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Over Easy: The Play’s The Thing.

Empty Set


Father. Father! O, proud, death! What feast is toward in thine eternal cell, that thou, such a prince at a shot so bloodily hast struck? The curtain, the curtain rises. It rises. There’s no time to sleep. The play. The play. The play’s the thing, wherein we’ll catch the conscience of the king.- Star Trek, The conscience of the king

It did have a proscenium arch. However, behind the proscenium arch were AC ducts and conduit and such. No fly system on which to hang flats or scenery. The stage itself was not very deep and no booth to run lights or sound, but a projection booth in the back that was acoustically isolated.

In this we had to work around and the Technical Director and Set Designer [the same person] had to design sets around.  When I got there, the sound system was minimal at best and the intercom a thrown together bunch of old telephone operators’ headsets.  I did manage to scrounge a few more headsets from the phone company and a local surplus store.

Even through all of this, we put on some fine productions during that time. A listing of the productions that the UCF/FTU Theatre put on. The first production I saw was The Living Theatre’s The Legacy of Cain, an audience participation work that comes from the German work of the same name.

I prefer live theatre to movies generally. There is a depth and a feeling and an insight we’d get from a well produced play that is missing from movies and television. Theatre works quite often and ends where people do NOT live happily ever after. Such as Journey’s End.  Taking place in the trenches of WWI, the set was to look like the inside of one of the trenches. But in the last scene, a shell or mortar hits the trench and kills every one in it. This was the first production I helped on. With a flash of light, the walls had to come down and smoke and dust and dirt fill the stage. All of this without burying the actors [which we almost did one time].

Or Kiss Me Kate with a barn door set and marque lights or the proscenium arch. The relays that ran them made such a racket, we had to run the cable far into the shop area and cover it with a large wooden box and blankets so you could not hear them even on stage.

Ex Miss Copper Queen on A Set Of Pills,was one of the student directed one act plays. A very moving play with a very sad ending. We also did Of Thee I Sing which takes a musical poke at politics, which we did as a multi-media production with a platform stage.

Even when Hollywood does do a play, like The Madwoman of Chaillot, they often leave out pages of dialogue and even characters.  Like this clip from the film with a lot of dialogue that describes in more depth and detail the premiss of the play.

The dialogue as the play is supposed to be performed:

Ragpicker : Countess, the world has changed’
Countess:   Nonsense. How could it change ? People are the same. I hope.
Ragpicker : No, Countess. The people are not the same. The people are
different. There’s been an invasion. An infiltration. From another
planet. The world is not beautiful any more. It’s not happy.
Countess:   Not Happy ? Is that true ? Why didn’t you tell me this before ?
Ragpicker : Because you live in a dream, Countess. And we don’t like to
disturb you.
Countess:   But how could it have happened ?
Ragpicker : Countess, there was a time when you could walk around Paris,
and all the people you met were just like yourself. A little cleaner,
maybe, or dirtier, perhaps, or angry, or smiling-but you knew them.
They were you. Well, Countess, twenty years ago, one day, on the street,
I saw a face in the crowd. A face, you might say, without a face. The
eyes-empty. The expression-not human. It saw me staring, when it looked
back at me with it’s gelatin eyes, I shuddered. Because I knew to make
room for this one, one of us must have left the earth. A while later,
I saw another. And another. And since then, I’ve seen hundreds come in
Countess:   Describe them to me.
Ragpicker : You’ve seen them yourself, Countess. Their clothes don’t
wrinkle. Their hats don’t come off. When they talk, they don’t look
at you. They don’t perspire.
Countess:   Have they wives ? Have they children ?
Ragpicker : They buy models out of shop windows, firs and all. They
animate them by a secret process. Then they marry them. Naturally
then don’t have children.
Countess:   What work do they do ?
Ragpicker : They don’t do any work. Whenever they meet, they whisper
and then they pass each other thousand-franc notes. You see them
standing on the corner of the stock exchange. You see them at auctions-
in the back. They never raise a finger-they just stand there. In
theater lobbies, by the box office-they never go inside. They don’t
DO anything, but whenever you see them, things are not the same. I
remember a time when a cabbage could sell itself just by being a cabbage.
Nowadays it’s no good being a cabbage-unless you have an agent and pay
him a commission. Nothing is free any more to sell itself or give itself
away. These days, Countess, every cabbage has it’s pimp.
Countess:   I can’t believe that.
Ragpicker : Countess, little by little, the pimps have taken over the
world. They don’t do anything, they don’t make anything-they just stand
there and it take their cut.

I enjoyed the film, but the play had much more depth to it….more feeling. I found this to be true for nearly all the plays I have seen or was involved with. And theatre will present thoughts and ideas that Hollywood and TV will not touch.

Like The Laramie Project at UNCC done on a thrust stage in a minimalist style. Just a few chairs and the actors. Or Shakespeare. Often updated to present time. Works like King Lear or Richard III. A lot of people are not fond of  Shakespeare as the plays are so involved sometimes. But they need to be to get to the conscience of the king, to understand how and why the characters are the way they are.

So if there is a theatre that is putting on a play close by, little theatre or a college theatre, see a play. Maybe get involved or read one you have not seen. Most libraries have the scripts to most plays.

I say this all because one of the members of our acting troupe passed away recently and it was sad loss.

Subjects open Firedogs.


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