Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pragmatic Aesthetics III: "Interpretation"

Tonight, at a rather poor show that I will not name, I realized what makes an "interpretation" stand out terribly, rather than working with a text to create a new work.

An "interpretation" is when you add something to the text that does not progress alongside the text.

So for instance, when I was in high school and I was in a production of Romeo and Juliet set in the Kashmir region (one family was Hindu the other family was Muslim), it did not work because that layer -- the Kashmir layer -- did not progress. After a few minutes, it became forgotten, only remembered when it came to be at odds with the Shakespearean Text (like in the Leonardo di Caprio R+J, whenever they refered to "Swords").

If you took away the text that you're working with, would anything be happening with the characters and world you've created apart from the text?

For instance, West Side Story is a Romeo and Juliet interpretation that became real enough on its own that it didn't need the text anymore. Which is pretty bold to say about Shakespeare, but I think it's fair to say that West Side Story can stand on its own. It would not be improved with "But soft what light through yonder window breaks?"

Only keep the elements of the outer world or inner text that support whatever goal you're trying to achieve with the work.

When we produced our Hamlet directed by John Kurzynowski, one of the levels that tied everything together was that the play Hamlet was actually being staged -- at the beginning by the Ghost of Hamlet's father, and at a certain point by Hamlet herself.

You know what he didn't do? Make the Ghost of Hamlet's father a big-shot director whose son is cast in his father's play as Hamlet, justifying this existential backdrop with "real life details" and creating a whole other persona that is at odds with the reality of the play. Hamlet as Waiting for Guffman.

Give the text every bit of its reality, give the outer world all the reality it needs, craft the two to work together to serve your goal.

Figure out why your outer world needs your inner world, and why your inner world needs your outer world, and why the two of them force each other to progress.

Otherwise, your show is a one trick pony for two and a half hours.

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