The Audience• The most important relationship in the theatre is the Actor-Audience relationship – why would that be? Why is that different from other similar art forms or performances?
The Audience• Each theatre performance is unique and occurs in front of an audience• Live performances are dynamic and exciting• The audience has an effect on performers
The Audience• Aesthetic Distance: viewer must be separate from the performance in order to experience its aesthetic qualities• Willing Suspension of Disbelief: we know it’s not real, but we choose to believe it anyway• Conventions: the rules (think back to the small planet)
Sacred and Religious• The Greeks and Romans – Theatre was part of religious rites that served the whole city, so they were big events – Even women were allowed to attend! Whoa!• Medieval – Theatre started up as a part of the Catholic mass to help teach the Bible stories to the common folks who didn’t speak Latin
Professional Theatres• In the Renaissance, theatres were making money rather than making religious points and pledges• Public stages were open air and also open to almost all classes• Private stages were usually indoors and only open to the upper classes• Italian theatre architecture ended up shaping audiences for centuries to come – Box, pit, gallery
To See and Be Seen• 16th and 17th century audiences sometimes included some hoity-toity rich folks actually sitting on the stage – there to be seen more than to see the play
Democratic Theatre• 19th Century• Return of the working classes to the theatre• Fan-shaped seating with good seats throughout the theatre
Sidebar: What a Riot…• Astor Place Riots• The Rite of Spring• Playboy of the Western World• The Plough and the Stars There are four famous events when audiences rioted because there were so impressed by a certain actor or so outraged by a specific play. When was the last time you got excited enough by a play or movie to riot?
Sidebar: Cradle Will RockDuring the Depression, part of theWorks Progress Administration (WPA)was the Federal Theatre Project (FTP)designed to put theatre people backto work. One of shows that wassupported by the FTP was Cradle WillRock by Marc Blitzstein and directedby Orson Welles. It was acontroversial, pro-union musical thatended up being canceled the daybefore it was supposed to open. Atwhich point, the audience marcheddown the street to a new theatrewhere Blitzstein started performingthe show on his own. One by one, theactors stood up out of the audienceand took up their parts. Tim Robbinsdirected a movie about this event, alsocalled Cradle Will Rock. If you ever geta chance… check it out! It’s a greatstory about the power of theatre! 11
Non-Western Theatres• Spontaneous and responsive audiences• Blurring boundaries between performers and This is obviously way audience oversimplified. We’ll touch more on this later in the semester
Contemporary Audiences• Extremely varied people• Extremely varied venues• Extremely varied topics• Not always used to live theatre the way historical audiences might have been
Who goes and does not go to the theatre?• Audience trends are flat or in decline. The percentage of the U.S. adult population attending non-musical theater has declined from 13.5 percent (25 million people) in 1992 to 9.4 percent (21 million people) in 2008. The absolute size of the audience has declined by 16 percent since 1992.• The number of adults who have attended musical theater has grown since 1992, but remains largely constant as a percentage of the population.• Attendance trends do not seem primarily related to ticket prices. Statistical models predict that a 20 percent price hike in low-end subscription or single tickets will reduce total attendance by only 2 percent. These data suggest that other facts are likely affecting the demand for theater.National Endowment for the Arts Announces Report on Nonprofit Theaters So basically… there are fewerFirst NEA overview of nonprofit theater network in the United States people going to the theatre these December 15, 2008 days. And I want to change that! Maybe starting with you!
Rules of being a good audience member Dude, Shut up!
• Thou shalt not be an ignorant audience member• Thou shalt not be late• Thou shalt not bring food and drink into the theatre unless otherwise notified• Thou shalt turn off they cell phone or other electronic devices (not merely silence it – and not vibrate!)• Thou shalt not text or instant message (this is a particular pet peeve of Ms. Goff)• Thou shalt not take video or still pictures of the performance• Thou shalt not talk during the performance• Thou shalt not put thy feet on the backs of seats• Thou shalt avoid leaving the theatre while a performance is in progress• Thou shalt laugh, cry, gasp, or applaud as appropriate
The Critic• An audience of one – Often the person who stands between the performance and the prospective audience – critics sometimes have the power to make or break a show• What is Criticism? – To find fault (the negative version of the word) – To understand and appraise (the more useful version)• Could write for websites, newspapers, academic journals, etc.• Description, analysis, interpretation, judgment
Two Broad Types of Criticism Descriptive criticism An attempt to describe as clearly and accurately as possible what is happening in a performance Established by Aristotle (4th century B.C.E. Greek philosopher) Prescriptive criticism The critic not only describes what has been done but offers advice and sometimes even insists on what should be done Established by Horace (1st century B.C.E. Roman writer)
Criticism Click through the next few slides and quizyourself to see if you can identify the differencebetween Descriptive and Prescriptive Criticism.
Descriptive or Prescriptive?“Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action thatis serious, complete, and of a certainmagnitude.” (Aristotle) Descriptive
Descriptive or Prescriptive?“Whatever the lesson you would convey, bebrief, that your hearers may catch quickly whatis said and faithfully retain it.” (Horace) Prescriptive
Descriptive or Prescriptive?“When authors take their plots from history,they must be careful not to depart too widelyfrom the records.” (Castelvetro) Prescriptive
Descriptive or Prescriptive?“All works of art which deserve their name havea happy ending.” (Joseph Wood Krutch) Depending on your POV, this could be either…
Descriptive or Prescriptive? “The subject *of the play+ once chosen, write inprose, and divide the matter into three acts of time, seeing to it, if possible, that in each one the space of the day be not broken.” (Lope de Vega) Prescriptive
Descriptive or Prescriptive?“Imagine certain people in a certain situation:you will get a comic scene by turning thesituation around and reversing the roles.” (HenriBergson) Descriptive
Descriptive or Prescriptive?“The Theater of the Absurd has renouncedarguing about the absurdity of the humancondition; it merely presents it in being.”(Martin Esslin) Descriptive
The Theorist• Like the Critic, but tends to look beyond the one performance into a larger context• Theory: “an intellectual construct created to explain or predict a phenomenon.” (35) – Systematic (reasoned and orderly) – Internally consistent (don’t contradict yourself) – Sufficient (theory gives all the necessary info to understand) – Congruent (theory takes into account all the evidence – it doesn’t just ignore the stuff that doesn’t agree)
Some Theories So here we go… let’s take a look at sometheories that people use to find meaning in plays.
Liberal Humanism• Good art is always good and good for you!• Approach the text with no pre-knowledge of the artist or the time period.• Universal themes, moral of the story both important• “The Individual” can exist independently of culture, society, class, etc.• Subtlety is better than being overt/explicit. Understated feeling, emotions arising from composition, and ideas/themes emerging through symbolism are all highly valued.• Asks “What are the moral and artistic merits of this pieces of theatre?”
Red Riding Hood - Liberal Humanism• Good moral message• Virtue triumphs• Fairly explicit, clearly children’s literature, so not worthy of serious study
Freud/Psychoanalysis• Tries to take psycho-analytic structure and apply to characters and situations in art.• Terms – ID: base, animal desires – Superego : Hyper-rational/moral thought, keeps things in control – Ego: The conscious self – Conscious/Unconscious mind - Division between what we are aware of, and the influences of repressed or transferred memories, emotions, experiences. – Oedipus Complex - The desire on the part of children to supplant their parents.• Asks “Why do characters do what they do, and do they know why they act the way they do?”
Hamlet - Freud Style• Why does it take so long for Hamlet to kill his uncle?• Does Hamlet understand his own hesitations and emotions?• What might be the symbolic meaning of the second appearance of the ghost?
Marxist Critique• Class and economic condition the primary driver of all human activity/interactions• Struggle between classes drives human history• History is on a trajectory that leads to the “Proletarian Revolution” where the laboring class will also be the ruling class.• The ruling class will use its power and influence to maintain their power and authority.• Asks “How does economics impact character actions and events? How does class? How are economics reflected in the work of art?”
Moby Dick - A Marxist Take• Highlight the brutal economic system of whaling - the toll on laborers, their wives and families.• Ahab as the symbol for the voraciousness of capitalism, whose pursuits can only end in disaster.
Feminist Critique• Call attention to the role of women in existing works of art. Delve into works to find examples of both the historical oppression of women and times where women had more agency/power than might be assumed• Rethink the canon - Why are men so often privileged over women?• Asks: “How are female characters represented? Who is creating the representation? How does gender impact character actions and events?”
Feminist Critique - Red Riding Hood• Go back to the roots of the story – there are several versions – No woodsman – Red just gets eaten – Woodsman saves the two women after their bad decision – Red escapes on her own – Woodsman rescues them from one wolf, then a second wolf comes and Red and grandma drown him in a trough on their own• Each of those says something different about the role of women, doesn’t it?
Queer Theory• Exploring homosexual relationships and themes in a text and the author’s own life• Reexamines the assumption of a heterosexual norm• Asks “what is the role of gender and sexuality in the text and in society? How are homosexual characters represented? How are heterosexual characters represented? By whom?”
Hamlet – Queer Theory• Look at the heterosexual relationships – what are they like?• Look at Hamlet’s relationship with Horatio vs. his relationship with Ophelia
A particular slide catching your eye?
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