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DRA 221 Voice Verse Practicum I

Published : 06-Sep,2021  |  Views : 10

Questions:

1) Group exercises – You are to research and design two rehearsal exercises.  The objective of the first exercise is to introduce a group of actors to each other at a first rehearsal. For the second exercise you should create a vocal and physical warm up that might be used before every rehearsal. The exercises will be done using people in class. There are a number of books in the library on acting and directing where you can find numerous exercises that might be appropriate. It is also perfectly acceptable to use exercises that another director has introduced you to.  A third possibility is to develop your own exercises.  Prepare handouts describing the exercises to share with other people in class (these will be distributed to everyone in class).

2) Improvisational scenes – You will develop an improvisational scene using a picture as a starting point.  The scene will focus on clearly establishing an action, objectives of characters, through line of the scene, conflict (arising out of differing objectives) and resolution. There should be a beginning, a middle, and an end.

3) Performance Poetry– you will stage and present a poem or poems of your choice.  We will work on these in class but you are to prepare beforehand an in depth plan of your ideas for staging (this will be posted on canvas).   The objective is to come up with movement patterns that reflect/ echo/ reinforce the content of the poem(s). You must use at least 4 people.

4) First major scene – This is your first chance to direct a scene from a play and that's why you took the course so don't screw it up. The scene is your choice and choosing it is part of the director's job so don't bother asking me for suggestions. There are hundreds of plays in the reserve room and thousands more in the stacks at the library and a bazillion online—read some of them.  I suggest that you choose a scene from contemporary dramatic literature and that you try to keep the number of characters to a minimum.  The scene should be long enough to establish character and situation and be somewhat self–contained (i.e. a clear beginning, middle, and end).  Try to keep them less than 15 minutes.

5) Stein scenes – Continuing in the vein of "non–performable literature," you will be responsible for directing a cutting from a play by Gertrude Stein. By the end of this assignment most of you will hate me and all of you will hate Gertrude Stein but hopefully you will have learned something.  The objective of this assignment is to stage an “entertaining” scene—good luck.  I will provide each of you with the "scene" that you will be required to direct.

6) Scene Without Words – you will a present a five-minute scene that establishes character, action, objectives, conflict, and resolution without dialogue.

7) Production Concepts – During this class period everyone will discuss his or her idea for an imaginary production.  You will pick a play to analyze and you will present your ideas for "the production to end all productions".  You have unlimited resources and anything is possible.  The objective of this exercise is to explore the limits of your imagination.  So often in this business we make concessions to limited resources.  This time you can have anything you want. A ten–page paper analyzing in depth your proposed production will accompany this assignment.  Your analysis should include a discussion of the play's action, the central conflict, the crisis and climax as well as the "spine" and major objectives of each character.  In addition your ideas about scenic, lighting and costume design should be included and as well as any ancillary ideas that you consider germane to your concept.

8) Final scenes – Now that you know everything there is to know about directing this should be a snap.  This scene will be a finished  "production" (your actors must be off book). It is up to you to decide on the venue and production qualities necessary to make it fit for public performance (understanding of course that you have no budget.....which is more common in the "real world" than you might imagine). The parameters are the same as for the "first major scene".  Basically you are on your own.  The suggestions are the same (contemporary–small cast) with an additional caveat that you might want to find actors who will commit as soon as possible. Actors from the acting 2 class are required to audition.

Answers:

Introduction

The play chosen for the said task is William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’. Shakespeare is believed to have written the play during the early 1600s but it is still regarded one of world’s best plays ever written. Many former and contemporary theater artists and filmmakers have adapted the play in movies and theaters and its popularity grew with time (Evans, 2013). The characters, the dialogues, the theme, the scenes, and the blank verses everything about the play is perfect and enchanting.  The essay discusses the main themes of the play, the action, the central conflict, the crisis and climax, the sound, lighting, costumes and other aspects of the play.

In the world of theater, it is vital for an artist to understand the minute aspects of any production. Each detail from the story to the characters, from the set to the lighting and sound, the costumes, the setup- everything has to be up to the mark (Roose-Evans, 2013). The director has to make sure that his artists are dedicated and committed to the production, the set is equipped with all the necessary equipments, the workers are doing their job properly and his production has enough material to attract and enchant the audiences.

The essay below provides an in-depth analysis of Shakespeare’s Othello and in addition, ideas for the production of this play are discussed. It has been made sure that all the aspects of production are discussed in the essay.

Action of the play

In the play, the main action involves Othello, Iago and Desdemona. Cassius and Emilia play supporting roles. The major part of the play is enacted in Venice, the beautiful city turned ugly by the devils and heroes alike. Iago unleashes his hatred for Othello and his inferior listens and applauds his ‘heroics’ while trotting along the streets of Venice (Gronbeck-Tedesco, 2013). The prime protagonist, Othello, is engulfed in his addiction of power and strength. To him, Desdemona only serves as a muse and his object of pleasure. However, Desdemona is a strong woman who possesses the quality of love and faith.

Shakespeare makes use of his artistry skill to the peak while depicting each character’s inner weakness. The action of the play shifts from Othello and Desdemona’s tale of love to Iago’s jealousy in no time (Rohmawati, 2015). The sequences however, are perfectly projected and the action flows smoothly from one scene to another.

Central conflict

The central conflict in the play is the tension between Othello and his intense anger on one side and Desdemona’s innocence and her unending love on the other. Desdemona flees with Othello and marries him despite the age, race and class differences. She defies her senator father and chooses a Moor over a Venetian. This creates a chaos in the high-class society she belongs to and her apparent separation from her father (Bevington, 2013). Othello in return fails to recognize her love and murders her on instigation from Iago. Another conflict evident in Othello is the conflict between a woman’s inner strength and capacity to endure, forgive and incur pain and a man’s incapability to control his own emotions. The three women of the play- Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca- are no objects of the men and they have their own personality and dignity to fight for their rights. Desdemona fights for her man Othello with another man, her father Brabantio. Emilia fights for her respect and value with her man Iago and Bianca fights for her dignity with Cassius. The central conflict of the play also helps the audiences understand the societal conflicts of theat era and the dramatist’s own conflict as well.

The internal conflict in Othello is more destructible than the external conflict. Every character goes through internal conflict and this leads to other conflicts (Cefalu, 2013). Othello is the worst sufferer, one can say, of this internal conflict. He struggles between whether to trust Desdemona or not, whether she is faithful or not. This internal conflict ultimately leads to the external conflict when Othello unleashes his wrath on his wife and subsequently kills her. Other characters too suffer from one or the other internal conflict that plays a major part in the external conflicts (Chiu, 2012).

The crisis and climax

The biggest crisis in Othello is the protagonist’s incapability to control his rage and anger and being easily instigated by others (Braden, 2013). Othello fails to understand that Desdemona loved him and married him despite the strong opposition from her father. He falls in Iago’s trap quite easily and in no time goes from being madly in love with Desdemona to madly in rage to kill her. Apart from this, one significant crisis that he dramatist has bring forth is the crisis of intention (Goldman, 2014). To explain it further, Iago, one of Shakespeare’s deadliest villains, had crisis of intention to plot vengeance against Othello. At one point, he schemes of destroying Othello because Othello did not make him the next lieutenant and at another point, he suspects Othello with his wife Emilia and vows to finish him. Later, the audience’s are revealed to Iago’s jealousy and envy with Cassio. All these factors lead to the fact that Iago actually had no motive to destroy Othello; he was just hunting for a motive to justify his sadist pleasures (Warden, 2012).  

The climax involves Othello’s vow to take revenge from his damsel Desdemona after Iago succeeds in making Othello believe Desdemona’s infidelity. The handkerchief episode plays a crucial part in the lead up to the climax. Iago succeeds in planting the fateful ‘handkerchief’ in Cassio’s room thus convincing Othello of his wife’s infidelity. Othello then swears revenge on his wife and declares that nothing in this world can now change his course of action, as he would not stop until he kills her. The dramatist brilliantly utilizes the inner weakness and struggle of the characters to hold the attention of the audience and compel them to be hooked to the play. The suspense in the climax as whether Iago’s lies will be revealed or whether and Othello is going to end Desdemona’s life is nail biting to say the least. Audiences are put in a situation where they almost know what is going to happen next and yet are at the edge of their seats (Richmond, 2013). They are made to hope against hope that the play takes a turn and the innocent damsel is saved.

The build up to the climax may be said to begin with Iago’s discovery of the handkerchief that was found by his wife Emilia. Iago sees an opportune moment to advance Othello’s suspicion against his wife by placing the handkerchief in Cassio’s bed. It is noteworthy that the dramatist schematizes the entire scene in such a way that every single incidence takes place as per Iago’s wish. This further enhances the emotions of pity and tragedy in the audiences who are made to feel helpless. Everything fall into place for Iago- Emilia finds the handkerchief, Othello’s suspicion increases with Desdemona advocating for Cassio and the final blow was Othello discovering the handkerchief in Cassio’s room. Among Shakespeare’s numerous plays, Othello excels in its depiction of jealousy, rage, anger and deceit and the climax of the play sums everything together. It can be designated as one of Shakespeare’s most gritting climaxes.

Characters in the play

Shakespeare’s characters always demonstrate one or the other flaw in all of his plays. These flaws are mostly depicted in the tragic plays for climatic effect. In Othello too Shakespeare uses his mastery to bring to life characters that although are fictional, have resemblance to real life as well. The characters on surface demonstrate extraordinary strength and power but deep inside they all have weaknesses. Each of Othello’s characters is flawed in one or the other aspect and each has virtues that either overshadowed by the flaws or advantaged. The lead character, Othello has many virtues. He is strong, courageous, virtuous and kind-hearted. However, his biggest flaw is his inability to control his emotions. Iago aptly uses this weakness to ruin Othello’s life. All his virtues go in vain due to one flaw that proved fatal for him as well as his most devoured wife Desdemona (Howe, 2012).

Desdemona has been portrayed as an innocent and gullible creature that is deeply moved by Othello’s life struggles. She falls in love with the Moor and marries him in the face of protest from her father Brabantio, the senator of Venice. The dramatist uses the instruments of innocence, loyalty, faith and love for this female character to make the climax and the ending even more tragic. The audiences feel an association to Desdemona and want her to understand the cruelty of the world so that she can save herself (You, 2015). She goes too deep into every relationship and pays the ultimate price for it. She lacks the fight that could have saved her husband from the slaying and the sin. This is her biggest character flaw. Her virtue turned out to be her biggest flaw- innocence.

Iago is considered one of Shakespeare’s most sinister villains for his sheer calmness and unregretful attitude while ruining lives and still being trusted upon.  He destroys the protagonist’s life without a single stain of blood in his hands. He plots in a way that lets the characters destroy them and he enjoys as a spectator. Iago is perhaps an epitome of evil in disguise. The evident flaw in his character may be said to be his incapability to accept the good. He despises everything good and beautiful and takes pleasure in destroying everything remotely close to it.

Other important characters in the play are Roderigo, Iago’s partner in crime and Emilia, Iago’s vulnerable wife. They both have a significant contribution to the proceedings of the play and in fact, play a crucial part in the climax. Roderigo, who is prompted by Iago to assist him in destroying Othello’s life, also suffers from a flaw. He had a secret crush for Desdemona but when she married Othello, he took it as an insult to his manhood.  This male ego, although present in all the male characters is Roderigo’s biggest flaw. Emilia on the other hand, is a devoted wife to Iago but fails to comprehend his evil intentions.

Ideas

Shakespeare’s Othello has been enacted innumerable times in different languages and settings and yet, the play has sustained its charm and magic. The prime reason for its unending popularity is its relevancy to every era.  The story has been molded in different ways to meet the popular taste but the theme remains the same.

Keeping in mind the current generation, it would be apt to set the play in a post-modern society with characters demonstrating the features of the present society (Counsell, 2013). The city of Venice is replaced by the bustling New York City and the backdrop is not of wars with other states but within the corporate world. Othello, Desdemona, Iago, Cassio and Emilia- they all work under one roof in the same corporation. Othello is a manager in the company with Iago as the deputy manager. Desdemona is the CEO and her father Brabantio is the company’s director. Cassio is a dedicated employee who has earned recognition for his work. Emilia holds a lower position in the company and is in a relationship with Iago.

The costumes: Costumes have an important place in any production, as these help in conveying each character profoundly (Di Benedetto, 2016). For our play, male and female characters will have to wear corporate suits. The costumes will reflect the inner virtues and evils of each character.

 For Othello, the color chosen for the outfit is a white shirt with black overcoat and black pants. This would reflect his inner conflict between his virtues and evils.

Iago would be given a black shirt with a white overcoat and white pant. The black shirt conveys his sinister heart and the white coat conveys his ability to cover his dark side.

Desdemona will wear a white shirt with a red coat and blue skirt. The red coat signifies her extreme love for Othello as well as her bloody fate. Cassio is given the color of blue. He will wear a light green shirt with a blue coat (Isaac, 2017). The color green indicates his vigor and joy and a heart covered in the ocean of goodness. Emilia will wear a yellow shirt that indicates innocence.

The scenic: As discussed, the play takes place in a corporate setting and hence the scenes would take place mostly in an office and in some parts of the city. The scene opens with an annual meeting of the company where Othello is promoted to the post of CEO.

The lights: Smart use of lighting can enhance any production and one must have the expertise to make perfect use of lights. Since our play is set in the corporate backdrop, the lighting would be bright but monotonous. In the climax scene however, the lights that fall on each character would be given slight variations to match their present situation (Pao, 2016). The same light would have different shades indicating the all the characters belong to the same world but with different personalities.

The sound: Very subtle music will be used to depict the different situations. However, it is also important to use no sound and yet make a situation intense (Remael, 2012). Sometimes, silence has more effect on the audiences than sound. Music is obviously important to give the required effect but too much use of music might also mar the production (Kaye & LeBrecht, 2013. In our production, we would make use of the musical instruments but more importantly, we would allow the surrounding atmosphere to create the sound of its own. To cite an example, the sound of chairs being moved around, letters being types, ringing of the phones and such in the office will be sued in such a way that it produces a mystical sound apt for the situations. In addition, the bustling noise of the city shall be utilized to enhance the effect of the play (Millerson & Owens, 2012).

Conclusion

In the end, one can say that the new generation of artists have unlimited resources with which they can produce compelling stories. The domain of theater is such that provides many opportunities for the budding artists and directors to display their talent. In the early years, people had limited resources and access to resources due to which their production suffered. In today’s world however, resources are in abundance and the all-important help of technology cannot be ignored as well. The essay analyses one of Shakespeare’s most important plays, Othello. The play is a trendsetter in many ways. First, it introduced to the world, one of the most sinister villains of Shakespeare, Iago. Second, it excellently demonstrated the conflicts human face within them every day.  In addition, the play also displayed the fine use of a character’s inherent nature to bring out the perfect climax and end. The essay also discusses the modern adaptation of Othello where the characters are set in a modern city where emotions and intentions are ambiguous and sometimes pretentious.

References:

Bevington, D. (2013). Othello: Portrait of a marriage. Othello: New Critical Essays, 221-31.

Braden, G. (2013). Joel B. Altman The Improbability of Othello: Rhetorical Anthropology and Shakespearean Selfhood.

Cefalu, P. (2013). The burdens of mind reading in Shakespeare's Othello: A cognitive and psychoanalytic approach to Iago's theory of mind. Shakespeare Quarterly, 64(3), 265-294.

Chiu, C. J. (2012). Freud on Shakespeare: An approach to psychopathetic characters. Chang Gung Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 5(1), 33-56.

Counsell, C. (2013). Signs of performance: An introduction to twentieth-century theatre. Routledge.

Di Benedetto, S. (2016). Looking at contemporary design practice and Shakespeare. Designers' Shakespeare, 1.

Evans, B. I. (2013). The language of Shakespeare's plays. Routledge.

Goldman, M. (2014). Acting and Action in Shakespearean Tragedy. Princeton University Press.

Gronbeck-Tedesco, J. (2013). Morality, Ethics and the Failure of Love in Shakespeare’s Othello. Othello: New Critical Essays, 255-70.

Howe, A. (2012). Enduring Fictions of Possession: Sexual Infidelity and Homicidal Rage in Shakespeare and Late Modernity (Glossing Othello). Griffith Law Review, 21(3), 772-796.

Isaac, V. (2017). Towards a new methodology for working with historic theatre costume: A biographical approach focussing on Ellen Terry’s ‘Beetlewing Dress’. Studies in Costume & Performance, 2(2), 115-135.

Kaye, D., & LeBrecht, J. (2013). Sound and Music for the Theatre: The Art & Technique of Design. Taylor & Francis.)

Millerson, G., & Owens, J. (2012). Television production. CRC Press.

Pao, A. C. (2016). Ocular Revisions: Re-casting Othello in Text and Performance. Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance, 27-45.

Remael, A. (2012). For the use of sound. Film sound analysis for audio-description: Some key issues. MonTI. Monografías de Traducción e Interpretación, (4).

Richmond, H. M. (2013). The Audience’s role in Othello. Othello: New Critical Essays, 89-101.

Rohmawati, Y. N. (2015). The Downfall of Hero in William Shakespeare’s Othello The Moor of Venice (A Structuralism Approach). Jurnal Bahasa Sastra dan Studi Amerika, 21(2), 15-20.

Roose-Evans, J. (2013). Experimental Theatre: From Stanislavsky to Peter Brook. Routledge.

Warden, C. (2012). Othello. Early Modern Literary Studies, 16(1).

You, H. (2015). Men, Women and War: An Examination of Gender Conflicts within Othello.

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