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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Motherhood, Otello And The Theatre Experience - 1894 words
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The theatre experience can be explained as a measurement of satisfaction that a person attains after attending a theatrical performance. A positive theatre experience should be a truly cathartic event that evokes excitement and delight in the audience. A negative theatre experience, on the other hand, will have little to no impact on the audience and will most likely cause its members to be bored. Two theatrical presentations that provide contradicting theatre experiences are Otello and Motherhood, Madness and the State of the Universe. Otello, which is conducted by Richard Bradshaw, directed by Robin Phillips, written by Giuseppe Verdi (after William Shakespeare's play Othello) and was performed by The Canadian Opera Company on November 3, 2000 at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto, Ontario, is a century old opera that tells the story of how the Moor of Venice, who has risen from slavery to a position of great power as a general of the Venetian army, falls victim to jealousy. Motherhood, Madness and the State of the Universe, which is written and performed by Kim Renders and was performed on October 13, 2000 in Lower Massey Hall at the University of Guelph, is a contemporary one-woman show which tells a satirical tale of marriage and parenthood via stories about Renders own children intertwined with historic accounts of her mother's childhood. Three elements that influence how enjoyable a performance will be to an audience member are scenery, costumes and use of music.
When compared on these bases, it is conclusive that Motherhood, Madness and the State of the Universe provides a theatre experience which is superior that of Otello.Scenery, by definition, is "the physical constructions that provide the specific acting environment for a play and that often indicate, by representation, the locale where a scene is set; the physical setting for a scene." (Cohen, Theatre G-11). Modern scenery is either realistic as in Otello, or metamorphic as in Motherhood. Realistic scenery attempts to illustrate the details of a specific time and place in the real world, while metamorphic scenery favors visual images that insinuate the production's intended mood and theme. The scenery in Otello depicts the inside of an elaborate castle with winding staircases (see figure 1, appendix A for the simplistic illustration). Desdemona's bed, the tables, the goblets, etc
are all set pieces used on stage after having been extracted from rooms that would actually exist in a house. Once the set pieces are placed on stage they remain stationary for the entire scene, thus enforcing the look and feel of an actual room in a house. Overall, the set has a very royal atmosphere with the elegant and sophisticated air of a real life castle. In contrast to Otello, the scenery in Motherhood is extremely metamorphic. The set consists of a chair and two baskets that are full of different sized baby shoes.
The set pieces in this play are constantly being moved around the stage. As each object moves, the audience is transported into a different time and place. For example when the chair is placed upstage, Renders seems to be telling a story from her living room. When she moves the chair downstage center she is telling a story from outside while watching a hiding coyote and frantic geese. This moving of set pieces differs from Otello where the stationary objects always keep the action in one room, for example Desdemona's bed is always in her bedroom.
The baskets, as a set piece in Motherhood, represent a history book or photo album. Each pair of shoes in the basket represents a story that correlates to the plays central theme. As Renders tells each story, she lays the shoes across the front of the stage. This procedure demonstrated the growth of a child. When telling the last story, Renders stands beside the line of shoes.
By doing this she, in essence, becomes part of the abstract set or a physical representation of the stories about her children and parents that she had just finished sharing. The simplistic set of Motherhood is more pleasing then the large detailed sets in Otello. It is easier to focus on the stories that Renders is telling when the audience can not be distracted by a detailed set, whereas in Otello, the characters are overtaken by the shiny details of the castle walls that can be seen even from the furthest back corner of the theatre. In both cases, the scenery is emphasized and enhanced by the director's choice of costumes. Costumes are an especially important aspect of any theatrical performance. According to Robert Cohen in Theatre: Brief Version, costumes serve four separate functions, two of which can relate to Otello and Motherhood.
One of Cohen's functions claims that costumes show us into what type of world we are to enter. Modern costuming techniques strive to ensure that each costume piece is authentic according to the period it is to represent. Thus in order to draw the audience into the historic world of Otello, the costume designer, John Ferguson, had to research and recreate the clothing worn in Venice during the end of fifteenth century. Renders' costume in contrast is a current day wardrobe. The stories that Renders tells about her children are currently going on in her life and she simply shares her experience while wearing her everyday clothing.
Instead of changing her clothes to represent her switches between current stories about her children and historic stories about her mother, Renders uses a lighting cue. Bright lights keep the audience in the present while dimmer lights transferred the audience back to Renders' mother's childhood. Another of Cohen's functions asserts that costumes can express specific individuality of characters. The individuality of two characters that are in definite contrast is Desdemona in Otello and Kim Renders in Motherhood. Desdemona is adorned head to toe in a pure white gown. This costume (seen in figure 2, appendix A) symbolizes the purity, the innocence and the loyalty of the character Desdemona. Renders' costume, conversely, is a patchwork skirt and jacket set.
The base of the outfit is pink while the checkered squares are all colors imaginable. This chaotic convergence of color amplifies the hectic and unexpected stories that Renders tells about her wild, yet loveable, children. Although both costumes represent the two characters appropriately, the impression made by Renders' costume is more original then Desdemona's typical white dress that represents purity and innocence. The originality of Renders' costume added extra appeal to her performance. Albeit scenery and costumes are significant ingredients, it is music that emerges as the crowning touch of any production.Music and song play a prevalent role in both performances.
Music and song in Otello is focused on even more so then acting, whereas in Motherhood it acts as a simple transitional device. Opera, as we know it today, had its beginnings through a group of Italian poets and musicians who wrote dramas and set them to music with the purpose of reviving the spirit of classical Greek tragedy (Panizza, History). Greek tragedies were chanted with instruments playing in unison with the voices. During the eighteenth century, operas that were written in France became a forum for vocal display with little emphasis on dramatic presentation. Quite the opposite was happening in Italy where Verdi, Italy's greatest composer, was making Italian operas truly dramatic (Panizza, History). The performance of Verdi's Otello, which was directed by Robin Phillips and performed by The Canadian Opera Company on November 3rd, is an Italian written opera, performed using French techniques. This means that although the singing is excellent, the movement was very limited.
Because of this lack of movement, the Canadian Opera Company could probably perform on a smaller stage instead of having to fill up the unused stage space with extra chorus members. Too many voices on stage made the songs jumbled and unclear. When everyone sang together they simply generated noise. It was more enjoyable to listen to the arias performed by individuals because, even if the audience was unable to understand Italian, a single singer can produce more clear and precise sound. Even though the singer in opera is responsible for delivering the arias it is the orchestra and conductor that are the center of interest in most operas written nowadays (Panniza, History).
This point became obvious, specifically at the performance on November 3rd, when Richard Bradshaw, the conductor, took more then one bow when invited on stage for the curtain call. It was as if he was taking full credit for the vocal spectacle that was just witnessed. In contrast to the amplified song in Otello, the song used in Motherhood is a subtle, yet welcome addition to the already miraculous performance. Each time Renders removes another shoe from the basket in preparation of a new story, she sings. The songs, perhaps folk songs or lullabies, are sung almost under her breath and they are not in English.
This is an effective technique because, along with the dimming of the lights, it signals to the audience that Renders is making a shift into the past. Music, according to Aristotle, is considered an essential element of tragedy. (Cohen, Theatre 146) Both Otello and Motherhood can be considered tragedies because they both "carry [the audience] to the brink of disaster [allowing the audience] to contemplate and perhaps rehearse in our minds the great conflicts we may still have ahead of us." (Cohen, Theatre 31) Otello warns the audience of how jealousy can affect our relationships while Motherhood prepares the audience, probably more so the females, for the trials and tribulations of motherhood. The singing in Otello is so overwhelming that the theme of the show is lost. The audience is forced to focus on the fact that the actors can sing rather then being allowed to reflect on the message of the show. The singing in Motherhood, however, is effective because it gives the audience enough of a chance to digest the message of one story in preparation to hear another saga. At The Hummingbird Center it was difficult to see the actors on the stage from the back row seats, whereas the intimate space of Massey Hall added a personal touch to Renders' presentation, as if Renders was telling the story only to each audience member individually.
Otello was presentational with the actors seemingly screaming 'Hey, look at me I can sing', while Motherhood was more representational simply saying 'Hey, this is life!'. Although the audio presentation in Otello was suppose to be the main focus, the lack of movement and acting ability amongst the cast made for a boring visual spectacle. In contrast, the constant use of action on the stage of Motherhood made it hard to take my eyes off of the stage. As an overall spectacle, Motherhood, Madness and the State of the Universe provided a more enjoyable theatre experience.Works CitedBradshaw, Richard. "Robin Phillips Directs Shakespeare's Epic Tragedy" Canadian Opera Company (2000): Online.
Internet. 13 Nov 2000. Available http//www.coc.caCohen, Robert. Theatre: Brief Version. 5th ed.
Mountain View, California: Mayfield, 2000.Motherhood, Madness and the State of the Universe. By Kim Renders. Perf. Kim Renders. Lower Massey Hall, University of Guelph. 31 Oct.
2000 Otello. By Giuseppe Verdi (after William Shakespeare's play Othello). Dir. Robin Phillips. Perf.
Vladimir Bogachov, Zvetelina Vassileva. The Hummingbird Centre, Toronto. 3 Nov. 2000Panizza, Nicole. "The History of Opera". Royal Opera House: Covent Garden (1999): Online. Internet.
13 Nov. 2000 Available http//www.royalopera.org.
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