breath n.
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  1. Breath Curtain. Faint light on stage littered with miscellaneous  rubbish.  Hold for  about five seconds. Faint brief cry and immediately inspiration and slow increase of light together reaching maximum together in  about ten seconds. Silence and hold about five seconds Expiration and slow decrease of light together reaching minimum together (light as in I) in about ten seconds and  immediately cry as before.   Silence and hold for about five seconds. Curtain. Rubbish:  No verticals, all scattered and lying. Cry.  Instant of recorded vagitus*.  Important that two cries be identical, switching on and off strictly synchronized light and breath. Breath:  Amplified recording. Maximum light: Not bright.  If 0=dark and 10=bright, light should move from about 3 to 6 and back. *vagitus = cry of a newborn infant

  2. • Subjects • Themes • Patterns of meaning What is this play about? = Analytical/Interpretive Criticism

  3. • Constituent parts (as text, as performance) • Formal strategies/dramatic strategies &conventions • Processes of theatrical communication What is this play doing (and how does it do this)? = Functional Criticism

  4. Action v Activity

  5. ACTIVITY • Anything characters do on stage • Collection of incidents that hold our attention from moment to moment.

  6. • Irreducible unit of narrative drama • Change in the fundamental condition explored by play • Often experienced as developing tension and release • Probable and necessary (believable within the context of the play; organically emerging from the activities represented) • Change motivated by 3 interlocking concerns: Psychology—sufficient to explain represented behavior Morality—providential or cultural/social system of belief that frames performed acts) Causality—sequential (one act leading to the next until all obstacles overcome and action is resolved) Action

  7. • Can be deferred: protagonist states goal to be achieved (primary action); antagonist places obstacle in his/her path (secondary action); social constraints limit possible remedies (tertiary action); secondary character makes a demand (quaternary action). Plot works by introducing, then resolving complications until all is resolved. Action

  8. Mythos = Plot Ethos = Character/(Ethical) Disposition Dianoia = Thought/Substance Lexis = Diction/Speech Melos = Melody/Music Opsis = Spectacle Constituent Parts--from Aristotle, The Poetics (c.335 BC) Objects of imitation: Plot, Character, Thought Medium of imitation: Music, Diction Manner of imitation: Spectacle

  9. “Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action [ mimesis praxeos] that is serious,complete, and possessing magnitude; in embellished language, each kind of which is used separately in the different parts; in the mode of action and not narrated; and effecting through pity [eleos] and fear [phobos] the catharsis (purgation/purification) [katharsis] of such emotions.” Poetics, Book 6, trans. James Hutton (1982) Tragedy--from Aristotle, The Poetics (c.335 BC)

  10. Mimesis = representation, imitation, mimicry, perfection [of nature] through craft/art [techne], verisimilitude. Praxis/praxeos = action, performed acts, things done, choices. Eleos = pity, compassion, mercy (toward another)—includes sense of undeserved suffering Phobos = fear, dread, terror, awe Katharsis = biological or metaphorical purgation, cleansing, purification.

  11. • Sequence imitates the action of the play • Formal design Four types of plots: • Narrative (90% of all plots are linear narratives) • Process • Ritual • Thematic (Process, Ritual, Thematic late 19th century responses to conventional narrative drama) Plot = specific sequence of scenes/events (as distinct from story)

  12. • Beginning, middle, end • Linear, causal • Focus on conflict (agon) • Achieve closure Conventional narrative plots

  13. “Classical . . . narrative . . . turns on the creation of enigma through the precipitation of disorder which throws into disarray the conventional cultural and signifying systems. Among the commonest sources of disorder at the level of plot . . . are murder, war, a journey, or love. But story moves inevitably toward closure which is also disclosure, the dissolution of enigma through the reestablishment of order, recognizable as a reinstatement or a development of the order which is understood to have preceded the events of the story. . . . The moment of closure is the point at which the events of the story become fully intelligible to the reader.” --Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice, p. Definition of Classical Narrative

  14. Language • • Dialogue addressed either to other characters on stage, or to audience • • Four primary functions: • Reveal information (about character, motivation, relationship, situation, place, history, etc.) • Propel the plot • Pattern thematic meaning • Credible in context • Four functions often overlap

  15. • Uttered at three levels of address: • Explicit (meaning is on the surface. “I have a gun and I’m going to kill you.”) • Implicit (meaning must be inferred. “I brought something with me today, and one of us is going to end up using it.”) • Hidden (meaning concealed from audience, but becomes incrementally clearer as dialogue progresses. First conversation between Lomov and Natasha in The Proposal. 4th level: silence (saying nothing eloquently)

  16. • Character is the primary fiction through whom we negotiate a plot • Character is a function of language and plot • There are NO character driven plays • Characters become real for us once they are embodied on stage: we attribute to character the persona of the actor inhabiting the role (one reason why responses to different productions of the same play change) • Characters, especially in conventional plots, are revealed incrementally (the more skillfully revealed, the more effective the play)—produces the illusion of change • Audiences fill characters with conventional psychologies (they have none of their own)—when they deviate, we say that person wouldn’t do such a thing (but they do, and our job is to account for why) • Characters are defined by what they do on stage, not by who we think they are or might be or become Character

  17. All visual elements that contribute to audience experience: setting, costumes, staging, movement, lighting. Design choices/staging choices articulate how sequences of action (constructed from multiple incidents) move to illustrate how characters get from point A to B to C to D. Visual elements underline and make legible the action of staged sequences. Spectacle