Lecture January 21.docx

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

DRAMA LECTURE – January 21, 2013 How to do theatre the new way:  The fourth Wall removed  A new way of watching  An ethically suspect way of watching (voyeurism)  A disorienting way of watching (where am I?)  The Antoine Example- wall-what-wall? Performance pieces were regarded without regard for the audience. This was very experimental, for the first time, the audience was not acknowledged. In Miss Julie, we have part of a stove on stage, sticking out from a curtain thing. This is a little strange, in that time we are used to symmetry, but here it is at an angle. On the other side of the stage, we have a slice of a table. And upstage, we have a wall that is crooked. We don’t like that (bourgeoisie) doesn’t like crooked walls, they like unity, symmetry. In the back corner, we have part of a rounded arch door (we can only see about 2/3). We don’t even have sidewalls; the audience’s thought is “Thank God I didn’t pay too much for this, I don’t even get a proper set.” All these are characteristics of the naturalist theatre. Ibsen wants us to see his play as a realist work. There is only a slice of a room:  A sign to the uninitiated audience of what’s in store in plot, character, etc.  A slice of this life, slightly twisted  To twist it even further, everything works; consider the stove Strindberg is not showing the audience the whole room -> the audience can almost see something every time but not quite. This shows that there is no offstage, that the play continues past the stage, that the audience is trying to crane his neck to see what is going on beyond the set. Strindberg is doing this because he is a naturalist, he has removed all the doors. When the play opens, Christine is cooking kidneys. Then she is cooking something else, and Jean says “That stinks”. Diana the dog has been bad, she has been out performing with another dog. So Julie orders Christine to cook a concoction to induce an abortion in Diana the dog. This is a hell of a way to start a play. A slice of life:  The structure of the plot – in medias res  The structure of time – real time, no intermission We begin in the middle of something gruesome (Christine cooking something disgusting). The combination of plot and time:  Actions are not forced downstage center  Therefore, we might be looking at so-called “minor” action  Is any action “minor” in Naturalism In Naturalism, is there any action that is minor? We are supposed to be watching the play and creating meaning out of it. We are supposed to be watching like a scientist. The significance of Christine’s Pantomime: Christine is not a part of the important action. What the stage directions say – slow down, ignore the audience, don’t pay attention if they get bored, just do the things Strindberg instructs her to do. While we see Christine do tasks in the kitchen, Julie and Jean are off (we are always wondering what is going on offstage). Our attention is offstage. What the stage directions don’t say -> how to act. She is just given specific instructions of physical things to do. Conclusion: Stage directions can be empowering, these are verbs, not adverbs. Strindberg develops a kind of scenario, a kind of stage direction that tells people how to move, how to step, how to behave, how to think. This scene, the pantomime is a great gift to the actor playing this role. She gets to spend a whole scene doing nothing, and the audience has to watch her do it. The audience begins to wonder what she is thinking. We don’t often see a character lost in thought on stage (this was very unusual, it expressed a mind at work). The naturalists revolutionized the way we think about characters in the arts. The slice of life and character: The status quo – the character is fixed  A part of the culture of the Middle Class  A part of the business of the theatre. A person who has character is a person we can trust and whom we can read. There is a consistency to this character (or what is it they are, what it is they do). The idea of the word character is that it represents something fixed (the character does not change). People were hired to be the stock villain. There were stock actors, stock scenery, stock costumes. The actors play
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