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.

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