Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Theatre and Philosophy- Post 2- Morgan Farmer- 14-1

In my last blog post, I discussed the relationship of philosophy and theatre from the perspective of the actor and director. Today I would like to discuss the philosophical nature of the people who design and write plays.

When designing a set, costumes, or even lighting for a play, a designer must, like actors and directors, take their own opinions out of their work, while still managing to make the design their own. Like with acting and directing, this is a tricky balance. At one point in time, plays were primarily designed to look historically and environmentally naturalistic, but over the past century, many different theatrical movements in writing, acting, and directing have led design down a more expressionistic and representational path. Designers now have the freedom to create worlds not based on fact but on emotion or an idea, so it becomes for the designer an extremely philosophical process.  Design is also all about being able to see the world as an endless possibility.It is beneficial for designers to adopt a Schopenhauer attitude towards their work. Their job is to create the details of the world of the play, and that is all about perception. The principles of representation and actual presence are key to the designer in bringing their ideas into the concept of the play not just to practically implement a set but also to facilitate a creative and thought provoking outlet for the designers themselves.

Play writes, like all writers in general, are involved in an incredibly thoughtful process which is similar to that of a philosopher. Though these processes differ from person to person, they all have a story to tell, a message for the world. In a way, these plays are the writers' personal philosophies as they are narratives expanding on life's quirks and problems, and also how to best deal with that and live life. Play writes express their views on particular subjects in many different styles. They can write naturalistic true to life plays or absurdisim that is written completely in a nonsensical dream world, but the concepts they want to get across are real human problems. This makes the play write a philosopher in his own right, but some writers take their work a step further and write plays based on existing philosophical points of view, to support or refute a specific philosopher or philosophy. Issues such as existentialism, what is real or meaningful, Marxism, social contract theory, and any number of philosophical questions are commonly used subject matter for the writers of plays.

Some examples of theatrical works with a philosophical concept-

- Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Endgame  are plays that are based on the idea that  human existence is futile and meaningless, but we still go on living, similar to the myth of Sisyphus so popular to many philosophers.

- The Hairy Ape by Edward Albee is a play with socialist and Marxist themes, about how we become what society sees us as.

-William Shakespeare's plays for the most part are complex philosophical and ethical mazes, like Macbeth and the idea that bad people will get what is coming to them, or Hamlet that concerns revenge and whether or not it is right.

-Voltaire, who we already know as a philosopher, wrote a play called Candide  about how life is better lived simply and criticizing optimism as an outlook.

I'd like to leave off with a little video of a play writing exercise to give a small example of what a play write goes through, so that you can see how it relates to being a philosopher.


In my next post, I will discuss how some of the philosophers we have learned about this semester are involved in theatre!

1 comment:

  1. "Waiting for Godot" was really hard to watch, way back when, but I hadn't really encountered Camus at that point. Maybe I should try it again.

    Voltaire's critique of Leibniz's optimism was devastating, but I think a kind of clear-eyed optimism survives it. I (like Wm James) call it meliorism.