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Test 1 Ch. 1: The Audience: It's Role and Imagination pg. 7 o Intro Theatre has survived and thrived. One measure of the amazing health of live theatre today is the astounding range of opportunities we have of attending theatre, w/ more locations, not only in the US but throughout the world, presenting a greater variety of theatre offerings perhaps than ever before. Broadway was the fountainhead of live theatre in the US. Though it is still thriving and touring Broadway shows are regularly seen in major and midsize cities throughout America, theatre that originates on Broadway is not as predominant as it once was. Emergence of regional theaters: permanent, professional, nonprofit theaters that offer a season of first-class productions to their audiences each yr. Their association, the League of Resident Theaters, lists a total of 74 high-caliber such theaters scattered across the country. 120 Shakespeare theatres found in virtually every state in the US which feature, especially in the summer months, high-quality products of Shakespeare and the classics as well as modern plays. Important component of today’s theatre landscape is the many college and university theatres found in every one of the 50 states, as well as Canada and elsewhere. Many colleges have theatre spaces in which students and guest artists perform. In every corner of the US, there are about 7k community theaters. These are semiprofessional and experienced amateur groups who present a series of plays each yr to local audiences. These several thousand theaters present about 46k productions each yr to audiences that number in the millions. It is the diversity of offerings. It begins w/ new plays and musicals, and moves to classics, revivals of old plays, and then encompasses experimental and avant-garde offerings. There are top-flight theaters that specialize in each category. Some even encompass all of them. The former are presented in nontraditional theatre settings: warehouses, churches, firehouses, street corners, and public parks. The idea is that the unusual locale together w/ a different apprach in the material will make audience's conscious in a different way of what they are seeing and experiencing. Performance art is usually highly individual and presented by only 1 person but never by more than a small number. The content is usually quite personal, and can be combined w/ art, dance, film, or music. Along w/ diversity in types of theater and where it is presented, there is an incredible mix of ethnic and multicultural presentations. Anglo-American, African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Arabic, and more. Contemporary theater is also widely diverse, socially, politically, and culturally, and include Gay/Lesbian theatre and Feminist theatre. 2 There are theatre traditions unique to nations across the world as well as international theaters that tour the world and integrate cross-cultural techniques and styles. We are watching it and are actually participants in the event. Quote by Walter Kerr (pg. 9) The Role of the Audience o The Contrast B/w Theatre and Film pg. 9 Theatre and film are similar. Films and TV specials based on stage productions: A Chorus Line, The Phantom of the Opera, The Importance of Being Earnest, Les Miserables, and Shakespearean plays. The accessibility of film and TV means that they play a crucial role in our overall exposure to the depiction of dramatic events and dramatic characters. There is a crucial difference b/w experiencing live theatre or watching it on TV or on film. This difference is the performer-audience relationship. The experience of being in the presence of the performer is more important to theatre than anything else. W/ a film or w/ TV, we are always in the pretense of an image, never a person. Quotes by Jean-Claude van Itallie & Richard Nelson (pg. 9) o Theatre is Transitory and Immediate pg. 10 A theater performance changes from moment to moment as the audience and count as a series of shifting impressions and stimuli. It is a kaleidoscope adventure to much the audience 3 passes, with each instance a direct, immediate experience. The transitory nature of theater—a quality it shares with all the performing arts it’s set it apart in a significant way from literature and the visual arts. A painting, a piece of sculpture, a novel, or a book of poems is a fixed object. When it leaves the artists hands (or in the case of a book, when it leaves the printer’s shop), it is complete. In a world of change and uncertainty, these objects remain the same. The winged victory from the island of Samothrace in Greece is today almost the same majestic figure that was fashion 2,200 years ago. When we see the statue, we are looking at a soaring figure, facing into the wind, which is essentially what the Greeks saw at the time it was created. The essence of literature in the visual arts is to catch something in a moment in time and freeze it. With the performing arts, however, that is impossible, because the performing arts are not objects but events. Specific objects— costumes, props, scenery, a script—are a part of theatre, but none of these constitutes the art. (Bernard Beckerman quote) Plays are often printed in book form, like literature, and many novels and short stories contain extensive passages of dialogue that could easily be scenes in a play. But there is an important difference between the two forms. Unlike a novel, a play is written to be performed. In some respects a script is to a stage production as a musical score is to a 4 concert, or an architectural blueprints as to a building: it is an outline for a performance. Drama can be studied in a classroom in terms of imagery, character, and theme, but with drama, study of this sort takes place before or after the event. It is the form of preparation for or follow-up to the experience; the experience is the performance itself. Obviously, we have more opportunities to read plays in book form than to see them produced; but when we read a play, we should always attempt to visualize the other aspects of a production in our mind’s eye. o Human Beings—The Focus of Theatre pg. 10 Books often focus on people, but they can also focus on science or nature; music focuses on sound; abstract painting and sculpture focus on shapes, colors, and forms. Uniquely among the arts, theater forces on one thing and one thing only—human beings. This is true even though different plays emphasize different human concerns, from profound problems in tragedy to pure entertainment in light comedy. And even when the performers play animals, inanimate objects, or abstract ideas, theatre concentrates on the human concerns involved. In the modern world, human beings have lost the central place they were once believed to occupy in the universe. In the Ptolemaic view th of the universe, which prevailed until the 16 century—when Copernicus theorized that Earth revolved around the sun—it was assumed that Earth was the center of everything. In science, we have long since given up that notion, 5 particularly in light of explorations in outer space and other transformative discoveries regarding our universe. Human beings have become less significant, and less at the center of things. But not in theatre, where the preoccupations of men and women are still the core, the center around which other elements orbit. o The Chemistry of the Performer-Audience Contact pg. 11 The fascination of being in the presence of a famous person or observing firsthand a special occasion is difficult to explain but not difficult to verify. No matter how often we have seen a favorite star in the movies or have seen a singer on television or listened to their songs on a handheld device, we will often go to any lengths to see him or her in person. Probably, at one time or another, each of us has braved bad weather and shoving crowds to see celebrities at a parade, a political rally, or a concert. Even a severe rainstorm will not deter many of us from seeing our favorite star at an outdoor concert. The same pull of personal contact draws us to the theatre. At the heart of the theatre experience, therefore, is the performer-audience relationship: the immediate, personal encounter whose chemistry and magic give theatre its special quality. As suggested above, during a stage performance the actresses and actors can hear our laughter, can sense our silence, and can feel our tension as audience members. In 6 short, we, as audience, can affect, and in subtle ways change, the performance. At the same time, as members of the audience, we watch the performers closely, consciously or unconsciously asking ourselves questions: Are the performers convincing in their roles? Will they do something surprising? Will they make a mistake? At each moment, in every stage performance, we, as fully participating audience members, should be looking for answers to questions like these. Actually two experiences are occurring almost simultaneously: our individual experience, which is highly personal; and the group experience. o Theatre As a Group Experience pg. 11 Intro Certain arts—such as painting, sculpture, and literature—provide solitary experience. The viewer or reader contemplates the work alone, at his or her own pace. This is true even in a museum: although many people may flock to look at a single painting and are w/ each other, they respond as individuals, one by one. In the performing arts, however, including theatre, the group experience is indispensable. The performing arts share this trait w/ other communal events such as religious services, spectator sports, and celebrations. Before the event can take place, a group must assemble, at one time 7 and in one place. When people are gathered together in this way, something mysterious happens to them. Though still individuals, w/ their own personalities and backgrounds, they take on other qualities which often overshadow their independent responses. Psychology of Groups Not all crowds are alike. Some are aggressive, such as an angry mob that decides to riot or a gang that terrorizes a neighborhood. Others are docile—a group of spectators on a sidewalk observing a juggler, for example. A crowd at a football game is different from a congregation at a religious observance; and a theatre crowd is distinct from any of these. In spite of being different, however, the theatre audience shares w/ all such groups the special characteristics of the collective mind. Becoming part of a group is a crucial element of the theatre experience. For a time, we share a common undertaking, focused on one activity—the performance of a play. Not only do we laugh or cry in a way we might not otherwise; we also sense an intangible communion w/ those around us. When a collection of individuals respond more or less in unison to what is occurring onstage, their relationship to one another is reaffirmed. If there is a display of crusty at which we shudder, or sorrow by which we are moved, or pomposity at which we 8 laugh, it is reassuring to have other respond as we do. For a moment we are part of a group sharing an experience; and our sorrow or joy, which we thought might be ours alone, is found to be part of a broad human response. How Audience Composition Affects the Theatre Experience Although being part of a group is an essential element of theater, groups vary, and the make up of the group will alter a theatrical event. Some audiences are general—for instance, the thousands who attend outdoor productions such as the Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon and Unto These Hills, which is a play about the Cherokee Indians presented each summer on a Cherokee reservation in Western N.C. General audiences include people of all ages, from all parts of the country, and from all socioeconomic levels. Other audience is a more homogeneous, such as spectators at a high school play, a children’s theater production, a Broadway opening night, a political play, or a performance in a prison. Another factor affecting our experience in the theater is our relationship to the other members of the audience. If we are among friends or people of like mind, we feel comfortable and relaxed, and we readily become part of the group experience. On the other hand, if you feel alien—for example, a young person with an older group or a liberal with conservatives—we will be estranged from the group as a whole. The people with whom 9 we whom we attend theater—their relative homogeneity and our relation to them— strongly influence our response to the total event. o The Separate Roles of Performers and Spectators pg. 14 Intro It is important to note the difference between observed theater and participatory theater. In observed theater, as audience members, we participate vicariously or empathetically with what is happening on stage. Empathy is the experience of mentally or emotionally entering into the feelings or spirit of another person—in this case, a character on stage. Sometimes we will not be in tune with the characters on stage but will react vehemently against them. In either situation, though, we are participating empathetically. We might shed tears, laugh, pass judgment, sit frozen, or tremble w/ fear. But we participate through our imagination while separated from the action. There are also times when observers and audience members participate in a theater event. In rituals and ceremonies in parts of Africa and among certain tribes of Native Americans, those attending have become, in effect, participants, joining in the singing and dancing, for instance. At a number of contemporary theater events 10 spectators have also have been urged to take part. For example, one of the chief aims of the Theater of Oppressed created by Augusto Boal was to eliminate the distinction b/w audience members and performers. In Boal’s philosophy, every spectator could be and should be an actor, and he developed a number of strategies to bring this about. How Should the Audience Be Involved? Aesthetic Distance: Physical or psychological separation or detachment of audience from dramatic action, usually considered necessary for artistic illusion. The attempt to involve audience members directly springs from a desire to make theater more immediate and intense, and such work can be innovative and exciting. It remains, however, an exception to the concert theater most of us are likely to encounter. The theater most of us will experience requires a degree of distancing, in the same way that all art requires a certain perspective. Imagine trying to get the full effect of a large landscape painting when standing a few inches from the canvas: one would see only the brushstroke a of a single tree or a small patch of blue sky. To perceive and appreciate a work of art, we need distance. This separation, which is called aesthetic distance, is as necessary in theatre as in any other art. 11 In the same way that we must stand back from a painting to get its full effect, so too, as theater spectators, we must be separated from the performance in order to see and hear what is happening on stage and absorb the experience. If an audience member becomes involved in the proceedings or goes onstage and takes part in the action, as often occurred in a Boal production, he or she reverses roles and becomes a performer, not a spectator. The separation b/w performers and spectators remains. Audience Participation through Direct Action Today a range of educational or therapeutic activities employ theatrical techniques. The aim is not a performance viewed by an audience, as such. Those who take part in such activities are not performers in the usual sense, and there is no attempt to follow a written script. Rather, the emphasis is on education, personal development, or therapy—fields in which theater techniques have opened up new possibilities. In schools, for example, creative dramatics, theater games, and group improvisations have proved invaluable for self-discovery and the development of healthy group attitudes. By acting out hypothetical situations or giving free rein to their imagination, children can build self- confidence, discover their creative potential, and overcome their inhibitions. 12 In some situations, creative dramatics can teach lessons that are difficult to teach by conventional means. Playwriting, too, has often proved to be an invaluable educational tool. Students who write scenes, whether autobiographical or fictional, find the experience not only fulfilling but enlightening. In addition to creative dramatics, a wide range of other activities—sociodrama, psychodrama, and drama therapy—incorporate theatrical techniques. For adults as well as children, these activities have come to the forefront as educational and therapeutic methods. In sociodrama, the members of participating groups—such as parents and children, students and teachers, or legal authorities and ordinary citizens—explore their own attitudes and prejudices. One successful approach this role reversal. A group of young people for instants, part of their parents while the adults assume the roles of the children; or members of a street gang will take the roles of the police, and the police will take the roles of the street gang. In such role playing, both groups become aware of deep-seated feelings and arrive at a better understanding of one another. Psychodrama uses some of the same techniques as sociodrama but is more private than interpersonal; in fact, it can become so intense that is should be carried out only under the supervision of a 13 trained therapist. In psychodrama, individual fears, anxieties, and frustrations are explored. A person might reenact a particularly traumatic scene from childhood, for example. In participatory drama, theater is a means to another end: education, therapy, group development, or the like. Its aim is not public preface, and there is little emphasis on a carefully prepared, expertly performed presentation before an audience; in fact, just the opposite is true. In observed drama, on the other hand, the aim is a professional performance for spectators, and this requires a separation between the performers in the audience—aesthetic distance. o The Imagination of the Audience pg. 16 Intro For those who create it, theater is a direct experience: an actress walks onstage and impersonates a character; a carpenter build scenery; a scene designer paints it. For these people the experiences like cutting a finger or being held in an embrace: the pain or the warmth is felt directly and physically. Members of a theater audience experience a different kind of pain or warmth. As spectators in the theater, we sense the presence of other audience members; we observe the movements and gestures of performers and hear the words they speak; and we see costumes, scenery, and lighting. From 14 these we form mental images or make imaginative connections that provoke joy, laughter, anger, sorrow, or pain. All this occurs, however, w/o our moving from our seats. We naturally assume that those who create theater or highly imaginative people and that their minds are full of vivid, exciting ideas what might not occur to the rest of us. If we conclude, however, that we in the audience have only limited theatrical imagination, we do ourselves a great injustice. Theatre is a 2 way street— an exchange b/w performers and audience —and this is nowhere more evident than in the creation of illusion. Illusion may be initiated by the creators of theatre, but it is completed by the audience. In the eerie world of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, when three witches appear out of the mist or when Banquo’s ghost interrupts the banquet, we know it is fantasy; witches and ghosts like those in Macbeth do not appear in every day life. In the theater, however, we take such fantasy at face value. In Shakespeare’s own day, for instance, a convention readily accepted by audiences was that women’s parts were played by boy actors. Shakespeare’s heroines— Juliet, Desdemona, Lady Macbeth were not acted by women, as they are today, but played by boys. Everyone in the audience in an Elizabethean theater knew that the 15 boys were not actually women but accepted it without question the notion that a boy actor what’s presenting an impression or an imitation of a woman. The film Shakespeare in love afforded a fascinating glimpse of this; the actress Gwyneth Paltrow plays a young woman portraying a boy actor (in secret), while her acting partner is a young man playing a young woman portrayed by a boy (in the open). Flashbacks: In a narrative or story, movement back to a time in the past to show a scene or an event before the narrative resumes at the point at which it was interrupted. Along with fantasy, we, as audience members, accept drastic shift and time and space. Someone on stage dressed in a revolutionary uniform says, “It is the winter of 1778, at Valley Forge,” and we do not question it. What is more, we accept rapid movements back-and-forth in time. Flashbacks abrupt movements from the presence of the past and back again are a familiar technique in films and television shows such as Looper and Dexter; but they are also commonplace in modern drama. A similar device often used in drama is anachronism. An anachronism involves placing some character or event outside its proper time sequence: for example, having people from the past speak and act as if they are 16 living today. Medieval mystery and morality place frequently contain anachronisms. The medieval play Abraham and Isaac, for instance, is set in the time of the Old Testament, but it makes several references to the Christian trinity—a religious concept that was not developed until centuries later. The medieval audience accepted this shift in time as a matter of course, just as we do in theater today. And his frequently if you play Angels in America, Tony Kushner includes a number of bizarre and fantastic characters or events. For example, a character in the play called Mr. Lies is an imaginary person created in the mind of Harper, a housewife who is addicted to pills. Near the end of part one, Mr. Lies takes Harper on a fantasy trip to the Antarctic. At the very end of part one, an angel crashes through the ceiling and speaks to Prior, a man ill w/ AIDS. In the theater, then, our imagination allows us to conceive of people and events we have never seen or experienced and to transcend our physical circumstances to the point where we forget who we are, where we are, or what time it is. How is this possible? It happens because in the theater our imagination works for us just as it does in everyday life. Tools of the Imagination: Symbol & Metaphor 17 Functions of Symbols o Symbol: A sign, a visual image, an object, or an action that signifies something else; a visual embodiment of something invisible. A single image or sign stands for an entire idea or larger concept—a flag is a symbol for a nation; a logo is a symbol for a corporation. o In general terms, a symbol is a sign, token, or emblem that signify something else. Its simple form of a symbol is a sign. Some signs stand for a single, uncomplicated idea or action. In everyday life we are surrounded by them: roadsigns, such as an S-shaped curve, audible signals, like sirens and foghorns; and a host of mathematical and typographical symbols: $, ¼, @, &. We sometimes forget that language itself is symbolic; the letters of the alphabet are only lines and curves on the page. Words are arrangements of letters that by common agreement represent something else. The same 4 letters mean different things depending on the order in which they are placed; pear, reap, rape. These three words set different imaginative wheels in motion and responses that vary greatly from word to word. o At times, symbols exert incredible emotional power; a good example as 18 a flag, embodying a nation’s passions, fears, and ambitions. Flags are symbols: lines, shapes, and colors that in certain combinations become immediately recognizable. Like flags, some symbols signify ideas or emotions that are far more complex and profound than the symbol itself. The cross, for example, is a symbol of Christ and , beyond that, of Christianity as a whole. Whatever form a symbol takes—language, a flag, or a religious emblem--it can embody the total meaning of a religion, a nation, or an idea. Functions of Metaphors o A similar transformation takes place with metaphor, another form of imaginative substitution. With metaphor we announce that one thing is another, in order to describe it or point up its meaning more clearly. (In poetry, you will remember, a simile says that one thing is like another; metaphor simply states directly that one thing is another.) The Bible is filled with metaphors. The psalmist who says, “The Lord is my shepherd,” or who says of God, “Thou art my rock and my fortress,” is speaking metaphorically. He does not mean literally God is a shepherd, rock, or a fortress; he is saying that God is similar to and has qualities like 19 these things. Just w/ symbols, metaphors are part of the fabric of life. o We are saying one thing but describing another. When someone describes a person or event as “cool,” the reference is not to a low temperature but to an admirable quality. The term “slam dunk” comes from basketball, but in every day parlance is applied to a wide range of activities that have nothing to do with sports. We can see from these examples of metaphors, like symbols, or part of daily life. The “Reality” of the Imagination Our use symbol and metaphor shows how large a part imagination place in our lives. Millions of automobiles in the US can be brought to a halt, not by a concrete wall, but by a small colored light changing from green to red. Imagine attempting to control traffic, or virtually any type of human activity, without symbols. Beyond being a matter of convenience, symbols are necessary to our survival. The same holds true for metaphor. Frequently we find that we cannot express fear, anxiety, hope, or joy—any of the deep human feelings—descriptive language. That is why we sometimes scream. It is also why we have poetry and use metaphors. Even scientists, the men 20 and women we are most likely to consider realists, turn to metaphor at crucial times. They discuss the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe and talk of black holes in outer space. Neither term is “scientific,” but both terms communicate what scientists have in mind in away that an equation or a more logical phrase can’t. Dreams provide another example of the power of the imagination. You dream that you were falling off a cliff; then, suddenly, you wake up and find that you’re not flying through the air but lying in bed. Significantly, however, the dream of falling means more to you than the objective fact of lying in bed. Theater functions in somewhat the same way. Though not real in a literal sense, it could be completely— even painfully—real and it emotional or intellectual sense. The critic and director Harold Clurman gave one of his books on theatre the title Lies Like Truth. Theatre— like dreams or fantasies—can sometimes be more truthful about life than a mundane, objective description. This is a paradox of dreams, fantasies, and art, including theatre: by probing deep into the psyche to reveal inner truths, they can be more real than outward reality. o The Imaginary World's of Theatre pg. 20 Realism and Nonrealism (Chart pg. 19) Intro 21 o Realism: Broadly, an attempt to present onstage people, events and scenery corresponding to those in everyday life. o Nonrealism: Also known as departures from realism, means all types of theatre that depart from observable reality. o As theatre audience members, we are asked to accept many kinds of imaginary worlds. One way to classify these imaginary realms is a realism and nonrealism (or departures from realism). At the outset, it is essential to know that in theatre the term realistic denotes a special application of what we consider “genuine” or “real.” A realist element is not necessarily more truthful than a nonrealistic element. Rather, in theatre, realistic and nonrealistic denote different ways of presenting reality. Realistic Elements of Theatre o In theater, a realistic element is one that resembles observable reality. We apply the term reality to those elements of theater that conform to our observations of people, places, and events. Realistic theater follows the predictable logic of everyday life: law of gravity, and the time it takes a person to travel from one place to another, the way room in a house 22 looks, the way a person dresses. With a realistic approach, these conform to our normal expectations. In realistic theatre, we are called upon in our imagination to accept the notion that what we see onstage is no fantastic but real, even though we always know we are in the theatre and not watching an actual event. o We are quite familiar with realism in films and television. Part of the reason is mechanical. The camera records what the lens “sees.” Whether it is a bedroom in a house, a crowded city, or the Grand Canyon, film captures the scene as the eye sees it. Theatre too has always had realistic elements.Every type of theatre that is not pure fantasy has realistic aspects. When we are so readily able to verify what we see before us from our own experience, it is easy to identify w/ it and to accept its authenticity. For this reason, realistic theatre has become firmly established in modern times, and it seems likely to remain so. Nonrealistic Elements of Theatre o Nonrealistic elements of theatre include everything that does not conform to our observation of surface reality: poetry instead of prose, ghosts rather than flesh-and-blood 23 people, abstract forms for scenery, etc. o In theatre, the argument of non- realism is that the surface of life a real conversation, for instance, or a real world in a house can never convey the whole truth, because so much of life occurs in our minds and imagination. o Soliloquy: Speech in which a character who is alone onstage speaks inner thoughts aloud. o Pantomime: A form of theatrical presentation that relies on dance, gesture, and physical movement w/o speech. Combining the Realistic and the Nonrealistic o We must not assume that these 2 approaches are mutually exclusive. The terms realistic and Nonrealistic are simply a convenient way of separating those parts of theatre that correspond to our observations and experiences of everyday life from those that do not. Most performances and theatre events contain a mixture of realistic and Nonrealistic elements. When the performer playing this part is speaking directly to the audience, his actions are nonrealistic; when he is taking part in a scene w/ other characters, they are realistic. 24 Examples: The Glass Menagerie, Our Town; Distinguishing Stage Reality from Fact Whether theatre is realistic or nonrealitic, it is different from the physical reality of everyday life. In recent years theatre have been attempts to make theatre less remote from our daily lives. This was part of a movement called theatre of fact, which involved reenactment so of material gathered from actual events. Partly as a result of this trend, theatre and life have become intertwined. Ex: reality tv This kind of interaction—confusion—b/w life and art has been heightened, by the emergence of TV and film documentaries. These developments point up the close relationship b/w theatre and life; when we see a performance, even a recreation of events that have actually occurred, we are always aware, on some level, of being in theatre. We are abruptly reminded of the distinction b/w stage reality and physical reality when the two cross lines. Ex: actor unintentionally trips and falls, attention shifts from character to actor (was he hurt) Ex: Othello o Summary pg. 24 During the past 100 yrs, theatre has been challenged by a succession of technological 25 developments: silent movies, radio, talking movies, TV, and electronic handheld devices. It has surprised these challenges partly b/c of the special nature of the performer-audience relationship. The relationship b/w performer and audience is “live”: each is in the other’s presence, in the same place at the same time. It is the exchange b/w the two that gives theatre its unique quality. Theatre—like the other performing arts—is a group experience. The composition of the audience has a direct bearing on the effect of the experience. Participants and spectators play different roles in the theatre experience the role of spectators is to observe and respond. There is a difference b/w participating in theatre by direct action and by observation. In the former situation, non actors take part, usually for the purpose of personal growth and self-development. In the latter, a presentation is made by 1 group to another, and the spectators do not participate physically in the experience. For the observer, theatre is an experience of the imagination and the mind. The mind seems capable of accepting almost any illusion as to what is taking place, who the characters are, and when and where the action occurs. Our minds are capable of leaps of the imagination, not just in the theatre but in our everyday lives, where we use symbol and 26 metaphor to communicate w/ one another and to explain the world around us. The world of the imagination—symbols, metaphors, dreams, fantasies, and various experts ions of art—is “real,” even though it is intangible and has no objective reality. Frequently it tells us more than any form of logical discourse about our true feelings. Theatre makes frequent use of symbols and metaphors—in writing, acting, and design—and theatre itself can be looked upon as a metaphor. Theatre calls upon audiences to imagine 2 kinds of worlds: realistic and nonrealistic. Realistic theatre depicts things onstage that conform to observable reality; Nonrealistic theatre includes the realm of dreams, fantasy, symbol, and metaphor. In theater, realism and nonrealism are frequently mixed. In order to take part in theatre as an observer, it is important to keep the “reality” of fantasies and dreams separate from the real world. By making this separation, we open our imagination to the full range of possibilities in theatre. Ch. 2: The Background and Expectations of the Audience pg. 27 o Intro: When we attend a theater event, we bring more than our mere presence; we are bringing back on a personal mileage and a set of 27 expectations that shape the experience. Several important factors are: Our knowledge and personal memories. Our awareness of the social, political, and philosophical world in which the play was written or produced—the link between theater and society. Our knowledge about the play and playwright. Our personal expectations concerning the event: what we anticipate will happen at a performance. As you will see, misconceptions about the theater experience is or should be can lead to confusion and disappointment. o Background of Individual Spectators pg. 28 A background element each of us brings to a theater performance as an audience member is our individual memories and experiences. Each of us has a personal catalog of childhood memories, emotional scars, and private fantasies. Anything we see onstage will have a strong impact on us. When we see a play that has been written in our own day, we bring w/ us also a deep awareness of the world from which the play comes, because we come from the same world. Through the books we have read, through newspapers and television, discussions with friends,we have a background of common information, values, and beliefs. Our shared knowledge and experience are much larger than most of us realize, and they form a crucial ingredient in our theatre experience. Ex: A Raisin in the Sun 28 o Background Information on the Play or Playwright pg. 28 Often to enhance our experience of attending a theater production we need additional information about a play or a playwright. They play we contain difficult passages or obscure references, which it is helpful to know about before we see a performance. Ex: King Lear o Background of the Period pg. 29 Intro Even when we identify closely with the characters a situation in the play and we have knowledge about the play and the playwright, often in drama from the past there are elements we cannot understand unless we are familiar with the history, culture, and philosophy of the period when it was created. This is because there is a close connection between any art form and the society in which it is produced. Theatre and Society Art does not occur in a vacuum. All art, including theater, is related to the society in which it is produced. Sometimes charged with being antisocial, subversive or enemies of the state, and such accusations carry the strong suggestion that artists are outsiders or invaders rather than true members of a culture. To be sure, art frequently challenges society and is sometimes on the leading edge of history, appearing to forecast the future. More often than not, however, such aren't 29 simply recognizes what is already present in society but has not yet surfaced. Ex: Abstract painting in Europe Art grows in the soil of the specific society. With very few exceptions and those are soon forgotten—art is a mirror of its age, revealing the prevailing attitudes, underlying assumptions, and deep-seated beliefs of a particular group of people. Art may question societies views or reaffirm them, but it cannot escape them; the 2 are as indissolubly linked as a person and his or her shadow. When we speak of art as universal, we mean that the art of one age has so defined the characteristics of human beings that it can speak eloquently to another age; but we should never forget that every work of art first emerges at a given time and place and can never be adequately understood unless the conditions surrounding its birth are also understood. Greek Theatre and Culture A study of theater in significant periods of history confirms the closely between art and society. In ancient Greece, for example, civilization reached a point in Athens during the time of Pericles, the latter part of the 5 century BCE. This was the Golden age of Greece when politics, art, architecture, and theater thrived as they never had before, and rarely have since. As the Athenians of that period gained control over the world around them 30 and took new pride in human achievements, they developed ideals of beauty, order, symmetry, and moderation that permeated their entire culture, including theatre. By the fifth century BCE, standard forms of drama had emerged in Greece, both for tragedies and for comedies. One conventional limited the number of scenes any play: usually, there were only five scenes, interspersed with choral sections. In addition, the drama took place in one locale often in front of a palace and within a short span of time. Another convention reflected the society sense of balance and order. Though bloody deeds often occurred in the myths on which most Greek plays were based, in the plays that have survived these deeds almost never took place in sight of the audience—murders, suicides, and other acts of violence usually occurred off stage. Elizabethan Theatre and Culture Named after Queen Elisabeth I, this period saw England become a dominant force in the world. Under Elizabeth’s rule, England became a unified country; trade and commerce flourished; and with the defeat of the Spanish Armada, an age of exploration for England was underway. England was expanding confidently on all fronts, and these characteristics were reflected in the drama of the period. 31 From medieval drama that Elizabetheans had inherited stage practices that made it possible to shift rapidly in a play from place to place and from time period to another. Using these techniques, as well as others they perfected, Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and their contemporaries wrote plays that are quite different from the more formal drama of the Greeks. A single play but moved to a number of locations and cover a period of many years. Rather than being restrictive, Elizabethean plays are expansive in terms of numbers of characters and in terms of action, and there is no hesitancy whatsoever about showing murder and bloodshed onstage. At the end of a play, corpses cover the stage in full view of the audience. This expansiveness and this sense of adventure mirror the temper of the age in which the plays were written. Modern Theatre and Culture Moving to the contemporary period, we find once again a link between theater and society. Modern society, especially in the US, is heterogeneous. We have people of different races, religions, sexual orientations, the national backgrounds th living side-by-side. Moreover, the 20 century was marked by increasingly swift global communication. By means of TV, computers, and the Internet, and even occurring in one place can you flash instantaneously to the rest of the world. 32 Texting and social media, now make us aware of events instantly. By these means, too, people are continually made aware of cultures other than their own. When cultures and societies are brought together, we are reminded of the many things people have in common, but also of the differences among us. At the same time that we are brought together by immediate global communications, other aspects of life have become increasingly fragmented. A number of institutions that held constant through many centuries— organized religion, the family, marriage have been seriously challenged in the century and a half preceding our own day. Discoveries by Charles Darwin (evolution), by Karl Marx (economics), Sigmund Freud (importance of the unconscious), Albert Einstein (relativity) questioned and threatened long-established views of the universe, of religion, economics, psychology, and science. Some of the changes and viewpoint and discoveries about nature have continued to be present, the cumulative effects of which has been to make human beings much less certain of the place in the cosmos and of the mastery of the events. Today, in the early 21 century, life appears much less unified and less ordered than it once did. We must add to these developments the effects of the horrific events that have occurred over the 33 past 100 years: the 2 World Wars, the effects on our society of the event of 9/11, and natural disasters. All these global and historical developments are reflected in our theater today, which is an inclusive theater, fragmented and eclectic, and embracing different styles and traditions. The theater productions we attend today come from around the world, and range from the darkness of tragedies to lightest of comedies to the highly experimental, created by dramatics who write on many subjects and in many diverse styles. One could find comparable links in every culture and period. It is important to remember, therefore, that whatever the period or culture in which it was first produced, drama is woven into the fabric of its place and time. For purposes it is important to realize that when we go to the theater, it is extremely helpful to be aware of the period and circumstances in which a plate of whatever sort was created. These are things are professors and instructors can teach us, but things we can also learn ourse
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