Thursday, February 9, 2012

Stagecraft in Buried Child and night, Mother

The Dramas "Buried Child" by Sam Shepard and "'night, Mother" by Marsha Norman both seek to make statements about social concerns and changes in society. They do this through the witty combination of dialogue and stagecraft.

In "Buried Child", the central issue at play is the demise of the traditional family in American society. This family structure consists of a breadwinner husband, faithful wife, and children who are obedient and and poised for success. Dodge has almost completely lost his control of the house, and his life. This is illuminated when he says, "My appearance is out of his domain! It's even out of mine! In fact, it's disappeared! I'm an invisible man!" Dodge does not want to get his haircut by their son Bradley, but he has no control over this. Bradley still comes over and cuts his hair in a terrible, hurtful manner as he even cuts patches of Dodge
's hair that make his scalp bleed. Dodge is sleeping the whole time and has no control. Stagecraft is utilized in this haircutting scene when Bradley is about to cut Dodge's hair. Shepard writes, "He looks at Dodge's sleeping face and shakes his head in disgust...He violently knocks away some of the corn husks then jerks off Dodge's baseball cap and throws it down." Bradley's facial expressions and body gestures as he prepares and cuts Dodge's hair emphasizes how far Dodge has fallen as the man of the house, and Bradley aggression symbolizes how Bradley is perhaps assuming this role in his father's absence.

In Marsha Norman's "'night, Mother", she uses Jessie's suicide to point out the problems American girls have with being "visible" in American culture and literature. In an interview, she asserts that, "Clearly, women in our culture feel invisible. I felt invisible as a girl. That's why I have said so often, you know, I write about people you never see, like me. This has got to change! We have got to have our stories told!" Her chief object in her plays is to make women more visible in American culture and literature. Jessie feels invisible in her monotonous, isolated life with her mother. Jessie does not want to wait for all the hopes and beneficial life changes that Mama pleads to Jessie could happen. After all the fuss and arguments over the suicide, the final scene concludes with Mama's ear to the door, "and we hear the shot, and it sounds like an answer, it sounds like No". Then when Mama goes to call Dawson and Loretta, "she looks down at the pan, holding it tight like her life depended on it". This tight grip on the pan symbolizes Mama's only duty as a widowed woman, her cooking. The fact that Shepard points out that the gunshot sounded like the answer no, demonstrates that Jessie does not want to continue this homely, dull life of cooking, manicures, and other womanly, boring things. The women are essentially "invisible" in their home, and their daily tasks and activities are invisible as well. By killing herself, Jessie can finally be noticed by the world, and Shepard goal of illuminating the invisible life of women is achieved.

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