By Zander Brietzke
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Extra resources for American Drama in the Age of Film
Brook described Artaud’s intentions to create spiritually spectacular events: “a band of dedicated actors and directors who would create out of their own natures an unending succession of violent stage images, bringing about such powerful immediate explosions of human matter that no one would ever again revert to a theatre of anecdote and talk” (53). Artaud sought to create a language in space and in movement to replace the written text of the playwright, and he named this language the mise-en-scène, a term he applied to the physical space of the theater that he said needed to be ﬁlled with something much more than the words of the playwright.
The stage actor projects a performance to the witnesses of the event, while the ﬁlm actor performs for the camera. Michael Caine, an accomplished actor on both stage and screen, offers a useful comparison: “On stage, you have to project your voice or the words will sink without a trace into the third row of seats. On stage, the basic premise is action; you have to sell your attitudes to the audience. In movies, the microphone can always hear you, no matter how softly you speak, no matter where the scene is taking place.
9 Although it is possible to see how Shelley’s play would lend itself to radical production ideas, Artaud discovered that it was quite difﬁcult to discard words altogether and that an established plot provided a structure with which to work. While Brecht agrees with Aristotle that “narrative is the soul of drama” (Brecht on Theatre 183), he argues that the method of construction should be wholly different. He calls his theater the “Epic Theater” because it emphasizes the big picture of the world that the audience can see as opposed to the limited events portrayed in an Aristotelian play.
American Drama in the Age of Film by Zander Brietzke