This week has been remarkably stressful. I cranked out nine hours of Freytag unit analysis for The Tempest (this is round two for this play) and came to the conclusion that this particular work of Shakespeare simply does not fit into the classic Freytag plot scheme. I set the Inciting Incident at the sound of thunder…the first thing in the play. The inciting incident is not supposed to come until some exposition has occurred, but against the advice of my Professor, that’s what I call. Though Freytag works for most Greek and classical plays, I think Shakespeare is the weirdo, rule-breaker, trend-setter who can not be ‘plugged in’ to Freytag’s graph. I won’t show you the minutia of detail I went into in mapping out the play, but I will share the basic argument for my proposed inciting incident:
Justification for the Inciting Incident:
It has been argued that the inciting incident of Shakespeare’s The Tempest happens prior to the beginning of the play when Alonso assumes the role of Duke and has Prospero and his daughter Miranda expelled from Milan. However, for the purposes of this exercise, we are exploring the inciting incident as it happens within the beginning and end of the play. There is simply nothing stronger and more affecting to each and every character than the creation of the Tempest (also the very name of the play) which sets into motion all the conflicts within the play structure. By way of Prospero’s ‘Art’ and enacted by Ariel, (Prospero’s spirit servant,) the first sign of this storm is the very sound which begins the play, ‘Thunder and Lighting.’ This is absolutely not a ‘cop-out’ as the inciting incident, and has modern precedence in at least two contemporary interpretations of the Tempest in cinema by fearsomely notable and classically (theatrically) educated directors: (2010 – Directed by Julie Taymor, and 1982 – Directed by Paul Mazursky,)—in which the storm is the inciting incident. This leaves us with exposition as rising action, which given the many entrances and exits from the start of the play (38) until the indicated climax with the appearance of Ariel as Harpy, and the unfolding of information which is not only expositional but also includes the revealing of dramatic twists and turns, hence plot-furthering action. I would argue that Shakespeare stands apart from convention as it relates to the standard classical Freytag pyramid. The Tempest is believed to have been written around 1610 according to HistoryToday.Com. Freytag, he of the 1800s, created his plot structure graph and found many classical and Greek plays could be represented by it or better, put into it. I argue that the human face can be represented by a structure on Mars (Re: The Face of Mars) and seen to be accurate, depending on shadow and perspective. Freytag’s graph is one of many useful tools to analyze plays, but the directive in this assignment is to allow the play to indicate the graph, not the reverse. Shakespeare 1610 to Freytag 1800, not the reverse. One will indeed find all of Freytag’s parts; just not necessarily in Freytag’s cage of convention. I argue the inciting incident is the sound which begins the play and the rising action is one and the same with the exposition. In conclusion, I would also argue that Shakespeare, among any and all great playwrights, stands alone—if for no better reason than that he bucked conventions of structure, taste, style, class, and form to the great delight of his audiences and history’s disciples. It seems fair to say my result is more than a plausible hypothesis.
Summary: Inciting Incident- “Thunder and Lightning is heard” (The beginning indication of Prospero’s Tempest)
Rising Action as Exposition- The history and events of the conflicts are laid out, plot action unfolds:
Climax- Enter Ariel, like a Harpy; Claps his wings upon the table!
Falling Action- The diffusing of Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban’s Murder Plot & Prospero’s Virtuous forgiveness.
Resolution- Prospero breaks his staff, drowns his books, and give up his ‘Art’.
Denouement- Alonso finds his son, Prospero finds his daughter, and they are in union.
All is forgiven, Prospero is restored to Dukedom, and he appeals the audience for freedom.
Folks, if you think that’s radical, I did a search for FREYTAG GRAPH THE TEMPEST SCRIPT ANALYSIS into Google and I came up as the top listing. That’s nuts! It was a listing for this very blog. Anyway, I hope I’ll get at least some credit for thinking out of the box and all the work I put into it, even if in the long run, I’m completely off. I still think it’s a justified opinion.
For the rest of the week, the shit hit the fan. I had to perform the first rounds for both my monologue in Acting for Directors, and my scene with a partner for Acting II. I guess you’ll read about it in this week’s journals:
ACTING FOR DIRECTORS:
I presented my scene today. It was definitely not the best or the worst. I froze twice to call for lines. Fuck me. I am determined this will not happen again. I assert 90% of all ‘stage fright’ relates to simply not knowing the lines. This is why I think I will devote myself to a scientific sound method for any and all to get the lines of a play into a body. Isn’t it a wonder this is not a course? The most important thing? But it’s done, I learned a lot, and by God, everyone else called for lines too…some more than others, some more than me. What am I ashamed of? Nothing! Okay…not knowing the lines. Or better, knowing them, overthinking them, getting in my own way, not trusting myself, and then not knowing them.
Watched three monologues and Professor Young’s critiques. I learn so much from watching him offer helpful suggestions to the actors. His worldly knowledge of all-things-theatre combined with his keen eye and dramatic taste is really remarkable. He knows the right tones and notes (shit, sounds like a musical score which, in a way, it is) to make play-work happen for both actors and audience alike. There are so many chatty people who do not seem to value this part. They’re quiet enough during the performances, but I think the meat is in evaluating and critiquing the performance. Luckily, one of our classmates made mention of this, so hopefully, my worthy peers will apply more focus and less mouth. In particular, I learned about the importance of grounding one’s self, use of the staging space, how actors can have their power taken away by their relative location to scene parts, furniture, etc. We learned about not looking down, about calling for line in-character (not as yourself) if you forget a line, the importance of body language matching up with the style of the times, ie. No high-fives in the 1800’s, etc. (unless it’s some absurdist piece with a time machine or something like that.) Got back my Director Presentation Comments. Dr. Young wrote at the top, “Excellent Work.”
So I and my scene partner thought about going first but neither of us quite had our bits down. We were not permitted to interact on this scene. We were to remember the lines independently of each other (it’s an exercise, the meaning of which will become clear in the coming days). The first scene came and went. The second scene came and went. The third scene came and went. Nobody was off book…it was excruciatingly anxiety-provoking. I was so stressed out watching people flail without the memory of their lines. The professor did not get to us for this round. We’re on Friday, and we turn our journals (binders) in. Anyone tells you acting is easy, bag‘em and tag’em. I’ve done more writing, endured more stress, and accumulated more knowledge in these two months than I did in the entire two years at Santa Fe trying to get in this joint. And what I’m trying to say is, I love the pain.
I did it. I performed the scene with my scene partner and though I had to call for a couple lines, it was clear our chemistry is going to rock! Professor Hamilton gave us some quality feedback about making use of the proscenium staging area and not getting trapped in a single performance space. The other scenes were quite great to watch, and I never want to see people forgetting lines (stresses me out), I sure felt a lot better about my work today afterwards. Plus, I love the scene. Professor Hamilton seemed pleased with the day’s business and said, “Damn, I cast well.” I agree with her. I’m very much perfect for the playwright in Venus and Fur and for this scene, it’s a role I can chew on both as Thomas, and his play-within-the-play doppelgänger, Kushemski. I got to do an atrocious tacky Russian Accent. I asked if I could keep that in, and Prof. Hamilton reminded me that yes, it starts like that, but gradually as the play progresses and the stakes are raised, that accent could become more and more real. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to do the whole play! Got my analysis of Mrs. Whitherspoon back. Got a perfect score on it! I’m breaking in, I can feel it.
Today I presented my monologue. I was the third to go. Prior to me, two students went. Each presented, then we talked about it. How did they feel? Professor did some hands-on work, gave suggestions to focus them, and I’ll be damned, the second try was uniformly and exponentially better than the first. My turn came. I delivered my monologue and imagined myself talking to a picture of my ex-partner. In my mind, I was talking through the picture and to myself. It was so intense and emotional for me, I tightened up, teared up, stressed out, shook, Man, it was cathartic. I was instructed to walk it off, and then I had some hands-on. Professor centered me, or I should say, allowed me to allow myself to center up. I relaxed, breathed, and she suggested I talk to the person, not the picture. “If you’re talking to yourself, or a picture, the stakes aren’t as high.” When I did my second attempt, it felt lighter and easier and natural, and yet it packed more power somehow. My voice was in its full lower register, and I was IN IT, not PERFOMING it. I just went in with risk and no expectations except to honor the motivation to say what I had to say to whom I had to say it. It is one thing to see it, but quite another to experience it—the shift between the first go and the second; night and day. Powerful! I learned a lot. Also, I discovered (thank you class) I often stand with a shifted hip (fine for leisure but not good for acting to establish power and grounding) and I clench my toes. I’m a GD Toe Clencher! AHHH! Hoping, I guess, not to fall off the Earth.
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P.S. Going to the opening of the Hippodrome’s new Halloween play, Zombie Town tonight with Jason Hedges. I was invited to view the show if I write it up in my public blog (not this one.) Dragon Fly Sushi Company and Half Cork’d (wine, duh) are catering the pre-party and Mark’s Prime (best Steakhouse in town) is catering the after-party. I said, sure…I’ll be happy to come. God, I hope I like the play because I write what I see. Already heard good things back at the University of Florida from my theatre peers, so I am optimistic. Who doesn’t love zombies for Halloween anyway! YAY! BRAINS!