Response to video recording of a live performance of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Response to video recording of a live performance of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by William Shakespeare, directed by Julie Taymor, 2014. This is a much longer and complicated assignment than the response to Buried Child. To make sure you understand what you're doing and why, please read all the information before and after the prompt before seeing the video. INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE SEEING THE RECORDED PLAY: To help you with the plot, please click on to this link to read a basic summary of the story before you see the video (it should take you 5 minutes): (Links to an external site.) For more detailed summaries of each act, click on the next link below. Once in the site, scroll down and click on each act for a comprehensive summary. It will take you about 15 to 20 minutes, but it will make your viewing much easier and hopefully much more enjoyable. (Links to an external site.) TO SEE THE RECORDED PLAY: Go to this link to access the video through Alexander Street Videos (a service offered through FIU’s library). (Links to an external site.) You will need to log in with your 14-digit library card’s number located on the back of your FIU One Card. Then enter your password, which will be your birthday’s month and day, using two digits for each. If you have any trouble, you may call FIU’s library and tell them you need access to Alexander Street Videos. Mention my class and the video’s title. Once you’re in, watch the recorded play. It’s approximately 2 ½ hours. ABOUT THE WRITTEN RESPONSE: Respond to the prompt in a clear, concise 500-to-1000 word mini-essay. You will be graded on the logic of your points, appropriate and sufficient examples from the performance to illustrate your points (and that you present examples from throughout the video, beginning to end), and appropriate but succinct elaboration. Please refer to the syllabus about my expectations with writing. THE PROMPT Explain how, in your opinion, the design elements, acting choices, and directorial choices (overall pacing, casting, blocking) helped with the sense of humor, love/romance, and magic or otherworldliness. If you felt any element was not well executed and didn’t help, explain what it was and why you think it didn’t work. In a paragraph or two, please also comment on how the casting of this play may or may not be a social statement. ABOUT THE VIDEO CHOICES As was mentioned with the assignment on BURIED CHILD, I chose the two videos of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and BURIED CHILD because… They were the best audio/visual quality videos I could find of more recently produced plays. They have closed captioning. Compared to other videos I found, I feel the acting in these best give you the sense of stage-acting without looking too over-acted for the close-ups. They are quite different from what many of you are used to. One is a clear example of extremely detailed Realism in every regard, but with a very layered and troubling storyline. The other is a classic play (Shakespeare) but done in a theatrical style I doubt most of you have ever seen. Because most of you have seen musicals, comedies, some domestic dramas, even “traditionally performed” Shakespeare (or will in the future), I believe these plays will stretch your horizons of what’s out there. ABOUT WATCHING A PLAY ON VIDEO You’ll be watching a recorded live performance. This is a different experience from seeing an actual film. A good recording of a play purposefully tries to give you a feel of the actual theatre experience, but it’s not the same. Like watching the video of a wedding. A good one will give you a sense of it, but you know you’re missing out. However, this video will be a good “training tool” to learn about theatre and help you analyze it. You’ll have to imaging you are in the audience seeing everything. There are no close-ups in theatre. You see everything twenty-to-forty feet across, from ceiling to the floor. So, when there is a close-up in the video, keep in mind in the real thing you would clearly see all of the set and the other actors not on the screen. Also, you must remember the actors are acting for the stage, not the camera. They have to raise their voices and move their mouths to be heard and understood by an audience sitting twenty-to-a hundred feet away, even when wearing a microphone. They also have to keep moving for the sake of visual variety. If the actor is good, it will look compelling and truthful; it won’t feel like overacting. But the close-up of a camera hurts that illusion because that performance isn’t meant for that microscopic viewpoint. So, if there’s a moment of “overacting”, you may have to ask yourself, “Is that just a bad actor, or is it a distance thing?” (It may very well be bad acting, but maybe not. You be the judge.) And was mentioned before, theatre is more of an auditory medium than film. It demands more from the audience because close listening takes more effort than simply watching. The effort and stamina to closely listen to others for a stretch of time is a life-skill we should all work on. BACKGROUND INFO OF THIS VIDEO The performance is from 2014. It is the “gazillionth” revival of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy. It is arguable Shakespeare’s most popular comedy in modern times. Unlike you may have assumed due to your high school Language Arts class, Shakespeare wrote more comedies than tragedies, and many of them are quite as zany as his tragedies are “tragic”. However, this particular comedy has some strong dramatic scenes, especially in the beginning. Yet, it is a comedy, with the dramatic scenes interspersed with many lightly humorous and zany farcical moments. And it has the supernatural element throughout (the realm and intervention of a fairy world). The performance is directed by Julie Taymour, who made her claim to fame by directing the musical THE LION KING (for which she won the Tony Award for Best Director). She has directed operas and stage plays, as well as films, with a very unique visual and auditory flair. If you know this play, be prepared to see it again “for the very first time”. Now, the problem with Shakespeare is of course the language. It’s four-hundred years old, for Pete’s sake! I get it. Many of my colleagues in theatre forget that most people are not in the theatre; much of the vocabulary and sentence structure sounds almost like a foreign language to many. HOWEVER, I’ve found that if one is patiently paying attention, they’ll sink into it and the story starts to become very clear

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