Good Example Of Essay On Theater Studies Movies And Play Summary
Play One: Fences
Fences was written by August Wilson and studies the difficulties of one black man’s life in the 1950s, as he struggles to overcome prejudice and simply work though the same day to day issues as any other American Man.
Symbolism, or hidden symbols in the play are quite possibly the most interesting single element of the writer’s work. The playwright wanted to play on both the idea of the North versus the South and the idea of the American dream. Perhaps first and foremost, he introduces the idea of the North versus the South in giving Troy’s family the last name “Maxson.” This is a combining of words, that is derived from the “Mason Dixon Line” or the line that divided free states from slave states during the civil war. By giving Troy this last name, Wilson demonstrates that he is a character that is caught on the line, or split between his desire to be truly free, and taking advantage of the north, and who is caught by the Jim Crow atmosphere of the south. This idea is similarly represented in the titling of the play “Fences” and the recurrent theme of fence building in the play. White picket fences are forever the picturesque symbol of the American dream, they are they represent security, a belief that with hard work your every dream can come true, and a sense of family and stability. This represents the opportunity of the North, which is reflected in both of Troy’s sons, Lyons and Cory.
Fences, unfortunately, also represent division, separation, and estrangement. Every time that Troy makes choices that divide him from those he loves, we see the fence in the scene, or see him and another character working on the fence. This represents the repression of the South, and the division between not only white and black, but between one member of the story and another. Also, his inability to complete the fence while his family is still intact demonstrates that he can never have all the elements of the American Dream at the same time.
Bono says that Rose needs the fence to hold her loved ones close, but in the end, when the fence is finished, the family is most damaged. Though Troy damaged his family, he was ultimately also the glue that held the family together, and who provided them with the strength they needed to overcome the white/black divide or the battle between the north and the south in their own lives.
Play 2: Everyman
Everyman is at its core a morality play, designed to answer the question “what must a man do in order to be saved.” Everyman would likely have been dressed in fine attire, but was understood to represent the common man, and he is initially addressed by death, who would have been dressed in all black. Everyman meets a cast of characters in the play, all of whom are allegorical in nature, including Kindred, Fellowship, Goods, Good Deeds, Knowledge, Beauty, and Strength, among others. Everyman seeks time to find companions for his final journey, believing he will need them to accompany him and vouch for his good works. In the end, only his good deeds, confession and sacrament can lead him toward heaven.
What is perhaps most interesting in this work is Everyman’s apparent self-discovery as he moves toward death and what his journey appears to reveal about the nature of mankind. Early in the play, when death arrives to tell Everyman that he must go on the terrible journey, Everyman responds by trying to bribe death. This reveals that Everyman is a very worldly and material man, because he believes that even Death can be stalled for the right price. But, his Worldly Goods desert him roughly half way through the play, freeing him of materialism and allowing him to focus on his spiritual life.
Yet, It is not until well into the play that he begins to see that he cannot save himself, rather he must rely on God’s mercy to forgive him for the wrong he is done. When he scourges himself, in lines 611-614, it is clear that he is caught in a partial understanding of what God demands. He is willing to allow his body to suffer, in order to save his soul, but he is still relying on his own powers to redeem himself, rather than relying solely one God. However, this seems to be his final casting off of the physical, as it is only after this scourging that he is joined by his good deeds.
After the physical has fully departed, only contrition, and forgiveness remain, and these please God. Rather than wearing fine garments, he is said to wear contrition, which allows him to abandon fear.
When wearing contrition, and finally reaching a state that he is pleasing to God, that be comes into communion the virtues of good character, and evidence of his redemption. Only Good Deeds however accompany him all the way to the end of his journey, and enter into death with him.
The writer’s purpose in detailing this journey is to ensure that mankind understands the risks of worldliness, and that virtue can only abide in the absence of materialism, and yet, even our good character cannot follow us into death, because only our holy works, and our faith will follow us to receive God’s glory.
Movie 1: Oedipus Rex
Oedipus Rex is a movie that is based on a play that was originally written by Odiepus. The movie is clearly devised not only to act out the original play, but to emphasize the plays purpose, and the fact that this is a movie reenactment of a play, not a traditional film. This is heavily emphasized by both the costumes and the use of lighting in the film. First and foremost the film takes place on a stage, rather than on a movie set.
Rather than having a large backdrop, or multiple settings, it is limited to the scope of a traditional theatrical stage to mimic the setting that might have been used by the original cast of the play, at the time of its writing. Similarly, the character’s costumes all center around the mask for that character. This is a traditional practice of the ancient Greek theater and is designed to give the play a sense of authenticity. This was done in ancient Greece to allow a single actor to play multiple roles, which saved the ancient acting company money.
The chorus, in ancient Greek plays, acted as an advisor to the audience, setting up the scene, and offering a framework for the plays understanding. Similarly, there is a monologue added to the beginning of this film which sets the state and explains that the movie will try to adhere to the truest intent of the original playwright. He notes that lighting will be used to specifically emphasize the theme of light over darkness, and good over evil, and we do, in fact, see a dramatic use of the lights, much like the lighting used in more modern plays, in order to create dramatic intent.
Similarly, the camera zooms in and out only, but does not work to pan from left to right, to cover scenes from multiple camera angles, or to use camera location to create dramatic fade ins and outs, rather it only works to provide a basic view of the plays action. It simply looks on, as a member of the plays audience might look on. The zoomed in lens might represent the audience’s view through opera glasses, and zoomed out lens the view from the naked eye, or the view from two different seating locations in the theater. Whatever the case, it is kept simplistic, straight forward, and un-dramatized. It does not, in any way, provide meaning or emotion.
In short, the film maker here attempted to adhere to the strictest understanding of the playwright’s intent, and allow his directorial choices to immolate the play’s original style and tone, this is scene through the lighting, the use of traditional costuming, and the sparse use of camera angles that were used in the creation of the film, and the film makers choice to adhere to the original script, as written.
Movie 2: Tartuffe
Unlike Oedipus, Tartuffe uses a variety of modern film techniques to create a much more film-like and much less play-like version of the Tartuffe story. While the original playwrights purpose is still intact, both his dialogue and his staging have been abandoned in order to capture something that translates more readily to the film medium.
Tartuffe is a story about a pious fraud, and a woman who takes advice from him on all her actions. As a result, the fraud becomes embedded in the family and is able to greatly influence, and impact their interactions with one another. Though the play is written in a very comic tone, it carries with it a heavy moral insinuation that lying, cheating, and disguise, create a great conflict between reality and the assumed.
The film maker, however, takes great liberty with the play, greatly altering it from its original form, and emphasizing the comic, rather than the moral features of the text. First the film maker totally does away with the original text and dialogue. The original play was written in a poetic form, in rhyming couplets. For example,
Madame Pernelle: Come, come, Flip-ote; it’s time I left this place.
Elmire: I can’t keep up, you walk at such a pace.
Madame Pernelle: Don’t trou-ble, child; no need to show me out.
It’s not your man-ners I’m con-cerned a-bout.
Though the original play was written in French, many English translations have been written which preserve this form, the film maker in the 1983 version, however, elected to fully abandon the verse.
The film maker also uses a lack of lighting to make the play seem as if it is taking place inside of a real home, or real locations, rather than on the stage, there is not any lighting from above, spotlighting, or other direct light techniques used, allowing the film to rely instead on what appears to be natural lighting. Finally, the film uses a variety of camera and film angles in order to abandon the feel of the stage. It uses a variety of angles, and settings to create a look that is very traditional of British filmmakers of the time, and which in no way reflects a stage plays dynamics. The intention is to increase realism, rather than drama.
Movie 3: The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard is a film, made in 1999, that was based on a play by Chekhov. It is historically significant because it was Chekov’s last play. It follows an aristocratic Russian woman, who returns to the Cherry Orchard estate, just before it is auctioned.
The playwright originally intended the play to chastise Russian culture, specifically emphasizing the futility of the aristocratic culture attempting to maintain its status, and the rise of the middle class, with its new found hunger for materialism and objects of station.
The 1999 film production adheres, relatively closely to the original play’s intention, if not the exact details of the plot and scripting. The costumes are extremely accurate, based on the turn of the century fashion in London and Paris, though it may neglect many of the more detailed aspects of Russian culture at that time, instead favoring the more mainstream-Europe understanding of turn-of-the-century apparel.
What is perhaps most interesting in both the film, and the play, however is the focus on the Cherry trees. While they are only mentioned in the play, we see the physical act of their destruction in the film, which is not limited to the scope of the stage.
The trees, known for their beautiful blossoms, are being chopped down by the new owners of the estate. The new owner is both a former serf of the aristocrat Madame Ranevskaya, and rising member of the middle class, who serves as a representation of all that is wrong with the Russian culture of that era.
The Cherry trees stand as a symbol of the aristocratic culture, which is longstanding, beautiful, and utterly useless. They are a symbol of refinement, culture, and passive perfection. When Lopakhin, the former serf, both takes possession of them, as the symbol of the culture he once served, and begins to cut them down, it is symbolic of the bourgeois rising to destroy the aristocracy, without any regard to their person, and without any discernment for beauty. They allowed good things, and good people to be destroyed in the wake, not because they truly hated them as individuals, but because they wanted to rise to power of their own. Just as Lopakhin destroys the trees in order to lash out at Madame Ranevskaya, and to show that he now has dominion over her, as an act of spite, despite the fact that his actions are destructive on his new estate, and lowers the estates value and beauty.
The 1984 version of Death of a Salesman was a made for TV film, that originally aired on CBS and based on the 1949 play by Arthur Miller. Ulike most play to movie translations, this film follows the original script almost exactly, though it uses a variety of film techniques and modern filmography devices in order to create a more dynamic overall story.
The film tells the story of Willy Loman who comes home, after canceling a business trip, worried and tense. His wife encourages him to relax, but he seems unable of letting go. After this, his life seems to spiral out of control, his son is struggling, he looses his job, tension builds, and ultimately Willy is driven to commit suicide to escape his current life, and to provide money for his son to pursue a future in business.
What is perhaps most interesting is the use of “Flashbacks” in the film. These are interesting because they were relatively new to film at the time they were used in this film, and because the film maker makes clear that Willy has departed from reality by both allowing the film to have more color and more dynamic visual appearance during flashbacks, and because the rules of reality no longer apply during flashbacks. While inside a daydream, or a flashback Willy can walk through walls, alter conversations, and otherwise accomplish things that are out of reach for characters tied to the real. This demonstrates both the stream of consciousness that drives the play’s, or film’s, storyline, and symbolizes Willy’s deteriorating mental case. As he becomes increasingly mad, or moves toward his own death, he also becomes increasingly removed from the real, or his experiences become more subjective.
The use of lighting in the play is often surprisingly playlike, with a spot light focusing on Willy, leaving the rest of the scene in shadows. This emphasizes that he, and his mental state, are the focus of the film, and that it is intended to be told predominately from his point of view.
The Death of a Saleman is designed to focus on Willy’s life and death, and in both the playwright and the filmmaker’s version of the tale it does exactly that. Though we see the thoughts and actions of others, the tale takes on a kind of stream of consciousness movement from reality to the mind of Willy, letting us peer into his past, and his imagined future in the form of flashbacks an daydreams, that greatly depart of reality. The use of lighting and filming techniques are effective in emphasizing these goals, and on preventing the audience from distraction by potential side storylines, ensuring that they understand the race that Willy runs toward death.