Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Review

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Some random thoughts about plays versus movies and TV

Movies are "hyper real" - generally speaking.

* close ups
* cuts that tell us where to look
* tracking shots that maintain the illusion we are watching reality from the most advantageous vantage point
* with the huge exception of CGI, set in the real world but a framed - and thus idealized - world in that almost every shot is composed
* a performance can be discovered on the cutting room floor

Plays are actually real - except obviously not (though 'fourth-wall' theater aims at that illusion - I assume Echo Brown will break the fourth wall)

* live and thus unique performance - play is created by actor and audience combined
* we have to decide what to pay attention to, though careful staging and acting can control our attention
* plays have a stronger sense of the now- though some jumping around is possible
* plays have a stronger sense of place - though some jumping around is possible as in the case of Shakespeare
* sets are clearly artificial, no matter how well done - the proscenium arch is a frame and a thrust stage drastically limits what can be done with setting
* for stage acting - as for daring circus acts - the possibility of error and thus disaster is always there

The goal of both (mostly) - to some degree a willing suspension of disbelief in which one becomes invested in the reality of the characters.

Some thoughts from playwriting class:

Dramatic writing is fundamentally about people. It is a way to understand people.

* Dramatic characters are people who WANT things. Consider: 1) What they want; 2) Who they want them from; 3) How badly they want them; 4) When they want them, which in a play is most often Right Now; 5) Their use of words as ammunition to achieve these ends. 6) We pay attention not primarily to what the character says but what the character is trying to do, to the subtext, to the motives, to the manipulations of others - or of self..

*Remember that desire leads to action. Find the action to reveal the desire

*People are in relationships: with whom and how strong to what end, to what desire. How do you show relationships? Plays are about "word acts," BUT actors use their entire body. Writers work from the neck up.

*You have to decide how much to trust characters. They can twist facts, distort, lack reliability.
*Show motivation. Let the audience discover. When the character "tells," we can choose to disbelieve.

In the case of one-person shows with multiple characters, it is always about virtuosity.

Here's the best review of a one-person show I could find. It deals with the power of one actor doing several parts. 

This is where the show’s solo nature proves so crucial to its appeal. Watching Jones demands a kind of triple vision: We’re aware of her as a performer, the character she’s playing, and, most important, all the other characters that have come before. By allowing so much difference to share the same space—the same body—she comes to personify her theme of peaceful coexistence.

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