Staging Modern Playwrights: From Director's Concept to Performance

Staging Modern Playwrights: From Director's Concept to Performance

Staging Modern Playwrights: From Director's Concept to Performance

Staging Modern Playwrights: From Director's Concept to Performance

Synopsis

This book represents performance criticism based on Sidney Homan's own experience in commercial and university theaters as an actor and director. From that experience he raises issues such as the degree to which the director can and should abide by the playwright's intentions. Using examples from playwrights as diverse as Albee, Wasserstein, and Ionesco, he asks: what are the strategies by which a director can engage the audience? At times he focuses on specific plays: creating a "history" for the minor character Saul Kimmer in Shepard's True West, thinking of the tape-recorder as a "character" in Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape. Other chapters tackle larger issues such as collaborating with the actors in Feiffer's Little Murders and the set designer in Pinter's Old Times. He also talks about creating and then directing an original play, More Letters to an Editor, and performing for such varied audiences as prison inmates and children on a hospital's psychiatric ward. Sidney Homan leads a double life as a scholar/teacher on the University of Florida campus and an actor/director in commercial and university theaters.

Excerpt

I lead a double life, on the stage and in the study, as an actor and a director in professional and university theatres and as a scholar and teacher on college campuses. the subject of this performance criticism, therefore, is my own work in the theatre. and other less welldefined theatres, as well. Doing Beckett's Come and Go at a retirement center and in the People's Republic of China. a prison tour with his Waiting for Godot. a performance of Albee's Zoo Story in the courtyard of an apartment complex where the police, confusing the performance with reality, interrupted the final moment when Peter stabs Jerry on the park bench. Guerilla theatre in front of draft boards during the protest years of the 1960s. a play called Boston Baked Bean, its dialogue essentially a transcript of the salty talk overheard in a coach's office, which we staged in bars, a public hall, and a detention center, as well as theatres. Pinter's A Kind of Alaska before an audience of physicians, who took to heart the character of Hornby, the doctor who has awakened Deborah from a twenty-nine-year coma with an injection of the drug LaDopa. Ionesco's Rhinoceros before an audience that included two survivors of Hitler's concentration camps who could understand the hero Berenger in a way that dwarfed whatever I had learned about that character. and hundreds of performances with an improv group, Strike Force, in "found spaces.”

With Chapter 1, I try to begin at the beginning, as the director in developing his or her concept of the play comes to terms with the playwright's text. What were the playwright's intentions? How can we know them, or rather, how well can we know them? To what degree does the director become a collaborator with the playwright, a fellow "author” of the text? From questions of intentions I move in Chapter 2 to working with actors as they make their own discoveries about the play, thereby joining the director as one of those fellow collaborators. Chapter 3 talks about the influence of the set on the actors during that period of discovery, and later on the audience during performance. in parallel fashion, Chapter 4 concerns the influence of props on the actor and the performance, with specific reference to the use of the tape re-

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