Thursday, October 4, 2012

Motive over Mind

Jennifer Lynds
4 October 2012

Motive over Mind

In the production of Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night, the characters were able to engage and interact with the audience through their use eye contact, direct questions, and by physically sitting with audience. As a result, we, as the audience, felt included and essential to the play which put us in a position to more fully understand the plays meaning and underlying message. The music and lighting also played an important role by, respectively, transforming one character and building a relationship between the audience and the performers. This relationship allows us to feel incorporated both emotionally and physically which affects how we perceive the effect of the play.  All these aspects of the performance enhanced the idea that characters often take on a form that is not true to themselves in order to achieve what it is that they desire. 

            The music and lighting are only minor aspects of that play, but essentially have a powerful influence over the feelings that arise in the audience. As mentioned by the performers, the lighting remained the same above both the audience and the performers to encourage a sense of unity. This also made it easier for the performers to interact with the audience since they were not hiding in the dark. Before, during, and after the play, music was used to involve the audience. By singing modern songs like Carly Ray Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” or Michael Búble’s “Hold On,” the barrier that stood between Shakespearean times and modern times was broken. With this barrier broken, it allows us to understand the meaning of the traditional play on a modern level and that it is okay to incorporate the new with the old through change. In addition, music was used as a way to transform a character from foolish to beautiful when he sang. Although we often identify people in one way, his voice gave him another dimension on which the audience was able to relate to him and define him by. However, the most powerful sense of unity was created when the performers led the audience in singing a song together as a part of the play.

In comparison to The Twelfth Night, John Ciardi’s poem “Suburban” uses similar concepts about not being true to one’s self based on social barriers. In his poem, Ciardi emphasizes how American culture has evolved in a way that relationships can operate according to certain formalities that limit both parties’ abilities to truly express their thoughts. Ironically, both Mrs. Friar and the speaker struggle with similar issues but are unable to express them. The difference between what Mrs. Friar says and how she feels is contradictory when she says “Not really” she said “but really!” (18). Even her two statements are separated by the words “she said” establishing that there is a divider between what she says and how she truly feels. This is also true when Mrs. Friar asks Mr. Ciardi “how do you do?” because no answer is ever offered, showing that she did not have genuine concern (2). Similar to The Twelfth Night, these people filtered their true feelings and thoughts and hid behind a different persona just as Viola altered what she said and how she felt according to what was acceptable. She faces conflict, however, when her disguise limits how she can express her feelings. The difference that there is between how she acts and the feelings she possesses are similar to those of Montresor in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”. Although Montresor acted in one manner towards Fortunato, his underlying intentions to achieve revenge were different. Therefore, we often take on other forms of ourselves in order to keep secret our true motives. Ironically, the acting of performers in general forces them to be removed from themselves and take on beliefs and traits that they would not normally in order to portray a certain image.

In the poem “Ode to American English,” Hamby emphasizes how the many aspects, both beautiful and quirky, of American culture are understood in context to our experiences and our familiarity with the culture. In order to understand and appreciate how Hamby describes America, the reader must be fully immersed in the culture in order to elicit feelings associated with the meanings of her words. In comparison, if someone from another culture who did not see American English in this light was to read this poem, it would hold little meaning. For example, Hamby refers to New Jersey and Hawaii as “New Joisey to Ha-wah-ya” (25). The dialect in which these words are said would be more recognizable to someone within the culture than someone outside of it. This is how Hamby feels in Paris – lost in its culture.  These English words, in comparison to what she referred to as the “French verbs slitting my throat,” hold meaning and purpose in her life (42-43). In The Twelfth Night, the performers played on the emotions of the audience by fully incorporating us into the play by sitting with us, making eye contact with us, and asking us direct questions. I felt as if I was a part of the production which made it that much more interesting and engaging. The physical set-up of the chairs is also reflective of how Hamby’s poem describes America. She addresses America from all angles to give the reader different perspectives of our culture, just as the chairs were set-up on all three sides of the stage to allow the audience to view the performance from different positions. America is truly a melting pot for all that Hamby describes, however, to understand them and feel them completely is to be immersed in them. 

In all the works, there seems to be a difference between how the character feels and what the character does in comparison to those feelings. Many of them emphasize and encourage this idea of hiding their true motives to avoid conflict. In the end, however, all reach a point where they are negatively affected by the difference between how they feel and what they do. The performance of The Twelfth Night emphasizes this through the content of the play while establishing a relationship between the performers and the audience. The audience or the reader cannot feel fully involved until they are emotionally, intellectually, and often physically captivated by the aspects influencing their perspectives.

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