DRAMA - September 10 2012.rtf

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University of Toronto St. George
Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
Alan Ackerman

Monday September 10th, 2012 - DRAMA LECTURE Drama 100 asks basic questions Drama centers on world-creation: what is appearance and what is reality? Course asks to think hard on things we already thought we knew. Drama asks us how we know stuff - this is what philosophers call epistemology Theatre is a word from Greeks (same root for theatre as theory - means to see): theatre is a space of seeing But what does it mean to see? First play we read about a character who blinds himself. Why to people make plays? Why do we go to the theatre? To be or not to be? = most famous line. How does drama represent in the mind? It is a place of seeing, speaking, of externalization. What does it mean to know, how do we know and why do we know it? Hamlet tells us the purpose of playing. What is the purpose? Why are we here? Why are we doing this? Drama, more than any other art, provokes us to ask these basic questions. Purpose of playing is to "hold the mirror up to nature". What does it mean to act? Aristotle says that imitation is an instinct of our nature. It is connected to our instinct in harmony and nature. Theatre is a school. Art imitates not only what happens but what may happen. History teaches us what many happen, drama on what may happen. Imitating potential in nature (= drama) Basic question: self-knowledge. Who am I? (ex: The importance of being earnest) OEdipus doesn't know who he is (Wilde in a conversation with OEdipus) What is the function of the theatre - everyone in playwriting has asked this question (ex: Hamlet) To show the world we live in what it looks like. "Theatre is to be the school of the moral world" Going to theatre should teach us to be better people (= pretty good purpose) Art gives us models of living. We move forward into 20th century, theatre frees the repressed unconscious. Theatre frees dark forces festering in every soul (Artaud) On other hand, in middle of 20th, Brett (German) says theatre helps transform historical feel. Theatre is about world making, we can take what we learn in theatre and apply it in the historical landscape. We can't say one writer is right or wrong. All writers are smart. In course, we want to understand why they said what they said when they said it. Crucial point to keep in mind: ALWAYS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WE ARE READING BEFORE WE DISAGREE WITH IT. Be generous with artists who have given gifts of intellectual work Theatre is connected to seeing and knowing. Relationship between material world and a world of ideas? Philosophical problem that 2 central greek thinkers set us up for (Plato and Aristotle). This is basic to what happens in the world of theatre. Theatre is a place of seeing things. Represents a reality which is invisible, what happens in the mind. For Hamlet: Is there a ghost? Is it a spirit from hell come to damn Hamlet's soul? OEdipus centers on blindness and vision With Shakespeare, we ask : How do I know that I am? "Je pense, done je suis" In English, distinction made between drama (written texts) and theatre (performance) Drama = to do. Drama has connotation of written play. In recent years, theatre has run into questions about performance. What is relationship of art to life? Question raised by Pluto. What is mimesis? (Aristotle) To him word sometimes means simple copying. Aristotle also writes that good portrait painters show a man as more handsome than he really is. Tension in use of greek word mimesis. How we understand theatre changes way we understand reality. Bad things about theatre: use of adjectives ("don't be so theatrical, don't make a scene" = pejorative). All terms borrowed from the theatre are belittling. (ex: Don't make a spectacle of yourself). Thespus, who gave his name to the art of acting, was called a liar. Theatre accused of and challenged of presenting things that aren't true. Actors have always been lumped in class of lower-class people. Actors compelled to live in same area as prostitutes (they sell their bodies to give pleasure to other people). Today, we have concerns about this too. We don't want children to see some grotesque horror film. There are lots of concerns , dramatic action can model very bad anti-social behavior. Maybe theatre does have that power? Many actors have been confined to despised cast of society. There is a distrust go the stage. But theatre is fundamentally social form. Unlike novel. Theatre only exists with other people. 19th century french philosopher says audience defines theatre. Can't have theatre without an audience. Since Thesbus, he has stepped out of the chorus. Escalus introduces second actor. Sophocles introduces third actor. Theatre represents interpersonal experience. Stage still haunted by the fact that that one actor, that the self is multiple. A performance by a single actor can represent interpersonal experience. In 20th century, we understand the self is made up of a variety of persona (Freud) Jonas Barish identified a disposition within western culture to get aroused by theatre. Barish tried to fortify theatre's defenses against detractors. Hitler, Mussolini used theatrical presentations to work people into frenzies. Theatre of Ancient Athens different kind of theatre than modern, shakespeare. Modern theatre is a critique, a destruction of a certain kind of theatre. Creative destruction very productive. In this course, we will start with ancient greeks. THE SCHOOL OF ATHENS (Raphael, 1510-1511) Ancient Greece: Plato (429 to 379 BCE) is one of most imp. writers + one of most influential philosophers World that appears to our senses somehow filled with error, defective. There are forms + ideas that are eternal. A table for example. We know it is a table, how do we know it is
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