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by: Christina Sheryl L. Sianghio
Most simply a character is one of the persons who appears in the play, one of the dramatis personae (literally, the persons of the play). In another sense of the term, the treatment of the character is the basic part of the playwright's work. Conventions of the period and the author's personal vision will affect the treatment of character. Most plays contain major characters and minor characters. The delineation and development of major characters is essential to the play; the conflict between Hamlet and Claudius depends upon the character of each. A minor character like Marcellus serves a specific function, to inform Hamlet of the appearance of his father's ghost. Once, that is done, he can depart in peace, for we need not know what sort of person he is or what happens to him. The distinction between major and minor characters is one of degree, as the character of Horatio might illustrate. The distinction between heroes (or heroines) and villains, between good guys and bad guys, between virtue and vice is useful in dealing with certain types of plays, but in many modern plays (and some not so modern) it is difficult to make. Is Gregers Werle in The Wild Duck, for example, a hero or a villain? Another common term in drama is protagonist. Etymologically, it means the first contestant. In the Greek drama, where the term arose, all the parts were played by one, two, or three actors (the more actors, the later the play), and the best actor, who got the principal part(s), was the protagonist. The second best actor was called the euteragonist. Ideally, the term "protagonist" should be used only for the principal character. Several other characters can be defined by their relation to the protagonist. The antagonist is his principal rival in the conflict set forth in the play. A foil is a character who defines certain characteristics in the protagonist by exhibiting opposite traits or the same traits in a greater or lesser degree. A confidant(e) provides a ready ear to which the protagonist can address certain remarks which should be heard by the audience but not by the other characters. In Hamlet, for example, Hamlet is the protagonist, Claudius the antagonist, Laertes and Fortinbras foils (observe the way in which each goes about avenging the death or loss of property of his father), and Horatio the confidant. Certain writers-- for example, Moliere and Pirandello--use a character type called the raisonneur, whose comments express the voice of reason and also, presumably, of the author. Philinte and the Father are examples of the raisonneur. Another type of character is the stereotype or stock character, a character who reappears in various forms in many plays. Comedy is particularly a fruitful source of such figures, including the miles gloriosus or boastful soldier (a man who claims great valor but proves to be a coward when tested), the irascible old man (the source of elements in the character of Polonius), the witty servant, the coquette, the prude, the fop, and others. A stock character from another genre is the revenger of Renaissance tragedy. The role of Hamlet demonstrates how such a stereotype is modified by an author to create a great role, combining the stock elements with individual ones. Sometimes group of actors work together over a long period in relatively stable companies. In such a situation, individual members of the group develop expertise in roles of a certain type, such as leading man and leading lady (those who play the principal parts), juveniles or ingénues of both sexes (those who specialize as young people), character actors (those who perform mature or eccentric types), and heavies or villains.
and others. through perhaps fight against all odds. Paul Hunter Copyright 1973 by W. A group of actors who function as a unit. McLeod Limited. was married to a young woman named Columbine. W. The interest generated by the plot varies for different kinds of plays. an older man. as do the aptly named Chorus in Shakespeare's Henry V and the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's Our Town.S. Dramatic thesis: foreshadowing. Reference: Encarta Encyclopedia Previous Topic . Brighella. action. generally a physician. Toronto Back to Top Plot by: Eduardo M. The odes were in strict metrical patterns. in the form of ominous hints or symbolic incidents. in others they were restricted in observing the action and commenting on it. conditions the audience to expect certain logical developments. Inc. although there are instances such as T. though just what the singing and dancing were like is uncertain. in which the Women of Canterbury serve as a chorus. Pantalone. Her lover. Truffaldino. The choragos (leader of the chorus) sometimes spoke and acted separately. sometimes they were direct comments on the action and characters. was a characteristic feature of the Greek tragedy. In some of the plays. a popular form of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Coincidence: sudden reversal of fortune plays depict climatic ironies or misunderstandings. the chorus participated directly in the action. and at other times they were more general statements and judgments. often opposite of what was intended. The members of the chorus shared a common identity. On occasion a single actor may perform the function of a chorus. Dramatic irony: the fulfillment of a plan. called a chorus. Reference: The Norton Introduction to Literature (Combined Shorter Edition) Edited by Carl E. Tajonera Jr. were employed in frustrating or assisting either the lovers in their meetings or the husband in discovering them. Open conflict plays: rely on the suspense of a struggle in which the hero. employed actors who had standard lines of business and improvised the particular action in terms of their established characters and a sketchy outline of a plot. Pantalone's servants. Harlequin. Alfieri in the View from the Bridge functions both as a chorus and a minor character in the action of the play. was not only younger and more handsome than her husband but also more vigorous sexually.The commedia dell'arte. The chorus also separated the individual sins by singing and dancing choral odes. Bain.) The plot is usually structured with acts and scenes. is not doomed. Norton & Company. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. and published simultaneously in Canada by Goerge J. Frequently. or expectation in a surprising way. (See fiction elements on plot for more information regarding plot. Jerome Beaty & J. such as Asian Bacchantes or old men of Thebes. A chorus in Greek fashion is not common in later plays.
Most plays have a conflict of some kind between individuals. As indicated above. but a great theme is more likely to assu re a play a long life. the statement of the play in specific terms is the plot presented. The theme of Hamlet is usually stated as the failure of a youth of poetic temperament to cope with circumstances that demand action. Justice. The events that this conflict provokes make up the plot. however. We must. It is sometimes suggested in the title as in Loyalties. we find that some posses an excellent theme. a Streetcar Named Desire. and one must remain open to its manifold suggestions. a play should have a theme. although now among ou r most popular. One famous play of this nature. held the stage for many years.Back to Top Theme The plot has been called the body of a play and the theme has been called its soul. the author. Th e treatment of theme is equally varied. even at the risk of oversimplification. They are delightful but ephemeral. it is the treatment that supplies each effort with originality or artistic worth. man and some superior force or man and h imself. Reference: .cheek attack. and of Green pastures. nor are their plays likely to be revived a hundred years hence. As we a nalyze many plays." Sometimes theme is less obvious. is not the equivalent of the play. between man and society. that even God must change with the universe. and their original extremely witty conceptions. Shakespeare is said to have borrowed all but one of his stories. but are supported by an inconsequential plot. The same theme or story may be given a very serious or a very light touch. that he who strives hardes t to find happiness oftentimes finds the least. both understand and evaluate these factors. or The Physician in Spite of Himself. At other times it is found in the play itself. as in Craig's Wife when the aunt says to Mrs. The same plots have been and will be used many times. They but emphasize more strongly the axiom that a good plot or conflict is needed for transitory success. You can't Take It With You. The theme said: Difference of r eligion need not hinder a happy marriage. It may be a severe indictment or a tongue-in. they are utterly lacking in a theme or truth that will withstand more than momentary analysis. More often than not. Plot and theme should go hand in hand. but he presented them so much better than any of the previous authors that he is not seriously criticized for the borrowing. or dignity. Consequently. Known for their cleverness in phrasing and timing. Craig. This weakness was most obvious in the play's revival after twenty years. Of course the theme. we should be able to state it in general terms and in a single sentence. necessitating closer study. Examples of the frequent fault of superior plot and little or no theme come to us in much of the work of our current playwrights. It could point up a great lesson or show the same situation as a handicap to progress. therefore. One of the first items of interest is the playwright\rquote s treatment of the plot and what them he would draw from it. no matter how fully stated. "People who live to themselves are often left to themselves. If a play has a theme. An audience believes them only while watching in the theatre. will not endure as artists. The theme of Macbeth is that too much ambition leads to destruction. The play is a complex experience. The personality. To endure. Abie's Irish Rose. The plot was so thin and both characters and situation so stereotyped. that justice was not done to the theme. background an d social or artistic temperament of the playwright are responsible for the treatment that he gives to his story or theme. the plot must concern events and characters that measure up to that theme. If the theme is one of nobility. these plays are often ver y successful. or Strife.
A PRIMER FOR PLAYGOERS. contributes to its effect as a whole. in good drama. It is helpful to cease to submit the pretence for the moment. the first step towards understanding how it departs from actuality can be awkward. Any artificial picture of life must start from the detail of actuality. however changed. (1969). uninviting sentences' : An ibsenite sentence often performs four or five function at once. it can assume general and typical qualities. we want to check it against experience. enough. The Cherry Orchard family. overlook s their old servant Firs. Why do words begin to assume general qualities. dramatic speech. is something we cannot know.A. and an almost priestlike attitude behind the twin motions. with its basis in ordinary co nversation. whether aut hor or actors. An audience must be able to recognize it. We begin to see the murder of Desdemona in the larger general terms of a ritualistic sacrifice. In every man it is represented as an embodying some of our feelings about it.Wright. what is said is appropriate to the role and situation of a character. Poetry is made of words. Placed with striking force at the end of the play. and why do they become dramatic? Here are two problems on either side of the same coin. A snatch of phase caught in everyday conversation may mean little.. Professor Erick Bently has written of Ibsen's 'opaque. the detail of actuality in realistic drama can be chosen and presented in such a way as to suggest that it stands for more on the stage than it would in life. The artist using them.' In its context the repetition prefigures precisely the comparison Shakespeare is about to make between the lam Othello is holding and Desdemona's life and being. Conversely. It shed light on the character spo ken about. Therefore. no matter how simple words. is speech that has had a specific pressure put on it. which can be in use in more prosaic ways. in the excitement of their departure.156158 Previous Topic Back to Top Dialogue Dialogue provides the substance of a play. . Each word uttered by the character furthers the business of the play. for us to be able to explore what the dramatist thinks about it. a sense of DECORUM must be established by the characters. Death for exampl e. Englewood Cliffs. E. it functions ironically is conveying to the audience a meaning different from that conveyed to the characters. ie. Its heavy rhythm suggests the strained tone and obsessed mood of the man. Remember exposition establishes the relationships. as it is likely to go i n a naturalistic play. The words in both cases depend upon the kind of attention we give them. The context into which it is put can make it pull more than its conversation al weight. force them upon us. PRENTICE-HALL. Consider Othello\rquote s bare repetition: 'Put out the light. end then put out the light. and in a variety of ways try to fix the quality of our attention. Used by an actor on a stage. An apparent reproduction of ordinary conversation will be. So it is dramatic speech. a constructio n of word setup to do many jobs that are not immediately obvious. anyway. If dialogue carefully follows the way we speak in life. it furthers the plot. So Death is partly humanized. tensions or conflicts from which later plot developments derive. INC. this trivial accident becomes an incisive and major comment on everything the family has done. pp. Also the exposition of the play often falls on the dialogue of the characters..
wastes our interest\emdash unless. When the actor examines the text to prepare his part. He says of his characters that he has 'permitted he minds to work irregularly as they do in reality. The actor and producer Stanislavsky have called these clues the 'subtext' of a play. I'm going to tell him what you said. the person spoken to and the spoken about. Reference: . there may also be an element of that mean something only to himself as observer. smaller and greater truths and a belief in them. an where no topic is fully exhausted. that is he looks for the structural elements of the building. expounded. rising and falling. The subtext is a web of innumerable. all sorts of figments of the imagination. even if the effect lies in the barest or simplest of speeches. Good dialogue works like this and throws out a 'substextual stream of images'. It lies in a charge of meaning that will advance the action. The desultory and clumsy talk of real life. inner movements. during conversation. like a moving picture constantly thrown on the screen of our inner vision. the cogs of mind seem more or less haphazardly to engage those of another one. It is subtext that makes us say the words we do in a play. where. woven from 'magic ifs' . he looks for what makes the words different from conversation. This is argued in a statement in Strindberg's manifesto for the naturalistic theatre.' Once we admit that the words must propose and substantiate the play\rquote s meaning. talk without direction. adjustmen ts and other similar elements. In the play the difference lies first in an insistence that the words go somewhere. it has to teach him how to think and feel them: the particularly of a play requires this if is not to be animated by a series of cardboard stereotypes.It is true that conversation itself can sometimes be taken to do this thing. In the absence of the author it must provide a set of unwritten working directives to the actor on how to speak its speeches.' But he adds that. He persists till he has shaped in his mind a firm and workable pattern of his part. given circumstances. we may expect to hear the text humming the tune as it cannot in real life. move towards a predetermined end. He is th en left to marry the colour and shape of the stage picture with the music he finds recorded in the text. And before that. 'Whatever you think. and so on . like the chatter given to Jane Austen\rquote s Miss Bates. it hides relevance in irrelevance. And in another place he says that 'the whole text of the play will be accompanied by a sub textual stream of images. for links of characteristic thought in the character. adaptations. Dramatic dialogue works by a number of instinctively agreed codes. Dialogue should be read and heard as a dramatic score. These are directives strongly compelling him to hear the key in which a scene should be played. Others oblige him to start particular rhythmic movements of emotion flowing between the stage and the audience. picked up again repeated. varied inner patterns inside a play and a part. changing tone. to guide us as we speak and act on the stage. Others tell him what he should hear as the pattern of sound echoing and contradicting. Now the clues sought by the actor hidden beneath the surface of the dialogue are the playgoer's guides too.' It is a question of economy. For dramat ic dialogue has other work to do before it provides a table of words to be spoken. in decisions and repetitions. we shall find in them more and more of the author's wishes. overlapping. \lquote it acquires a material that later on is worked over. and built up the theme in a musical composition. While the dialogue seems to stray a good deal in the opening scenes. For a fourth person listening. Some tell the producer how to arrange the figures on the stage. and the tone and temp of the melody. objects of attention. Even if the limits within which these effects work are narrow. It follows the dialogue which the wit and vitality in Shaw's dialogue yet ignore the question of its relevance to the action.' is a remark which in its context can shed light on the speaker. with its interruptions. as spectator witnesses a play.
ASIDES. epic. Contemporary: Experimentation seems to be the key word here. FLASHBACKS often substitute for narration. Greek: Playwrights of this era often worked with familiar story material. realistic depiction of everyday life entered the genre of drama. Reference : Encarta Encyclopedia Previous Topic Back to Top Genre Emil Sylianteng Genre is a term that describes works of literature according to their shared thematic or structural characteristics. Classical genre theory. whose comments on the play reflected reactions common to the community. In representing action. the playwrights used allusion rather than explicit exposition. attempting to maintain rigid boundaries that correspond to social differences. This required intense attention from the audience.The Elements of Drama by J. The confidant. is regulative and prescriptive. the chorus and the confidant. epic. where he distinguishes tragedy. . usually citizens or elders. established by Aristotle and reinforced by Horace. remarks made to the audience but not heard by those on the stage. Minor characters casually comment among themselves on major characters and plot development. and comedy and recognizes even more fundamental distinctions between drama. English Drama: Minor chara cters play an important role in providing information and guiding interpretation. chronological sequence and characterization through dialogue. The attempt to classify literature in this way was initiated by Aristotle in the Poetics. plans and reminiscences of a major character. are common. Styan Cambridge University Press 1960 Previous Topic Back to Top Convention The means the playwright employs are determined at least in part by dramatic convention. Extended SOLILOQUY enables a major character to reveal his thoughts in much greater detail than in natural dialogue. a body of onlookers. legend about gods and famous families that the audience was familiar with.L. Many contemporary playwrights have abandoned recognizable setting. they often relied on messengers to report off-stage action. listens to the complaints. A NARRATOR replaces the messenger. Since the audience was familiar with certain aspects of these. For interpretation the Greeks relied on the CHORUS. and lyric poetry. a friend or servant. Realism: Toward the end of the nineteenth century. whereas the characters may be unconventional and their thoughts turbulent and fantasy-ridden. These plays were written in metered verse arranged in elaborate stanzas.
Every man. Who has not heard. without thought or foundation. Whether the remarks have grown out of prejudice. In his Reflaxions sur l. The hundreds of hour of work by the many persons involved in the production. but rather as aesthetic conventions that guide. Whether his reaction has been good or bad. women. The unstable nature of genres does not reduce their effectiveness as tools of critical inquiry. but. untrained. the person to hear. He may be completely lacking in the knowledge required of even a beginner in dramatic criticisms. the play is dead. and their pride in their work-to say nothing of the financial outlay involved-far too often are condemned or praised for the wrong reasons or for logical reason at all." Yet the power of the written words takes over. since classical times. and what this novice write becomes the accepted authority for many. individual who isoften for strange and irrelevant reasons-assigned to cover an opening for the school or community paper. bad or non-existent: the audience. valery believed that a creator is one who makes other create': in art both the artist and the spectator actively cooperate. art. meager . The concept of drama put forward in this book insists that the audience have an indispensable role to play. evolved theories of the novel. "Anyone can write up a play. audience are inseparable parts of the theatre. Playhouse. a reception by a great person. pastoral. what the critic has written. and many other kinds of writing. is always right. their personal sacrifices. As a further injustice. satire. on the other hand. It is doubtful if any other business or art is so much a victim of inept. it cease to be just an opinion and is accepted as a fact. Ortiz It is the act or chance of hearing. We do not go to the play merely to have the text interpreted and explained by the skills of the director and his actor. and what have been said will become a part of the production's history. accepted. but to share in a partnership without which the players cannot work. elegy. If in the theatre there is no interaction between stage and audience. mise en scene. but are also led by. and been affected by such generalization as: "They say its terrible!" or " They say its terrific!" Another type of critic is the more powerful and frequently only slightly more qualified. They can read the text at home. he is speaking as a man of the nineteenth century. We do not go as in a learning situation. again. unfair. in a sense. comedy with the middle or lower classes. Previous Topic Back to Top Audience Manuel L. proclaim himself to be a critic. writers. biased. like the customer. and the value of the work is dependent on this reciprocity. or child who has expressed an opinion concerning a dramatic performance has. While Stanislavsky is right in saying that 'spectator come to the theatre to hear the subtext. which attempts to discover universal attributes among individual works. script. illogical. tragedy and epic are concerned exclusively with the affairs of the nobility. but once spoken or repeated. actors. The statement may have been inadvertent. and undeserved criticism as is a dramatic performance. and has. becomes the only record of the production and so catalogs the event of the future. ode. Modern literary criticism. repeated. does not regard genres as dogmatic categories. his opinion will have some effect on the thinking of those who have heard or read his comment.Thus. although it is just a single opinion.
the weather. are under discussion. a poor dinner or disposition. community. the rest of the audience. momentary admiration or dislike foe some individual participant. what he has done or eaten in the past few hours. Previous Topic Back to Top Stagecraft Eduardo M. Both setting and action may be little more than hints for the spectator to fill out. temperament. but there are yardsticks that should be familiar to all of us. This list of imponderable could go indefinitely. and with the same cast. Tajonera Jr The stage creates its effects in spite of. and that this criticism includes those who write the drama section for the national magazine or the large daily newspaper report on the opening night. environment. Having been a part of the theatre-professional. We live in a world with out laws of logic or mathematical formulas to guide us. There are no yardsticks that will give us all the same answer. In this paper we propose to present and to discuss some of these criteria. If the amateur critics just referred to had been familiar with some basic dramatic principles and had used them honestly. for total agreement on any phase of the theatre is impossible. if agreement on any one aspect of a given performance is impossible. heredity. age. in the same theatre. definite physical limitations. maturity.knowledge of the theatre. and in part because of. Reference: Encarta Encyclopedia Previous Topic Back to Top Design Francis Calangi . Any intelligent theatre person knows that each member of the audience views what is before him with different eyes and so sees something different from his neighbor. Setting and action tend to be suggestive rather than panoramic or colossal. or any of a hundred incidents that could occurred during the production itself does not matter. there would be a greater feeling that justice had been done. we are well aware that criticism of the critics is frequently heard. for a different audience makes for a different production. How each member reacts will be determined by education. and educational-for more than four decades. then agreement is even more hopeless if different performances of the same play. lack of understanding or sensitivity. or his plans for after the performance. Furthermore. background. an auditorium too hot or too cold. experience. Those whose effort are being discussed can console themselves only with the fact that criticism-good or bad-is much easier than creation or craftsmanship for the same reason that the work is harder than talk. nationality. This is inevitable.
incorporating elements of several styles. Much contemporary experimental theater rejects the formal constraints of available theaters and seeks more unusual spaces. Japanese and Chinese classical theater. The proscenium is the wall separating the stage from the auditorium. and it has limited popularity. which may take several shapes. entrances and exits must be made in full view of the audience. eliminating surprise. The proscenium arch. when properly used. The Arena Stage The arena stage. Furthermore. A performance. and." Many earlier forms of theater were performed in the streets. while still allowing for illusionistic effects through the use of the upstage end and adjacent offstage space. need not occur in an architectural structure designed as a theater. and arena. The proscenium developed in response to the desire to mask scenery. Frequently. since in most setups. they are known as multipleuse or multiple-form theaters. classical Spanish theater. commedia dell'arte. This was the stage of the Greek and Roman mimes. The result is to enhance illusion by eliminating all that is not part of the scene and to encourage the audience to imagine that what they cannot see is a continuation of what they can see. because at any given time part of the audience will inevitably be viewing a performer's back. it creates a sense of distance or separation between the stage and the spectators. New theaters today tend to be flexible and eclectic in design. market squares. English Restoration theater. arena. The simplest version of the end stage is the booth or trestle stage. farthest from the audience) may have scenery and provisions for entrances and exits. Because the proscenium is (or appears to be) an architectural barrier. however. is a performing space totally surrounded by the auditorium. Illusion is more difficult to sustain in arena. as noted. the mountebanks and wandering entertainers of the Middle Ages. if nothing else. the sense of stage and auditorium is created by the actions of the performers and the natural features of the space. churches. A thrust may be backed by a wall or be appended to some sort of end stage. sometimes known as three-quarter round. or even in a building. Stages and auditoriums have had distinctive forms in every era and in different cultures. . and create an offstage space for performers' exits and entrances. open spaces.Theater Space Theater can also be discussed in terms of the type of space in which it is produced. or theater-in-the-round. This arrangement has been tried several times in the 20th century. it is placed at one end of a rectangular space. The Thrust Stage A thrust stage. because of the different scenic demands of arena theater. the large backstage areas associated with prosceniums can be eliminated. The English director Peter Brook talks of creating theater in an "empty space. and much of Western theater in the 20th century. a raised stage with a curtained backdrop and perhaps an awning. Throughout history. Elizabethan theater. the thrust stage generally creates a sense of greater intimacy. Because no barrier exists between performers and spectators. Western theater has been dominated by an end stage variant called the proscenium theater. is the opening in that wall through which the audience views the performance. as if the performance were occurring in the midst of the auditorium. or rooms or buildings not intended for use as theaters. can create a sense of intimacy not often possible with other stage arrangements. thrust. and popular entertainers into the 20th century. The Proscenium Theater Since the Renaissance. It probably formed the basis of Greek tragic theater and Elizabethan theater as well. is a platform surrounded on three sides by the audience. it is well suited to many nondramatic forms. hide scene-changing machinery. thus allowing a more economical use of space. The upstage end (back of the stage. A curtain that either rises or opens to the sides may hang in this space. In all these "found" theaters. The necessity of providing equal sight lines for all spectators puts special constraints on the type of scenery used and on the movements of the actors. This form was used for ancient Greek theater. Nonetheless. The proscenium arch also frames the stage and consequently is often called a peep-show or pictureframe stage. however. but the thrust itself is usually bare except for a few scenic elements and props. An end stage is a raised platform facing the assembled audience. but its historical precedents are largely in nondramatic forms such as the circus. most theaters have employed one of three types of stage: end.
Above the stage. Its purpose is to suggest time and place and to create the proper mood or atmosphere. and the revelation of form-the appearance of shape and dimensionality of a performer or object as determined by light. or functional. shadow. It has four controllable properties: intensity. Although scene painting seems to be a dying art. and other new and industrial products that until recently were not in the realm of theater. and color). It eliminates the single or central stage in favor of surrounding the spectators or sharing the space with them. metals. especially in a proscenium theater. The Stratford Festival Theater in Stratford. and pillars are permanently built into the stage space.Variant Forms One variant form of staging is environmental theater. archways. such as opera houses. Lighting was first achieved with candles and oil . in contrast. modern scene shops are well equipped to work with plastics. where lines for flying-that is. or setting. frequently called a scenographer.S. from which lights and pieces of scenery may be suspended. costumes. Stage lighting may be from a direct source such as the sun or a lamp. Ontario. is the visual environment in which a play is performed. color. These properties are used to achieve visibility. This is an empty space with movable seating units and stage platforms that can be arranged in any configuration for each performance. for example. Stage space and spectator space become indistinguishable. These auditoriums are shaped like a hand-held fan and are usually raked (inclined upward from front to back). have boxes-seats in open or partitioned sections along the sidewalls of the auditorium-a carry-over from baroque theater architecture. Settings can generally be classified as realistic. Another popular alternative is the free. Germany. the architectural stage has permanent features that create a more formal scenic effect. and lights. the set. space. Typically. almost all performance was outdoors and therefore lit by the sun. such as the Teatro Olimpico (1580) in Vicenza. Italy. The Fixed Architectural Stage Most stages are raw spaces that the designer can mold to create any desired effect or location. abstract.6 m (12 ft) high-jutting onto the multilevel thrust stage from the upstage wall. these functions are usually handled by three separate professionals. Most permanent theaters through the Renaissance. and cycloramas-curved canvas or plaster backdrops used as a projection surface or to simulate the sky. a more ephemeral art. which has precedents in medieval and folk theater and has been widely used in 20th-century avant-garde theater. The No and kabuki stages in Japan are other examples. wagons (rolling platforms) on which scenes may be mounted. has two functions: to illuminate the stage and the performers and to create mood and control the focus of the spectators. paper. employing reflected light or general illumination. Until the Renaissance. and movement-the visible changing of the first three properties. is the area known as the fly gallery. Relatively standard elements include trapdoors in the stage floor. elevators that can raise or lower stage sections. one person. sometimes called a black-box theater because of its most common shape and color. has a permanent "inner stage"-a platform roughly 3. raising-unused scenery from the stage are manipulated. and some theaters. Set design is the arrangement of theatrical space. Auditoriums Auditoriums in the 20th century are mostly variants on the fan-shaped auditorium built (1876) by the composer Richard Wagner at his famous opera house in Bayreuth. placement on the stage. designs sets. platforms. and which contains counterweight or hydraulic pipes and lengths of wood. Set Design In Europe. suggestive. Other special devices and units can be built as necessary. in the U. Variety in individual settings may be achieved by adding scenic elements. stairs. synthetic fabrics. composition (the overall arrangement of light. but with indoor performance came the need for lighting instruments. or it may be indirect. Such auditoriums may be designed with balconies. mood. ramps. Lighting Design Lighting design. or flexible. Stage Facilities The use and movement of scenery are determined by stage facilities. with staggered seats to provide unobstructed sight lines. did not use painted or built scenery but relied on similar permanent architectural features that could provide the necessary scenic elements. or battens.
Since then. Most designers attempt to balance "warm" and "cool" colors to create proper shadows and textures. variations on contemporary dress sufficed. Images can be projected from the audience side of the stage onto opaque surfaces. notably for such comic characters as Harlequin or the other characters of the commedia dell'arte. These generally have a power of 500 to 5000 watts. costumes may also be suggestive or abstract. provision of back and side lighting as well as frontal. and distribution can have a subliminal effect on the spectators' perceptions. These include still or moving images that substitute for or enhance painted and constructed scenery. Film and still projection. as in classical Greek theater. however. Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp. Lighting design. The most recent development in lighting technology is the memory board. little attention was paid to period or regional accuracy. subtle effects can be achieved through choice of color. a computerized control system that stores the information of each light cue or change of lights. was first used extensively by the German director Erwin Piscator in the 1920s and became very popular in the 1960s. most costuming is actual or re-created historical or contemporary dress. . Based originally on everyday dress. Colors. Similar projections are often used on scrims. an actor's work can be significantly eased by its skillful design. and can even simulate such physical attributes as obesity or a deformity. and ornamentation all convey meaningful information. Instruments consist of a light source and a series of lenses and shutters in some sort of housing. which allowed greater illusionism in scenic painting. so called because a series of "dimmers" controls the intensity of each instrument or group of instruments. Because so-called white light is normally too harsh for most theater purposes. however. Although colored filters. Two basic types of stage-lighting instruments are employed: floodlights. but are also often responsible for wigs. with gas lamps. create special effects such as stars or moonlight. just as in set design. plunging the auditorium into darkness for the first time. fabric. The instruments are hung from battens and stanchions in front of. but only the advent of electric lighting in the late 19th century permitted the brightness and control presently available. and at the sides of the stage. Except for special effects. costume elements are formalized. lights may be focused to simulate the direction of the ostensible source. but even in these instances. The electrician need no longer operate each dimmer individually. however. Until the 19th century. This involves the proper angling of instruments. Costume Design A costume is whatever is worn on the performer's body. blue. and spotlights. Costume designers are concerned primarily with clothing and accessories. in the 19th century. It also allowed the dimming of the house-lights. the skillful use of color. As with the other forms of design. sometimes referred to as mixed media. and mechanical dimming devices were used for effects. colored filters called gels are used to soften the light and create a more pleasing effect. or from the rear of the stage onto specially designed rear-projection screens. is not simply aiming the lighting instruments at the stage or bathing the stage in a general wash of light. over. and weight or material. performers would appear two-dimensional without back and side lighting.lamps and. which illuminate a broad area. and a proper balance of colors. The lights are controlled by a skilled technician called the electrician. as with scenery. costume designers have paid great attention to authentic period style. Costume can also function as character signature. Because costume can indicate such things as social class and personality traits. cut. Gas lighting facilitated greater control. semitransparent curtains stretched across the stage. texture. or circus clowns. who operates a control or dimmer board. reflectors. White light can be simulated by mixing red. lighting design generally strives to be unobtrusive. however. by pushing one button. and makeup. the costumes became standardized and were appropriated for the stage. all the lights will change automatically to the preprogrammed intensity and at the desired speed. Audiences usually expect actors to be easily visible at all times and to appear to be three-dimensional. masks. and green light. designs. intensity. Because most acting involves impersonation. By current standards the stage was fairly dim. In much Oriental theater. In realistic settings. lighting served primarily to illuminate the stage. or provide written legends for the identification of scenes. which focus light more intensely on a smaller area. Costumes convey information about the character and aid in setting the tone or mood of the production. The lighting designer is often responsible for projections.
Whereas real furniture and hand props can be used in many productions. is now generally recorded during the preproduction period. nonrealistic productions. most theatrical performances were accompanied by music that. expression depends solely on voice and gesture. skin tone. Props are the objects handled by actors or used in dressing the stage-all objects placed or carried on the set that are not costumes or scenery. props can be illusionistic-they may be created from papier-mâché or plastic for lightness. Technical Production The technical aspects of production may be divided into preproduction and run of production. Sound and Sound Effects Sound. especially in Oriental theater. Makeup Makeup may also function as a mask. indicate symbolically significant aspects of the character. The person in charge of props is called the props master or mistress. was produced by live musicians. exaggerated in size. in professional studios. as used in ancient Greek drama. the colors and features of the mask. Masks obviate the use of the face for expression and communication and thus render the performer more puppetlike. thereby removing one aspect of suspense. masks were essential in Greek and Roman drama and the commedia dell'arte and are used in most African and Oriental theater. properties (props). collapsed. Reference: Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia copyright 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. or designed to appear level on a raked stage. certain sounds do not record well and seem false when played through electronic equipment on a stage. Although rarely used in contemporary Western theater. in the case of most commercial theater. The mask shifts focus from the actor to the character and can thus clarify aspects of theme and plot and give a character a greater universality. In large theaters masks can also aid in visibility. where faces may be painted with elaborate colors and images that exaggerate and distort facial features. however. or nose shape. makeup is used for two purposes: to emphasize and reinforce facial features that might otherwise be lost under bright lights or at a distance and to alter signs of age. In Western theater. Technicians also create special aural and visual effects simulating explosions. thunder.Mask A special element of costume is the mask. The masks of tragedy and of comedy. until recently. Sets. Such sounds are most often used for realistic effect (for example. Because the mask's expression is unchanging. Since the 1930s. especially in the Orient. and animal noises have been essential since the earliest Greek tragedies. they may also be capable of being rolled. and theatrical shows such as circuses must be built. rain. and costumes are made during this phase by crews in the theater shops or. Any sound that cannot be created by a performer may be considered a sound effect. use of recorded sound has been a possibility in the theater. and apparitions and giving the illusion of moving objects or of flying. From earliest times. Like sets. wind. . or folded. Like costumes. the character's fate or final expression is known from the beginning. lightning. are in fact the universal symbols of the theater. but they can also assist in the creation of mood or rhythm. Preproduction technical work is supervised by the technical director in conjunction with the designers. a train rushing by or city sounds outside a window). Elaborate mechanical devices are therefore constructed to simulate these sounds. fire. Although music is still the most common sound effect. such as rain or thunder. irregularly shaped. Although many sounds can be recorded from actual sources. if required. props for period shows.
the principle he indicates remains a sound one. says: WANGEL: It shall not come to that. when Wangel. will be found to fall into two classes: changes of volition. It must always be rendered plausible by some new fact or new motive. it becomes a matter of the first moment that it should not merely be asserted but proved.Previous Topic Back to Top Conversions Ma. of which we have no proof whatever beyond his bare assertion. Many a promising play has gone wrong because of the author's neglect. I think. It has often been observed that of all Ibsen's thoroughly mature works. ELLIDA: (Gazes at him awhile. Criselda De Leon Conversions. as if speechless): Is this true---true---what you say? Do you mean it---from your inmost heart? WANGEL: Yes---from the inmost depths of my tortured heart. from A Doll's House to John Gabriel Borkman. ELLIDA: In freedom---and on my own responsibility? Responsibility? This---this transforms everything. Nothing material is changed by his change of heart. however. in full---full freedom. in her overwrought mood.. because it turns entirely on a condition of Wangel's mind of which he gives no positive and convincing evidence. A change of resolve should never be due to mere lapse of time---to the necessity for bringing the curtain down and letting the audience go home. are not always adequately motived. The Lady from the Sea is the loosest in texture. Changes of will. And therefore---therefore I---cancel our bargain on the spot. Now you can choose your own path. He could not in any case have restrained . hard-hearted parents were apt to withdraw their opposition to their children's "felicity" for no better reason than that the fifth act was drawing to a close. to a single fault. is evidently inclining to yield to the uncanny allurement of the Stranger's claim upon her. and on your own responsibility. But this formula is practically obsolete. The fact that it leaves this impression on the mind is largely due. For a century and a half after Dryden's time. and. with reference to this class. to comply with this condition. Now this is inevitably felt to be a weak conclusion. or inability.. Ellida. There is no other way of deliverance for you---at least I see none. some hitherto untried appeal to reason or emotion. but it is very difficult to externalize convincingly a mere change of heart. but that is because of individual inexpertness. closely examined. A change of will can always manifest itself in action. The conclusion of the play---Ellida's clinging to Wangel and rejection of the Stranger---depends entirely on a change in Wangel's mental attitude. Ellida. is too obvious to require enforcement. the least masterly in construcion. It was not quite superfluous so long as the old convention of comedy endured. and changes of sentiment. For now you can choose in freedom. not because of any failure to recognize theoretically the necessity for adequate motivation. When the conclusion of a play hinges (as it frequently does) on a conversion of this nature. realizing that her sanityis threatened. on the modern stage. Changes of sentiment are much more important and more difficult to handle. This rule. ---and she promptly gives the Stranger his dismissal. I mean it. Now your own true life can return to its---its right groove again.. It was the former class that Dryden had in mind.
while in fact she was engaged to another man. and is seized with a passion for her as single-minded and idealistic as hers for him. he "awakens" to the error of his ways. and flung herself into her captor's arms. Too much is made to hang upon a verbally announced conversion. however. and said to her: "Go! I set you free!" The moment she saw the gate unlocked. in order to induce him to become practically an accomplice in her brother's crime." perhaps is not quite the right word. The Awakening. In The Lady from the Sea. if the law gave him the abstract right to do so. Ibsen failed to solve it: in Rosmersholm he solved it by heroic measures. goes with her to her end. as a rule. The truth is. We are bound to accept theoretically what the author tells us. and provided with the material "guarantee of good faith" which is lacking in The Lady from the Sea. in her devotion to her forger brother. Haddon Chambers. and is horror-stricken. he threw open the prison gate. his will to set the Lady Henrietta free. The poet ought to have invented some material---or. Edward Thursfield does fall in love with her. the incident is acceptable enough. to the detriment of the desired effect. in a very powerful peripety-scene in the third act. But what may suffice for Ellida is not enough for the audience. has conceived the rather disgraceful scheme of making one of his official superiors fall in love with her. for whom she never truly cared. and shown her that he was not the inefficient nincompoop she had taken him for. The state of mind of a fictitious character is not a subject for actual belief or disbelief. but in this case he has failed to make us intimately feel and know that it is true. and is deservedly forgotten. fortunately. on pain of leaving the audience unimpressed. Alfred Sutro's play The Builder of Bridges. She discovers his true character. and the author takes no effectual measures to overcome it. at the very least. she also realized that had the least wish to go. Sutro's handling of the difficulty seems to . who cannot believe her if she lives. The dramatist must. turned on a sudden conversion---the "awakening. The late Captain Marshall wrote a "farcical romance" named The Duke of Killiecrankie. his reputation. Psychologically. Rebecca herself puts it to him: "How can you believe me on my bare word after to-day?" There is only one proof she can give---that of "going the way Beata went. and a merely verbal undoing of the "bargain" with which she reproached herself might quite naturally suffice to turn the scale decisively in his favour." She gives it: and Rosmer. and often he fails to attain it at all. in which such drastic methods of proof are appropriate or possible. at a great sacrifice. Having kept her for a week in deferential durance. "Sceptical. But how are the heroine and the audience to be assured of the fact? That is just the difficulty. Had he done so. Let me further illustrate my point by comparing a very small thing with a very great. The Lady from the Sea would assuredly have taken a higher rank among his works. and that she is no longer the same woman whose relentless egoism drove Beata into the mill-race. or. he certainly never had the slightest intention of exercising it.Ellida by force. and believe that she believes in it. attain his end by less violent means. and will not survive her if she dies. A play by Mr. Thursfield learns that Dorothy has been deliberately beguiling him. and imprisoned her in a crag-castle in the Highlands. having been again and again rejected by the Lady Henrietta Addison. But the cases are not very frequent. referred to in the title. that she has really come to love Thursfield passionately. so that we believe in it. at any rate. is visibly demonstrated by the actual opening of the prison gate. and realized that she could indeed go when and where she pleased. The Duke's change of mind. The saner part of Ellida's will was always on Wangel's side. This is a more important matter than it may at first sight appear. and so we are willing enough to believe---if he can devise any adequate method of making Thursfield believe it. How to bring home to the audience a decisive change of heart is one of the ever-recurring problems of the playwright's craft. of course. but the audience remains skeptical. Dorothy Faringay. occurring at a crucial point in a dramatic action. must be certified by some external evidence. or. and has broken her engagement with the other. whose heart is full of innocent idealisms. So the author tells us. while practically at the same moment. Mr. has been idly making love to a country maiden. But. is ultimately convinced. in which that nobleman. indeed. The whole catastrophe is determined by Rosmer's inability to accept without proof Rebecca's declaration that Rosmersholm has "ennobled' her. The heroine. a noted Don Juan. The play was a trivial affair." in fact. replaces the money the brother has stolen. In Mr. some impressively symbolic---proof of Wangel's change of heart. A professional lady-killer. but the situation was effective because it obeyed the law that a change of will or of feeling. and. She succeeds beyond her hopes. Here we have Ibsen's situation transposed into the key of fantasy. kidnapped the obdurate fair one.
I cite the case as a typical instance of the problem. or radical change of mental attitude. but not conspicuously. It may be said that the difficulty of bringing home to us the reality of a revulsion of feeling. That is true: but the special importance of a conversion which unties the knot and brings the curtain down seemed to render it worthy of special consideration. is only a particular case of the playwright's general problem of convincingly externalizing inward conditions and processes. successful.me fairly. a part from the merits or demerits of the solution. Reference: Play-making A Manual of Craftsmanship by William Archer .
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