Thoughts from a different school
I’ve been dealing a lot with theatre over the past year and a half—in my academics, through this internship, but also in the media I’ve consumed. I like to tell my friends that I’m “theatre-adjacent.” It’s a way, I think, for me to keep to my more literature-oriented roots, it’s a way for me to still feel comfortable in what I’m doing. I am still, in my heart, a student of literature. But I’m starting to feel more comfortable in extending my definition of what, precisely, literature is.
This extended definition has allowed for a different perspective on theatre—on, really, drama. Additionally, our rehearsals over the past couple weekends have helped me see what theatre can really do to a text. It’s one thing to read the words on the page, to have the only voice for the characters be the one inside your head. It’s a whole different story, though, when the voices are other people’s. I think Emily put it really well the other day when she talked about how these real-life voices can create different characters from the ones on the page.
Like with Emily, I heard a different version of Agamemnon (the character) than I’d originally read. At times, I almost found myself rooting for him. And yes, I’m aware of all of the terrible things he does/has done, but isn’t that the point of theatre? To create complicated characters? I’ve found this really interesting, that the characters I saw as really straightforward on the page can become far more nuanced when hearing them out loud.
One of the key differences, I feel, between theatre and literature is that our actors can find their character’s motivations, or at the very least can find different hints of motivations, outside of what just the text states. As a literature student, this both hurts and warms my heart. I’ve been trained, on some level, to believe that the text is the only real source of canon—especially when working on the texts that I work on, where the author/writer is either A) Unknown, or B) Long dead. Here though, the actors have a lot more agency, and we have the playwright in the room with us as we’re rehearsing. Changes are made on the fly, text is rearranged, added or removed from the scripts. Neither way, I feel, is wrong. They’re just different approaches that have been made explicitly clear through my observations of these rehearsals. We’re allowed to speculate and interpret in different manners. The different approaches are just different avenues for curiosity.