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Theatre History II, Week Five

by: Hannah Levine

Theatre History II, Week Five THEA 24200

Marketplace > Ithaca College > Theatre > THEA 24200 > Theatre History II Week Five
Hannah Levine
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Notes on week five of Dr. Dail's History of Theatre II
History of Theatre II
Dr. Chrystyna Dail
Class Notes
Theatre History
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Hannah Levine on Friday February 26, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to THEA 24200 at Ithaca College taught by Dr. Chrystyna Dail in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 29 views. For similar materials see History of Theatre II in Theatre at Ithaca College.


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Date Created: 02/26/16
WEEK FIVE 2.22.16 (Guest Lecture #3) A Dramaturge’s Approach to Rider’s to the Sea What is a dramaturge? Fun facts from Quizzed in the Face -We do not know the exact origins of dramaturgy -Robert Brustein of Yale formalized the formal role of production dramaturgy -Production dramaturgy was not popularized until the 1970s -A dramaturge poses questions to help directors and designers and articulates major ideas into active languages that performers and designers can then use to make choices -Dramaturgy is not theatre history; we use theatre history to contextualize dramaturgy What does an active dramaturge do? -Enhance the production’s theme and metaphor -Motivate the playwright to make a good play richer and deeper -Compose essays that shift how an audience responds to language, casting choices, or subject matter -Identify plays that will one day become classics -Must be able to: conduct analytical, visual, and historical research; engage in analytical, creative, and critical writing; craft questions to help designer exceed expectation; engage in flexible thinking; and focus on the present moment and its impact on future moments (The Art of Active Dramaturgy, Lenora Inez Brown) -The process: read the play, read the play again, do script analysis, meet with the director, conduct a casebook from research, construct an Actor’s Resource Packet, attend a table read and give presentation, attend rehearsals/production meetings as an advocate for the play, provide notes for the director, provide audience outreach (i.e. Study Guide, Dramaturgy Notes, Lobby Display) How can we, as active dramaturges, serve as a production of Riders to the Sea? -How did the other sons die? -Do Irish peasants really speak that way? What was their life like at the turn of the century? -Update: nope, they didn’t speak like that, exactly -How common was it for younger men to go out to sea? -Who was John M. Synge and why did he write this play? -How did audiences and critics respond to this play in Dublin and London? -Why won’t Maurya give Bartley her blessing and why does it matter? -Why is the young priest absent? -How does the landscape of the Aran Islands impact the world of the play? -What role does spirituality play in the family’s life? John M. Synge (1871-1909) -Major figure in the Irish Literary Revival (Irish Renaissance) -Co-founder of the Abbey Theatre (state subsidized theatre) -Best known today for Playboy of the Western World (1907) -Riders to the Sea was his first major hit, loved by audiences and British critics but not by Irish critics -Written after he visited the Aran Islands to learn more about the Irish language; wrote The Aran Islands in 1907 -At this time, majority of the population lives in Dublin or the surrounding areas; the Aran Islands were very remote -Women on the Aran Islands live only for their children; strong maternal sense “gives a life of torment to the women” -Takes place in the fall (determined by the horse fair they’re attending); -Emotional associations with location: the sea is a destroyer for some but livelihood for others -Impoverished society with family structure at its core -Follows a peasant in transition from folk world to modern world -Absent priest is a source of authority; frequent mention of the Grace of God -Small and tightknit community; village women band together -Why won’t Maurya give her blessing to Bartley? She has absolute certainty that Bartley will die and is compelled by her own tradition to not misuse the word and lie -What world does Synge create? A world where death is always hovering 2.24.26 Abbey Theatre (Irish National Theatre) is the first endowed theatre in all of Europe -Dublin, 1904 -Horniman (producing director) offers to pay their lease for six years, gives them an annual subsidy -The three most important playwrights of the Irish Renaissance were the founders -William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) -One of the first Western theatre artists to show interest in both Eastern and Western theatre (specifically in Japanese Noh and several Chinese forms) -Exceptionally anti-Realism (considered a Symbolist playwright) -Wrote exclusively in verse -Wrote to move the audience almost to a place of trance; form is more vital than content -Protagonists are universal characters of mythological/historical Irish lore -Above all: “True greatness cannot submit to those laws which govern ordinary mortals.” -Wilde’s all about that shit -Wasn’t the most popular; his writing went over the heads of most of the Abbey Theatre’s patrons -Started writing about two characters fighting over what it means to be human (each representing a different side of an argument) -Horniman worked for several years as Yeats’ unpaid secretary (this is a little sketchy???) -Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932) -Most popular playwright of the Abbey -Managed finances, translated a lot of Gaelic/Celtic languages so Yeats could include them in his plays, and served other dramaturgical functions -Directed many productions at the Abbey -Wrote in a realistic-domestic literary style and invented/perfected the Irish folk-history play based on oral traditions of the time -John Millington Synge (1871-1909) -Melds poetic-mythic with realistic-domestic and is now seen as arguably the most beloved playwright of the Irish renaissance -Yeats was misunderstood and Gregory was popular; Synge just really pissed people off because he was anti-Catholic -Used immediately identifiable characters (women especially) and plots that made them transcendent -The Playboy of the Western World (1907) is seen as the perfectly written short play -Brought international attention to the Abbey -“The Playboy Riots,” incited by the play’s anti-Catholic views and sexualized women, took place over the course of a week -Decline of the Abbey Theatre -In 1907, the Playboy Riots take place -In 1908, W.G. Fay (actor, plays lead in Playboy) decides he’s fed up with the politics of the theatre and resigns) -As a result, several writes stop submitting/withdraw their work -In 1909, Synge dies of cancer -In 1910, Miss Horniman discontinues funding after opening her own successful theatre in Manchester; unsurprisingly, Yeats starts writing for other venues 2.29.16 U.SthTheatre: Independence to Monopoly -19 century: huge shift from stock companies to combination companies -Between the panic of 1873 and the stock market crash of 1928 (during the Industrial Revolution), theatre underwent its most drastic transition until the 1970s -Theatre becomes industrialized; transitions from a nation of community theatres/island communities (which resemble what we now call regional theatres or stock companies) -Regional “stock” theatre: independent producing center responsible for casting, designing, and running a repertory with a stock group of artists; theoretically hire from within their local community; sets and costumes reused -Combination company: built off of the success of the star and long run systems; theatrical package in support of a star and formed for the run of a single play; sets and costumes tossed or recycled; resemble what we now know as national tours th -Sound familiar? Our form of theatre really hasn’t changed since the 19 century! -Shift takes place because combination touring companies are significantly cheaper to maintain and yield better profit margins for managers; they only book into theatres that will want that show (there will be an audience) -Because the performers in combination companies are being trained on a show-by-show basis, the performances are (theoretically) more polished than in a regional or stock company when they’re doing a different show every three nights -Sets were better constructed because in regional companies, the sets had to be torn down regularly -Between 1872 and 1880, the US went from 50 stock companies to 8 stock companies; between 1872 and 1876, the US went from 5 traveling combination companies to 100 combination companies -Union Square -This incredibly rapid shift led to some serious scheduling conflicts (communication barrier) and made booking shows incredibly difficult; to resolve, every summer, theatre managers would meet in Union Square and arrange their entire booking season -This lead to some crazy mayhem; every theatre professional in every field fucking EVER would come to Union Square and fight/audition/beg? for jobs; frequently referred to as the “slave market” -Led to the creation of agents -Theatre Monopoly: The Syndicate -Theatrical Syndicate (1896) (also sometimes called the Trust) monopolizes theatre booking for the next twenty years -Legal exchange between Marc Klaw and Abraham Lincoln Erlanger; Samuel Nixon and J. Fred Zimmerman; Al Hayman; and Charles Frohman (he had New York and Boston; he nailed it) -Held exclusive booking control of 500 theatres on the most popular booking routes everywhere -People let them do it because they were so freakin’ organized; it allowed theatre companies across the country to get the best stars and shows without ever going to Union Square -Took 5% of gross receipts annually -The major downside? Told every theatre artist ever that if they didn’t work with the Syndicate, they’d be fucked. If you tried to rival them, they’d play your season a week earlier to guarantee that you failed. Aaaaaaand so they took everyone’s money. -Minnie Maddern Fiske (actress) felt that the Syndicate was dictatorial, used unfair pressure tactics and unfair labor practices, and debased the art of it (quality of acting and actor training down; US playwriting discouraged and “fluff” encouraged); she fought against them -Since acting schools weren’t a thing, theatre training only really took place through repertory companies (apprenticing and moving up the ranks) -Decline of Syndicate/Combined Touring Companies (around 1929) -The Shubert Brothers (yes, those Shubert brothers) beat the Syndicate at their own game by building their own theatres and buying regional theatres that had gone under; others had tried, but they succeeded because they a) had more money and b) treated people better -Vaudeville (super successful, for the whole family, and way cheaper than theatre) -Film starts getting super popular (many theatres transformed into movie houses) -Railroad costs/automobiles: people can afford to travel to see theatre and no longer need the tours to come to their town -Resurgence of stock companies; this is where regional theatres as we know starts happening in a big way


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