Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Six Characters in Search of an Author: Cheap Tricks and Other Theatrical Devices

Pirandello's play introduces the novel device of having characters in a play walk onto the stage and interact with the actors. Do you see this as just a cheap trick, or does it have a more profound point to make? How does it compare with other theatrical devices which break the frame (plays within plays, asides, and so on)?

The six Characters.*

Luigi Pirandello's play, Six Characters in Search of an Author is something completely unexpected, yet exactly what the title says. It is important to keep in mind what is going on on the stage, because it is where all the action takes place. It is also important to keep in mind that Characters and Actors are completely separate, which I think is Pirandello's point, at least on some level.
It sort of reminds me of Cornelia Funke's novel, Inkheart, where the characters of Inkheart (which is a book within the novel) can be read out of the book, bringing them into existence and the people reading the book can be read into the story. 

LaGrange College's version of the six characters.*

In his play, six characters interrupt rehearsals between the Director and the Actors, who will all interact with each other. I think that Pirandello is trying to make a point about how authors are creators of lives and have some obligation to write their story, once the characters have come into being. I'm not sure what happened though, because it sounds like the author created the Characters and their story but abandoned them. If this is the case, why aren't there other Characters running around? What were they trying to get from the author by talking to him? Or if he didn't create their story, how do they know what's going to happen? Either way, I think Pirandello is acknowledging the author's responsibility for his Characters. 

Rupert Goold's version of Six Characters in Search of an Author.*

I also think Pirandello was making a comment on  the difference between what is being written in the play and how it is being performed. The play begins with the Director trying to explain the play they are rehearsing to the Actors, but he is also putting down Pirandello and his writing. There are a couple of other instances when the Director makes mention of poor characterization in modern drama of the time. When he tries to cast the Actors in the role of Characters, the Characters do not understand. They know that the Actors cannot correctly portray them because they are different people from different walks of life. The Actors cannot properly express everything that the Characters are feeling. Pirandello might be saying that the actors of the time are not doing justice to characters in plays.

Madam Pace and the Stepdaughter.*

I think that this idea differs from other theatrical devices because it is a little more confusing, which might be different with live performances. The audience is probably less confused with a play within a play because there is no division between characters and actors. The people who are already onstage are also in the play instead of having two completely separate groups of Actors and Characters. I also think asides would be easier for the audience because it's more common in plays and isn't out of the ordinary for a character to break the fourth wall and try to explain their thoughts. In Six Characters in Search of an Author, the Actors and Director try to prevent the Characters from getting their whole story out in the way that it occurred.

Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe's version of the play.*

In the end, I'm dissatisfied with a couple of things. Have the Characters tried to reach out to other people, and if so, will they after? If the Characters are living, do the Boy and Little Girl actually die? What will happen to the Characters now? If the Boy and Little Girl's death is some sort of "cheap trick" or "illusion" will the Characters go in search of another place to tell their story? If they are actually dead, what will happen to the remaining Characters? What is going on with the Stepdaughter in the end? Where is she going? Will she return to her Mother, Father, and Son? Why is she so vindictive? I feel that Pirandello's play has left me with a lot of questions and wouldn't mind talking to them or the author to find out more. 

*All images obtained through Google Image Search.

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