Elements of AV language 1: Theatre (September 17-19 )

This week we began a three-week series of readings and discussions about the audiovisual languages of theatre, film, and performance art.  The last two weeks we discussed basic vocabulary of the three media, jointly and separately (acting, performance, stage, camera work, sound, and so on), and now we begin to work with larger building blocks.  What characterizes the audiovisual language of theatre, specifically?  We established the importance of acting, set and costume design, and movement/proxemics.  We discussed the importance of separating the written text (dramatic literature) from the staged performance (spectacular dimension, theatre, hecho teatral), being fully aware that these two dimensions of theatrical semiotics cannot be understood properly unless they are seen interactively.  We analyzed Lope de Vega’s New Art of Writing Plays, the Comedia manifesto in which the playwright established his debt to Ancient theatre, and his thorough knowledge of current theatrical practices: units of space, time, and rhyme; the three acts; the interludes or entremeses; the distribution of the dramatic conflict; and the casos de honra and the difficulty of staging uxoricide.

Wednesday we are going to discuss Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre and Invisible Theatre.  These two concepts are key to understanding the relationship between the audiovisual language of theatre and its development in LatinoAmerica.  Without understanding this, we cannot fully grasp Latinx Performance Art.  Bring your questions, lacuna, comments, epiphanies, and so on to the table in class during our discussion, and here thereafter.

This is the first mandatory post.  It is due on Saturday September 22 at 5PM at the latest, although you can blog at whatever time you want before that.

3 Replies to “Elements of AV language 1: Theatre (September 17-19 )”

  1. All three readings, The New Art of Writing Plays, “Functionality and Applications of Theatrical Semiotics,” and the selected chapters from Games for Actors and Non-actors, attempt to place where theater draws its meaning. All three readings point to the formal aspects of theater and theater writing that affect the overall meaning of a play.

    The text that especially drew me in was Augusto Boal’s Games for Actors and Non-actors. The audio-visual language of forum theater is very much impacted by its intention: “to transform the spectator into the protagonist of theatrical action and, by this transformation, to try to change society rather than contenting ourselves with merely interpreting it” (Boal 253). This quote, reminiscent of the barely heard theorist Karl Marx, is the driving force for how the forum theater is set up to contrast the “Evangelical theater.” Forum theater is not about telling people how to solve their problems, it is about empowering people into realizing that they are the ones who can solve their own problems by yelling “Stop!”. This empowerment is not a cutesy one, once the spect-actor yells “Stop!” the entirety of the cast starts to work against them to illustrate how hard it is to try to change something (Boal 244). This world is not a cutesy place. The relation of the actors and the spect-actors is due to the intention of forum theater.

  2. I was profoundly interested in the short passage of in the “Function and Applications of Theatrical Semiotics” of Cortes with his description of Semiology. Demonstrated in class, there are lots of interpretation that can be made with by observing kinesic and proxemic studies with the movement of body and intertwine of space between bodies, which leads to greater influence on audience.

    On contrary, I do believe that Film gives a factor of imagination that can seep in between scenes since it doesn’t profoundly explain all events. Which might make it frail to misinterpretations but also the chance of various interpretations as well.

  3. Lope de Vega, born in the late 1500s as the third child of an embroiderer, wrote as many as 1,800 plays in his lifetime. He greatly expanded the sheer number of Spanish plays available, as well as challenged and redefined the idea of theatrical performance uniquely, both propagating and opposing the Greek dramatic tradition he was taught in school.
    A document which expresses the sentiments he had about the customs which confined theatrical performance was written and translated as The New Art of Writing Plays.
    In it he sarcastically contends, “Poetic imitation all must be/ composed of elements which number three/ discourse, pleasant verse, and harmony.” Although this sounds as though he is urging all poets to make their prose pleasant, as his are, he also acknowledges that plays are not always performed this way. He says, “That plays in Spain are not devised/the way their inventors all advised,” which seems to indicate that plays are breaking away from those traditions of theater, especially in the sense that they are performed differently than the way they are written, which is an acknowledgment of the imperative role audiovisual language has in theater.
    Vega also acknowledges the role of the actor, stating, ” thus if an actor should the role attempt/ of traitor, he arouses such contempt/ No one will sell him what he wants to buy/ and everywhere he goes the people fly.” This means that the actor’s performance should cause such contempt that he is shunned from the community, the people should feel the villainy so viscerally that they stay angry.
    It seems Vega in this piece urged productions to use audiovisual language at the expense of breaking old traditions to heighten the emotive qualities of their performance, which was a step forward in the tradition of theater.

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