Week 7

Perform a short scene on video taken from a realistic play.  Be careful to choose a play where realism is not just the default genre of theatre — but actually contributes in some manner to the themes of the play.  Write a short paragraph or two explaining (1) why you chose the play and (2) the acting preparation necessary for the performance.  You can use anyone you’d like as scene partners; they do not have to be a member of the class.  The videos and explanations will also be added to our class website (in addition to you posting them to your individual blogs)  so that all in class can view them from one site.

I chose David Auburn’s Proof as my realistic play because as realist plays do, it shows everyday people in an everyday setting with everyday problems. Catherine has to deal with her father’s death, his excited and persistent student Hal, her more successful and condescending sister Claire, and her own mental issues. Though both her and her father’s talent for math is extraordinary, the base conflicts have to deal with family and mental health. The scene I chose in particular, in which Claire confronts Catherine about her mental health issues (under the guise of wanting to help her start anew in New York City), is purely based on sister/sister conflict and the weight of their father’s death. The themes of family which arise in the scene are universally applicable, and help the play’s other, more conceptually complex scenes become more palatable.

This scene is one of my favorite scenes to use for scene study, because the conflict is relatable, dramatic, and pronounced, but the scene feels natural. My preparation for this performance was less intensive, because I am familiar with the scene and the acting needed. I still went over some of the basics of the scene though, re-familiarizing myself with the beats and central objective, tactics, and obstacles for the character of Catherine. Catherine’s central objective is to form a better relationship with her well-meaning sister Claire, whom she has often spurned and resented for her success. Her tactics here are general pleasantries and politeness, listening and not protesting as much as she wants to, and giving in to some of her sister’s requests. Her main obstacle, however, is that Claire is selling her family’s home and is forcing Catherine to move to New York…and then reveals that she believes Catherine is mentally unstable and should be in an institution. Thus, Catherine must grapple with the sudden and immediate changes in her life and Claire’s attitudes towards both Catherine and their father’s lives.

One thought on “Week 7

  1. Hi Allie,

    So the point of the exercise was not to judge your acting ability but to point out exactly what you wrote in your reflection, that this play is about “everyday people with everyday problems.” Except that isn’t exactly true. From Ibsen in a Doll’s House on, realism has been linked to the bourgeois life, and in America, it has been the genre of white middle class family drama. The problems that your character has with her relative in this scene are upper class problems — the sale of a family home, the resentment about care for an elderly parent, mental health issues that are tied to an intellectual subjectivity. In fact these aren’t “universal” problems in the least — they are classed and raced. But realism covers that up because it “feels relatable” in style — but not necessarily in subject matter. Realism was developed to create drama from a very particular classed, raced and patriarchal formation — the family unit here is very much defined by the relationship with the father in a heteronomative family and engages with its aftermath. I urge you to think about who the genre excludes because of the way in which it has been tied to a notion of family drama.

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