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THEA 104 Week 4 Notes

by: Kinsey Sturgeon

THEA 104 Week 4 Notes THEA 104

Marketplace > Ball State University > Theatre > THEA 104 > THEA 104 Week 4 Notes
Kinsey Sturgeon
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About this Document

Notes on the semiotic stage, culture, history, reasoning, facts, & fiction
Aesthetics 2
Dr. Michael O'Hara
Class Notes
theatre, aesthetics, THEA 104
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This 11 page Class Notes was uploaded by Kinsey Sturgeon on Monday February 22, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to THEA 104 at Ball State University taught by Dr. Michael O'Hara in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 13 views. For similar materials see Aesthetics 2 in Theatre at Ball State University.


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Date Created: 02/22/16
Week 4 2/1 – Making Sense of Theatre  An expert watcher o As you grow as an artist, you will learn that you can never simply “watch” theatre/film/television o This development is actually a good thing o There are, after all, several “experts” in the department, including one who is one of the most supportive and responsive audience members you’ll ever hope to have o This person is also a brutally honest critic of performance  Magic changes o What skills do you need to be an expert watcher? o You must adjust the connection among you  Sensory and artistic responses  Temporal and reflective responses  Emotional and intellectual responses o Without losing you ability to be a “good” audience member  3 D’s o Theatre artists have double duties to discover theatre’s double meanings o These dualities are negotiated in the  Suspension of disbelief  We agree to believer that actors are who they pretend to be  We agree that only the most egregious violation should disrupt that suspension of disbelief  This effort is especially difficult when we know the actor  Suspension of derision  As theatre professionals, we should agree to withhold derisive body language, comments, or actions  As developing theatrical artists, we should agree to forgo cliques, clacks, catty comments, and corrosive attitudes before, during, and after our work  We should give and expect constructive feedback  Suspension of defense  When people we know are performing, we should o Allow other people to have their own opinion o Not leap to our friend’s defense o Decide for ourselves how useful and/or honest that assessment of the performance might be  When we are the performer/designer/director, we should o Allow other people to have their own opinion o Don’t be defensive 2 o Remain open to all feedback, good and bad  Perpetual present o Theatre’s double consciousness  An artifact of the past, like the script  An ephemeral event tonight, like the play o Theatre always exists in the “perpetual present tense”  Perpetual tense o There are always 2 sources of meaning within theatre’s dualistic nature  Intrinsic  Extrinsic o The former gets frozen within recorded media o The latter constantly changes with each viewing o Only in live theatre can both—intrinsic and extrinsic —be changed/modified/accommodated  Intrinsic o What “intrinsic” to any play? o Given circumstances, plot, character, language, idea, music, and spectacle o What patterns exit within the answers to that question?  Extrinsic o What is “extrinsic” to a play? o Given circumstances/context: place, time, culture, politics, social movements, author’s position, 3 audience reception, production history, author’s history  Patterns = meaning o Semiotics: the study of symbol systems or how meaning is constructed and understood  The semiotic stage o Unlike life, everything on a stage has been deliberately put there o Thus, everything onstage is a signifier o You must be alert to all possible signifies, especially as an expert watcher  Watching with 2 minds o You have to watch as a lover of theatre, giving yourself over to the production, allowing its rules to govern your reception, making room in your mind for this world to blossom o You have to also watch as a theatre artist, who notices the man/woman behind the curtain, is alert to the bells & whistles that create the emotional magic of the moment, looking for the patterns that will reveal the heart work, whose work you can then imitate, avoid, adapt, or steal 2/3-Context & Culture  Culture & Theatre o Culture is the universal human ability to classify and encode experience symbolically, and communicate symbolically encoded experience socially o Theatre (art, poetry, film, music, etc.) = culture 4  How does culture work? o How does culture persist? o How does culture change? o How does culture spread from one person or society to another?  Emergence & persistence o Spoken languages draw selectively from an extensive but finite set of sounds any human mouth, free from defect, can make o Thus, cultures select from an extensive but finite set of cultural traits that form a distinctive pattern  Paradigms of change o Both culture and the study of culture itself changes over time o Difficult to separate the two; much like trying to separate script analysis from the performance of theatre itself  History lesson #1 o Ancient scholars studied culture without calling it culture, per se o Philosophers, theologians, historians, and even scientists all studied and wrote about parts of what we now call culture th o The studythf “culture” emerged in late 18 and early 19 centuries, as part of the Enlightenment  History o Early theories associated with cultural scholarship: culture evolved from simple structures to more complex ones 5 o Culture was a verb: a process to better oneself or one’s nation o By late 19 c., the cultural verb was modified as an effort to achieve personal or national ideals o 20 century paradigms of culture were constantly challenged and changed o Some conflicts are old: Universal v. Particular o Some are new: Assimilations v. Transculturation o All point to the same thing: culture matters  Why in script analysis? o Myth-to-ritual-to-legend-to-art o Myth = social value society wishes to pass on o Ritual = human behavior that inculcates or expresses the social value o Legend = historical or fictional character that embodies the social value o Art = the symbolic re-presentation of the social value  Perpetual present tense o Thus, theatrical performance always serves as a cultural transmitter o Oklahoma! not only recorded but also inculcated iconic “America” as we began our engagement in WWII o Oh! Calcutta! also marked changes in public perceptions of nudity even as it broke barriers both off and on Broadway  Double edged sword 6 o Because theatre always has one foot in the past and another in the present, older plays are often judged from within contemporary cultural contexts o Theatrical artists, therefore, most always be both part storyteller AND translator  Translating culture & context o Prior to 1900, what was the legal status of most women in the western world? o Could not own property, inherit, vote, object to treatment by a husband, father, or eldest male relative, had no rights to bodily integrity, reproductive activity, and couldn’t enter into a contract o Completely subject to male sanction  Translating ourselves o Before we judge the past, let’s ask some questions:  How long have women had equal rights?  Do women’s rights exist equally throughout the world?  How many times must college men worry about balancing a career with raising children and healthy marriage?  How man cultural artifacts exist to model, inculcate, and transmit expectations of equality?  The challenge o We have to become culturally knowledgeable about both the past and the present 7 o Can’t authentically analyze or perform A Doll’s House, Medea, Oleana, or any text about XYZ until you know about XYZ, past and present  Never apologize for being an artist 2/5-Fiction, Fact, Faith, & Evidence  Past and Present o As theatre artists, we are obligated to know enough about both the past & present o How do we come to know about the past? o How do we come to know about the present?  Facts = ? o Material artifacts that survive to the present o Not all such artifacts survive o Some are destroyed on purpose, some by accident  What is a fact, and what is debris? o Facts must first be authentic; a representation of the phenomenon we understand it to be representing  Authentic & reliable o Facts not only represent the phenomenon, but also are from sources likely to document it o Reviews from the NY Times are authentically about theatre, but may NOT be reliable evidence of audiences’ responses  Can we “know” facts? o What are some of the problems facing us as we seek to learn about theatre’s history? o Where do we find facts? 8 o Whom can we trust to give us useful, authentic, and reliable facts? o What do we do with them, once we have them?  Facts, theory, & truth o Historically, 3 ways to establish or claim truth  Authority  Ideology  Disciplined observation  Theory is the result of disciplined observation o Example  Greek theatre is important/influential, but we have few facts  Thus, a theory or paradigm is built around those surviving facts, which—unlike belief or opinion—is “testable”  We have 7 plays from Aeschylus, 7 from Sophocles, 18 from Euripides, and 11 from Aristophanes (46 total plays survive)  Based on those plays, what was Greek theatre like?  Theory isn’t perfect  But theory can help… o Us understand both Greek theatre AND our own work today o However, because both facts and theories are testable AND unstable, our understanding is never finished. We just have to keep testing it  Impact of ritual theory? 9 o Things we regularly do, or enact, express, or reflect, the values we wish to transmit o Rituals create real effects  Theory & realism o Because realism focuses on the real, everyday lives of people…and… o Ritual theory shows how what we do everyday carries and transmits values…therefore… o Are carries and transmits values…thus… o Are carries and transmits values to both the “doer” and “viewer”  Script analysis? o How is this theory related to script analysis? o What would constitute reliable and authentic evidence for the relationship? o How “scientific” can we get in creating our art?  Ritual & naturalism o Naturalism, follows the rules realism, and then:  Posits that the world is subject to the “inevitable laws of heredity & environment” o How does such a thought match up with ritual theory?  Naturalism o Was influenced by Charles Darwin’s Theory on Evolution o Realism tries to describe people as they really are; naturalism tries to scientifically determine the underlying forces influences people’s actions 10 o Émile Zola was Naturalism’s most notable dramatist. His works were anti-romantic, sexually frank, & generally pessimistic  Naturalism & art o Naturalism & evolution are very strong scientific theories, but not very strong aesthetic theories  What’s another word o For theatre? o “Make believe” o There is a reason why all art is both fact & faith, both truth & fiction, both honest & fake, both real & illusion, both simple & complex! o In fact, each must be present for it to be art 11


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