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Staging Essay, Research Paper

Pirandello’s masterpiece, “Six Characters in Search of an Author” is

well known for its innovative techniques of characterization,

especially in the fullness of character as exhibited by the

Stepdaughter and the Father, but it is especially renowned, and

rightfully so, for the brilliant staging techniques employed by its

author. Pirandello uses his innovative staging techniques specifically

to symbolize, within the confines of the theater, the blending of the

theater and real life. Chief among these, of course, is the way in

which the author involves the audience in his production, to the point

which, like a medieval audience, they become part of the action, and

indeed, a character in its own right. The use of lines provided in the

playbill was the first of its kind; never before had an author dared to

ask the members of the audience to perform, even though unpaid, and

indeed, paying for the experience themselves. But without those lines,

how much less impressive would that moment be when the Director,

understandably at the end of his rope with the greedy characters (who

have been from the start trying to coerce him into writing a script for

non-union wages), shouts “Reality! Fantasy! Who needs this! What

does this mean?” and the audience, in unison, shouts back, “It’s us!

We’re here!” The moment immediately after that, when the whole cast

laughs directly at the audience, pointing at them in glee, is nearly

unbearable for an audience, as shown b! y the riot after the first

performance, when the audience not only ripped the seats out of the

theater, but stole the popcorn. Pirandello also used a technique he

inherited from the “Cirque de Soleil,” involving a trapeze hung from

the catwalk. But though the trapeze was not in itself his own

invention, its use during the intermission as a means to annoy the

audience was absolutely innovative. He had gotten the idea from

watching the inhabitants at the mental institution in Switzerland where

his wife was recuperating from a Venetian holiday. The Swiss hospital,

renowned for its experimentation, had started a program of gymnastics,

meant to boost the patients’ self-esteem. The Stepdaughter’s foray

above the audience’s heads, during the “intermission,” is a direct

reflection of that Swiss technique; no one before Pirandello had dared

to use it in the theater before, but it not only symbolized neatly the

problems with defining reality inherent in the text, but kept the

audience from actually getting a rest during the intermission, since

they couldn’t tell when it started and began. Last, though still

important, would be Pirandello’s nod to Brecht, with his medieval

circular staging. With the voices of the Actors, the Director, and the

Characters coming at them from all sides, and with the members of the

cast actually clambering over the audience members as if they (or

indeed their seats) were not there, Pirandello masterfully tied the

audience members inextricably in to the action, bringing home the

meaning. For the main truth of Pirandello’s play is that not only is

there no difference between art and reality, there is no reality, or

perhaps more specifically, no art, at all, and indeed, no members of

the cast anymore than there are members of the audience. In the final

analysis, the only difference between the cast members in Pirandello’s

play and the members of his audience is that one paid to get in and the

other got hired.

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