- I transform and re-shape source material to create a new play
-today's motion picture
-some Shakespeare
-places far less emphasis on the script
-transcend- I invent in the medium of the stage; I write in the mise-en-scene
-virtually eliminates the playwright

-Music accompanying dialogue
-seen today as an intensification of a situation
-some use it today to describe someone who is overreacting
Trajic Hero- a role in his own destruction
-ex- Rebecca and rosmer are responsible for their own destruction- divided
Against themselves
-drawn in by circumstances
Melodramatic Hero- fighting the world around him-
-fighting evil
-good vs. evil
-outsides forces put them in
Differences between rock concert and musical such as rent
-conflict- agon- struggle or game- at the heart of theatre is a game
-multiple opinions- conflicting views- complex issues
-Polyphany- multiple voices singing at the same time
- takes you to an emotional place- is what enables conflict
-contrasting harmonies
-complex melodies


“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?”- Shakespeare in Love movie- all the actors auditioning for the part would perform this dialogue as Shakespeare listened, lying on the bench in the second tier of the globe.

“Cut, Cut, Cut” – Trouble in Mind- Mr. Manners throws down piece of paper and tells Willeta to pick it up- we looked at a video of this in class

“Last night I had a dream of cyber land” Maureen, Rent, by Jonathan Larson

“This is the winter of our discontent” – video from Richard III movie- talking about his plans of getting everything he wants, including the crown

“I can do things, see things” –Cato from Fires in the Mirror

Richard III:
The movie shows the process characters go through to become believable.

Shakespeare in Love:
While watching the movie the audience must be able to suspend disblief for authenticity and accuracy. The audience must also make the distinction between love and lust.

John Rosmer
Rebecca West
Professor Kroll
Ulrik Brendel
Peter Mortensgaard- publisher
Mrs. Helseth

-by Samuel Beckett
-Director, Assistant, Luke, protagonist

Fires in the mirror
-Carmel Cato
-Al Sharpton
-Rabbi Joseph Spielman- “What the liberals have told us all these years…”
-Ntozake Shange- “Identity is.. it’s a way of knowing that no matter where I put myself…”

The Shawl- by David Mamet
-Miss A

Some themes:
-SHAWL- everyday life
-JOE TURNER- plays relationship to identity- staging problems
-TROUBLE IN MIND- actor and director- individuals trying to find own identity- socially conscious theatre- aware of prolems
-RENT- music in theatre- it role- identity- living with constant reality of death
-ROSMERHOLM- ambiguity- melodrama and realism
-FIRES IN THE MIRROR- actor technique- approach to character- means of communication- try to understand each other
-SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE- love and lust- authenticity- realism
-LOOKING FOR RICHARD- encountering a text


Talley's Folley

The first time that I heard of Talley’s Folly, was in this class. We didn’t talk much about it beforehand so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I have only attended a handful of plays in my life and all that I have seen were performed on a stage. I was interested to see what this arena thing was all about. As we entered the arena we took our seats, soon after the performance began. The lights dimmed and a man came on stage. He began to perform his opening act, which was a little confusing at times (some of the things he said sounded like he was just talking rather than performing). As the play went on, we were introduced to the other character, a woman that he had a rather awkward relationship with, which was the basis of this 100 minute play.
As the play went on, we were taken on an emotional rolorcoaster with these two people who would for one minute be getting along and the next minute screaming. The opening act was very interesting and sticks out in my mind better than any other point in the play. It was a comical monologue that got the audience up to date with what was happening with the characters and a little bit of what was to come.
All in all I enjoyed the performance and I was very impressed with the skills of the actors. Holding character for that long and never getting a break is incredibly difficult. It was amazing to watch people my age performing at this skill level.

Trillogy of 3 Medieval Women

It was last Friday night and as usual I was running a few minutes late for the assigned play. This particular play was a performance of The Trilogy of Medieval Women. It was this time, however, that my tardiness actually played a role in my viewing of the show. As it turns out, this particular play was being performed in Spanish. The production did offer a special section of seats that had translating devices, but since I arrived late, it was already full. When the lights dimmed, the opening monologue began. It surprised me how many words I could understand, but as a whole how little sense I could make out of the play. When the opening monologue was over, it shocked me to hear the first sounds coming from behind me, especially since we were in Ida Green Theatre (with very steep seating). The actress slowly made her way down to the front of the theatre, singing and conversing with the actress on stage the entire way. I was also very interested with the fact that, even though I couldn’t understand the words, I could still hear when the actor broke her character. This has an amazing reliance on/in tone and the sound of her voice and even though I couldn’t recognize what she was saying, it was obvious when she made a mistake. It was for this reason that I was glad that I missed out on the English translation, because I was able to discover how important tone is in an actor’s voice.

Rosmersholm (reading)

When I first heard that we were going to read an entire play, I was discouraged to say the least. This was the first time that I had heard of Rosmersholm, by Henrik Ibsen, and I cant say that I was excited at all to read it. The more I read, the more confused I became. The class discussion did, however, clear things up. The term realism seems to be the theme of the play in the fact that the characters roles seemed to be that of the lives of everyday people. The character Rebecca West seemed to stick out in my mind the most. In the beginning of the play her role seemed subtle and harmless but as the play unfolds, she becomes entangled in a complicated web of lies that eventually end up with her suicide with John Rosmer. Another aspect of the script was the intricate detail that Ibsen provided. The amount of details provided almost made the script to hard to read. Every movement and everything that the characters were seeing was explained in the most complex fashion. The more I read the more I wanted to see how this would come into play when we actually got to see the play. Another issue that I noticed when comparing my thoughts of the play to that of the discussion was the since of eeriness that I couldn’t get out of reading the text. The majority of the class discussions were based on the fact that this was a “ghost story” if you will, and the entire time I was reading it, I never got that feeling.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What I learned in Theatre

Theatre Review

Theatron- to see or place of seeing (noun and verb)
A Theatre- a building with a stage designed for live and public performances
Theatrical Art- the art of telling stories by performing then for an audience (mythos – myth constructing)
The Theatre- a subculture of artist and crafts people who spend their lives in the business of “adult make believe.” (noun and verb; culture and subculture). An exchange of information on the occasion of an event.
The theatre equation-

A(actor) pretends to be --> X(character) is watched by --> S(spectator) is fully aware of each other and react to each other--> A(actor)

Phenomena: observations, looking at real concrete things

Semiosis: interpretation (hyper real, imagined.) Looking through and event that is literally there

-real time
-real place
-real people

-nothing left of the work of art itself
-traces remain, but event vanished
Mimesis (key element in A pretending to be X)

- What were they trying to do?
Effectiveness- How well did they do it?
Worth- Was it worth doing? Or What about it was worth doing or not doing?

*Control- being able to act something out being in control of themselves to where they can reproduce it every night

*Presence- extra ordinary ordinariness. How the present the work, includes costumes that require a particular kind of movement

*Movement (blocking)
>Business- careful or spontaneous actions

Mise en scene
- is the director’s medium in which he works everything perceived, in the experience of the audience ephemerality

- renders the playwright vision faithfully on stage
Translation- captures and uses the spirit of the playwright and transfers it to the stage
Transformation- transform and reshape source material to create a new play(film directors)
Transcend- inventing the medium of the stage, write in the mise en scene like Rosmer and Rebecca been seen walking off stage and Ulrik coming throught the window


Realism- actual events that could happen in real life realistic events
Melodrama- (resent definition) refers to people being extreme or over reacting (reality TV)
Melo” “drama”- drama with music or music accompanying dialogue
Tragic hero- a hero that is divided against himself, they destroy themselves. Suffers because of something they did. They are drawn by circumstance
Melodramatic hero- a hero that fights outside forces is good in nature and is usually dressed in white and has music that is in the major chords. The evil they fight is usually dressed in black and has music in a minor key.


Polyphany- music that takes you to an emotional place with multiple voices simultaneously singing. Enables conflict or AGON.
Agon- (a greek word stemming from protagonist) a struggle or game by means of polyphony.
EX: Rent


Catastrophe Staged Reading

When I first read Catastrophe, I did not truly understand the play. However, I gained a greater understanding after reading and rehearsing the play within my group, and I acquired an even more comprehensive understanding after seeing the other groups perform. What I found interesting within my own group was how deeply each character was discussed; we created a history of each character, even Luke. This made it much easier when we began to define the actions of the characters, why they said things a certain way, etc. I enjoyed watching the other groups perform because it was interesting to see the variety of ways in which the play was understood and portrayed. For instance, in the first group, I thought it was interesting how they really put forth emotions and kind of acted, instead of having someone read the stage directions. In the last group, I like the way the assistant had a sassy attitude, and I also appreciated the research they had done on the piece. Overall, it was truly a learning experience for me because I had never done a staged reading before or seen one performed.

Staged Reading Experience

Preparing for this staged reading was an interesting process for me because I have never been a part of the theatre arts as a participant. It was a cool experience to see us go through various ideas in developing our interpretation of the piece. I think we ended up with a very original and very interesting “final” product, in as much as a staged reading can be final. We bounced around several wild ideas in hopes of coming up with the “craziest” idea and therefore the best. However, I discovered that having that mindset served as a catalyst to open this play up to new ideas. In the course of our thinking we came up with the concept of the modern-day struggle and constriction of the lower middle-class, white collar worker. Our idea was that D and A were individuals who had gone through the system already and now served to lead others down the same path. We wanted P to start out confident and excited about the future, but by the end to be disenchanted with the reality of the life he so desperately sought. L was representative of the blue collar worker who exists mostly in the background as the infrastructure of the economic world.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The staged reading of Catastrophe was a new experience for me. I had not participated in a staged reading before. The biggest challenge was trying to find a modern day way to express what we saw in the play. We decided to use the idea of Capitalism. Jon (playing D) and Pamela (playing A) represented the system of capitalism, or “the man”. Both wore what would be considered typical business attire. We decided to have Jon wear a coat but to have Pamela go without one. This was to express the gap between men and women that often exists within the workplace today. Despite our progressive laws and societal ideals, it is often the case that men get preferential treatment over their female coworkers and occupy a higher percentage of top management positions. Mike (playing P) started out dressed like Jon to show that he was ready to take on the system. However throughout the play he became more and more disheveled to show that he was being beaten down by the system and was being taught to learn his place. I (playing L) was dressed in jeans and a work shirt to represent the blue collar workers who do not get recognition but without whom the system would not work.

Catastrophe was a very hard play to understand. I think that part of what made it difficult was the fact that it was so short. We have been trained by Hollywood to think that we should know all the details of a plot line by the time the story is finished. We are used to being presented with a problem and then in some way the problem is resolved by the end. In Catastrophe, we see that the problem is how to do the finishing scene in a play. D directs A on how to change the appearance of P to achieve his desired affect. In the end D is happy with the result and the “problem” such as it were, is solved. However this story is much different than the ones that we are used to. The problem stands alone. The audience has no clue about the context in which this problem exists, which is something that causes frustration to audiences who now expect to know the whole story.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I attended the Thursday evening performance of Rosmersholm. The experience actually turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Having previously read the text, and with the knowledge that the play would last over two and a half hours, I went in with low expectations for the evening. However, it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable, although lengthy, evening.

The cast did a wonderful job of holding my attention in a long, and at times very confusing, play. The character of Rebecca West, played by Christine Cunningham, was especially interesting to me. Ms. West was portrayed in a cold, calculating, way that I did not pick up on in the text. This attitude when contrasted against the gentle naivety of John Rosmer, played by Micah McCoy, provided an interesting perspective of how two people could start out so different from one another and yet still end up in the same place by the end of the play. The entire play was a very serious affair and could have been too much for the audience. However, Ulrick Brendel, played by Jon Glenn, provided a sense of levity and humor that kept the play from crossing the fine line between intense and depressing.

The show was also a success technically. The set was impressive for a college production and the lighting effects were well timed to accentuate the mood of the play with being something to focus on. The one aspect that was slightly distracting was the music. It was often played for such a length of time that I found myself wondering if, and when, it would turn off instead of listening to the actors.

All in all, it was an enjoyable staging of a play that is hard to understand and slightly boring on the page.


Watching the performance of Talley’s Folly was a very mixed experience for me. The atmosphere of the play was significantly lacking. I attended the Saturday matinee which had an audience of no more than thirty five. Overall it felt as if I were watching a rehearsal. This however, was no fault of the director or anyone involved in the play. It was a completely unavoidable circumstance. Another unfortunate event was the tennis ball that was rolled down the main seating aisle about three quarters of the way through the performance. It was an enormous distraction, but again, completely unavoidable by the people involved.

I was however, very impressed with the performance of the two actors. The fact that they were able to remain onstage for nearly two hours and hold character the entire time was a remarkable feat on their part

The character of Matt Friedman was played remarkably well. The accent was quite bothersome in the beginning when I thought that it was supposed to be German. However, when it was revealed that he was a Lithuanian Jew, who grew up in Prussia with Czech parents, or whatever the situation was, I had no clue what the accent was supposed to sound like. At that point all I knew is that it could sound like the accent that the actor was portraying and he managed to remain quite consistent throughout the play. The actor also did a good job of demonstrating to us his social awkwardness as well as the ten or so years that his character had on Sally.

I felt that Sally was slightly upstaged by Matt. She carried a great deal of anger with her for the entire performance that only served to alienate her from the audience and make us more sympathetic towards Matt. However, I can only assume that she portrayed Sally in that way because of the director’s instructions. I felt that I got a better sense of how the actor wanted to play the part by watching her eyes. Even when she was acting angry, there were times when her eyes softened showing us that she did really care about Matt but was simply afraid to let him care about her.

All in all this was a good performance that had the potential to be so much more. Some things were out of the director’s hands, but I feel that the choice for Sally to remain angry throughout the show really hurt the play. Had Sally been allowed to show a little more compassion I could have related to her much more easily.

Staged Reading

Recently, we were asked to do a staged reading with the play Catastrophe. We were placed in groups of four to practice for the eventual performance in class a week later. Working with a staged reading was quite an experience. It was difficult to know what props to use, if any. Would props even aid in the experience? After a couple of run-throughs, I decided that props help in staged readings simply because they help the actor to know how to act from the environment. Also during staged readings, I thought it was interesting that there were multiple ways of performing. You could perform the play while seated or while moving around. Overall, my experience with staged readings were alright. I had never done one before this, but it seemed quite easy also. I really look forward to how the other groups will interpret this play compared to how our group has.