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.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tennessee Williams sought to generate a theatrical performance that would go beyond the mere realism of traditional theatre. He writes that "When a play employs unconventional techniques, it is not, or certainly shouldn't be, trying to escape its responsibility of dealing with reality, or interpreting experience, but is actually or should be attempting to find a closer approach, a more penetrating and vivid expression of things as they are" (Production Notes: 467). The "plastic theatre" that he created in "The Glass Menagerie" utilized music, images, and dialogue to effectively create Multimodal Rhetoric.
An aspect of modern society that almost all Americans experience on a daily basis is advertising and commercials. One industry that spends lots of money on this is the auto industry. How many times have we seen the basic auto commercial listing the car's safety features, horsepower, sound-system, and the "hot deals" that you can receive if you buy the car immediately. To grab a viewer's attention, car companies should stray from these conventional techniques, and create an advertisement that utilizes multimodal rhetoric to persuade a potential buyer to purchase its car. Dodge does an exceptional job of this in one of its advertisements for the Dodge Challenger, both of which were debuted on Super Bowl Sunday, the prime-time for advertisements. Here is one example:

The video begins with the sound of an old antique violin, playing a solemn, melodic tune while a soldier is panicking in a sprint. The soldiers clothes accompanied by the historical sounding music inform the viewer that the setting is in the past. Then, one can infer that the video is set in the American Revolution as the soldier greets a bunch of redcoats, and the British flag is displayed. The image of the general sitting on his horse with his wig and an undaunted nature as he tells an order to the soldiers reflects the pompous, overconfident attitude the British held towards Americans in the war. The camera then panels over the landscape which resembles America at the time: It is wide open, flush with green fields and trees, with mountains in the distance. Most likely it is in the West, and the true American adventurous spirit of venturing out into the West is conjured.
Then comes the roar of the Dodge Challengers as they race over a hill with the one in the center carrying an American flag with the American soldiers running behind them. The British soldiers start to flee-characteristic of the American Revolution as they were hit by quick, fast ambushes many times (guerilla warfare). The driver of the car is then revealed, it is George Washington, with a face of poise and determination-the true American leader. Without any dialogue thus far, the commercial has displayed the car being advertised, and has invoked patriotic feelings in all the viewers. At last, the first dialogue appears after the Americans are scene routing the British, "Here's a couple things America got right: cars and freedom", and the advertisement ends with George Washington standing proudly by his challenger and then the Dodge flag waives and the model, "Dodge Challenger", is shown.
The advertisement successfully utilized multimodal rhetoric by employing sounds like the violin music and the roar of the challenger engine; the images of George Washington, the open/free American landscape, and the British soldiers retreating; and the deep American voice that puts a strong man's voice behind the final resounding sentence. The commercial effectively persuaded the viewer that the Dodge Challenger is a true American muscle car and should be bought by real American men. The commercial invoked a memory of the American Revolution that was based on true facts. The nation did rise above all odds and defeat the mighty British army. Did they have Dodge Challengers in the war? Of course not! But the fearless and bold attitude of the American people was real; and as we all know, we won the war.