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Chapter 4
Experiencing the Performance
• Watching a play and reading a play are two
very different ways of experiencing the play.
• Differences exist in how to study a play when
read and study a play when being seen
• We can use Aristotle's six parts of play text to
critique the performance
• It’s different because we see
New Questions to Ask
• What are the arts of
– the actor
– Scenic director
– Costume designer
– Lighting designer
• How do these all come together with the
words of the play?
• Play analysis-looks only at the art of the
• Performance criticism-looks at two things
– At the play (play analysis)
– At the audience
Beginning the Criticism Process
• Prelim Work
– The art of theatre- we need knowledge of theatre
– The nature of the work- learn about the play before
going to go see it
– The program-gives clues about setting, names of
characters and major relationships.
• Director might give notes explaining something the audience
should focus on
– The clues about the physical setting-what do you see
and hear before the play begins to set the mood or
make you curious
Performance Analysis
• Multitask
– Participate in the performance fully as the
audience member and enter into the created
– Watch the performance-step away from the
performance how the effects of the play are
Values of the Play
• Drama=imitation of human action
– Helps us generalize from specifics to more general
human truths (revelation)
• Story (similar to plot)
• Suspense: requires preparation and curiosity
to find out “what’s going to happen next?”
• Surprise: unexpected happening, but logical in
retrospect (different from accident)
• Characters: interdependent yet independent;
– I recognize myself or I can identify (mirror)
– Appeals to feelings (conscious or subconscious)
– I recognize others (trait, history, etc)
• Idea: intellectual content of the play
– Theater: the home of the Now
– might not be recognized as important in the here
and now, but are in the time after
– Come from plot and dialogue
– Succeeds only if other theatrical values of the play
Values of a Specific Performance
Story, character and idea-in the text
Theatre = “seeing place”
Auditorium = “hearing place”
Given circumstances-basic traits that determine
the world of the stage: age, sex, social class,
physical health of characters, time, place, and
• Given circumstances must be made clear
– Source or purpose
– Consistency
• Conventions: contract between the theatre
artist and audiences
– Time can pass between acts
– The door on the stage leads into the house
– A gesture suggests a feeling
• Style-used to describe recurring cluster of
traits that set aside one type from another;
mode in which art is presented; change over
time (Neoclassical, Romantic, etc)
• Abstraction-removal from observable reality
– Reproduce observable reality
– Produce parts of reality in generalized but
understandable shapes
– Abandon reality all together
• Detail
– Amount-no detail to overwhelming detail
– Kind-natural/artificial, urban/rural, etc.
• Material-mediums: (line, color, texture)
– Black material-death, abandonment, loneliness
– Metal-industry, sterility, coldness
– Wood-comfort, tradition, simplistic
• Actors
– Are the actors real people, aware of themselves as
actors and people
– What type of details are the actors using (voice,
– Materials of voice and body-posture, loudness,
• What are the major values of the play?
• How are these values revealed or transformed
through the performance?
• Informed
• Orderly
• Defensible
• Rather than explaining the story, discuss how the
performance reveals (through actors, director,
and designers) the story, characters, ideas and
• Discuss
Given Circumstances
Story and clarity
Characters and clarity