The Work of Living Art: A Theory of the Theatre

By Adolphe Appia; Barnard Hewitt et al. | Go to book overview

5. ORGANIC UNITY

WHEN A PAINTER seeks a subject, he bears in mind not only the resources and advantages that the art form he is using offers him, but also the restrictions and the sacrifices that it imposes. He is ever conscious of both the possibilities and the impossibilities in painting; he is so accustomed to them that his life as a painter and the knowledge that there are certain inevitable limitations in his art are identified, so to speak, in an affirmation: He is a painter, and therefore he enjoys certain advantages, must consent to certain sacrifices. As a result, he experiments within these limitations, feeling that they are incontestable.

What about the dramatist? If he is truly a dramatist, all his activity is in anticipation of the actual presentation of his written work: he seeks to appeal not to readers, but to spectators. Since a play is produced in a theatre but a manuscript is prepared elsewhere, the dramatist is obliged to divide his attention between a work whose master he is--the manuscript of his play--and a process which usually escapes his control--the production of that play. He oscillates between the two just as a painter would, if his still empty canvas were already hung in an exhibition, while his palette, covered with fresh colors, remained in his studio. At the exhibition, he would vainly seek to conjure up the proper arrangement of colors; in his workshop he would eagerly wish for the liberating surface of the canvas.

But the desire of a dramatist for a stage is less fixed and less exact than that of a painter for a canvas. The dramatist's palette can be running over with situations and can in a pinch suffice; but he thus plays a lone and dangerous game, since his

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The Work of Living Art: A Theory of the Theatre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Books of the Theatre Series iii
  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Adolphe Appia and "The Work of Living Art" xi
  • Preface 1
  • 1. the Elements 3
  • 2. Living Time 19
  • 3. Living Space 25
  • 4. Living Color 31
  • 5. Organic Unity 38
  • 6. Collaboration 59
  • 7. the Great Unknown and the Experience of Beauty 68
  • 8. Bearers of the Flame 79
  • Designs 83
  • Adolphe Appia's "Man is the Measure of All Things" (protagoras) 123
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