Sunday, March 28, 2010

Musical Theatre and the ISMs

One of the classes I’m currently enrolled in is Topics in Drama. This class requires us to read many plays. The most recent one assigned was a musical. This class also explores the different styles of plays, or the “isms” as my professor calls them. There is realism, naturalism, absurdism, etc. The method of realism is used by playwrights to show the reality of characters and situations; they do not overdramatize situations. Some of these plays can be very dry and seem like nothing is happening. Anton Chekhov wrote The Cherry Orchard which is a really good example of a realist play.
After being instructed in these “isms”, it was interesting to hear what Dr Adams had to say about theatre. At one point he said that theatre is a “metaphor.” It’s like peaking through the windows to someone’s life. My professor for Topics in Drama said something very similar when she was describing the shift into realism. The people who made the plays wanted them to appear very real. In earlier times, the actors would use a presentation style and speak to the audience. When switching to realism, they would sometimes have their back turned to the audience. Those who made these realist plays would have most of the rehearsals with four walls and not decide until later on which wall to take out. They wanted it to really appear as if the audience was really just peaking into a window of someone’s life. After learning about realism, it was surprising to hear Dr Adams speak about peaking through windows into ordinary people’s lives and musicals in the same conversation (or lecture).
One of the other “isms” my Topics in Drama professor spoke about was expressionism. This was one of the later movements breaking away from realism. It would attempt to show the audience what a character was thinking. They did this through props, the stage setup, costumes, etc. The musical theatre songs are used to get inside the characters mind. Dr Adams showed the clip of Chicago, the song was the “Cell Block Tango”. It was a song showing the memories of the main character, Roxy. The song was meant to show the audience what’s going on inside Roxy’s head. The musical theatre seems to fit in with this category.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Clothing Families with Feed Sacks

So, I was in the car with my sister and my friend, Sophie. Sophie presented an idea that I had never thought about before, and I found it slightly interesting.
I don’t know the time period, but I know that it was before the West was fully tamed. Because of the wild nature of the land, trading was difficult. There were not many people just traveling around with a bunch of supplies looking to sell to a bunch of people. The colonies they traveled to needed specific things, food among them. Food was one of the big things to be bought and sold. Clothing, however, was very expensive. Because of this, the women would make their clothes, blankets, etc. out of the feed sacks. They would buy some flower or wheat and use the packaging to make a blanket, or a coat. I hadn’t thought of this before, although it seems very fitting. The women had to make due with what they could. They had little money and would waste very little of it. They would save all of their resources and find a way to utilize them.
It was interesting to hear about that. Then I start to compare it with how we utilize our resources. How many people recycle? There is so much stuff that’s thrown away. Scraps of food and “left-overs” get scraped off into trashcans, instead of fed to the poor or even used to save on dog food. We buy expensive stuff, just because we can. I think it makes us feel powerful knowing how much money we can just throw away.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

American Stereotype

There are many Americans who like to stereotype people. I've seen it happen to a bunch of people. However, recently I visited the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta and saw The Canterbury Tales acted out. There were many types of characters. There was the nun, the businessman, the fun-loving goofball, and others. There was also the American couple. The characters were introduced by the nun, and the way she said "the Americans" made it quite clear that this was a stereotype. Just as she finished their introduction, the American woman shot up from her seat and lived up to her intro. She was loud and obnoxious, dressed fancily, and the boss of her husband.
While some might be offended at this, I found it mildly amusing at the time--though this may be because I went the tavern to be entertained. It was also kind of interesting to see what the stereotypical image of Americans has changed to.
When we first came to the New World, we were pioneers with axes. Then there is the image of the colonies. Thinking back on the Revolutionary War, we didn't exactly look all that powerful. Yet, we came to eventually be the most powerful force in the world. Now, we are seen as obnoxious, and loud. In movies, we are put next to the British and people make fun of the contrast, laughing at our crudeness and stupidity. We are seen as having grown fat and greedy. We know better how to handle a virtual gun than a real one, unless of course one is the American redneck huntin' over yonder for a propane tank.
After watching the play, it was interesting, and afterward not too pleasant, to discover the new stereotype of Americans after our great history.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Attitude Toward Women in "Raisins"

So we recently read the play A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry. In some of my other classes, my professors talk about the role of women throughout the late 1800s and the 1900s. Women were suppressed. They couldn't write, air their opinions, etc. They were to remain in the house cooking, cleaning, remodeling, or creating babies and then rearing said children. This same view could be seen in the play.
Walter was not a favorite character of mine. He seemed shallow and self-centered. At one point in the play, he says, "That's it. There you are. Man say to his woman: I go tme a dream. His woman say: eat your eggs. Man say: I got to take hold of this here world, baby! And a woman will say: Eat your eggs and go to work. Man say: I got to change my life, I'm choking to death, baby! And his woman will say: Your eggs is getting cold!" While he is "dream[ing]", his wife is cooking his eggs, caring for him. She tells him "eat your eggs and go to work." He is never going to "take hold of this here world" if he keeps dreaming. She's telling him to get up and do something. While it's fine if he wants to change his life, he needs to think of his family and not just himself. He can't just quit his job and chase a dream without anything to fall back on. The wife can't do everything by herself.
He also says, "We one group of men tied to a race of women with small minds." Walter seems to be philosophizing the whole time, while the women of the story are working to fix thigns, even if they're not big things that are going to change the world. They're keeping things livable at home, while Walter goes off to get drunk and Travis weasels out of chores at home, knowing all to well that his grandmother is going to take care of it.