By Zander Brietzke
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Extra resources for American Drama in the Age of Film
Instead, statements such as these by actor William Hurt ﬁll the pages: “The mystery opened up through the theater is the imagination itself. That’s the hero” (63). What does this mean? It suggests, maybe, that Hurt valorizes the relative poverty of theater compared to ﬁlm and celebrates the suggestiveness of the theatrical medium over the realism of cinema. That’s only speculation. The fuzziness surrounding all the above statements begs the question whether there really is something special at the heart of the theatrical experience.
Each one has to follow in sequence and be presented in its entirety. A cinematic treatment, on the other hand, can juggle four versions by cutting back and forth between each one. Similarly, while many ﬁlms alter the temporal sequence of events between past, present, and even future, most plays adhere to chronological order. In part this is due to the fact that theater seems to need a building of events to achieve desired effects (such as catharsis), but more importantly it is because theater, once moving in a single temporal direction, ﬁnds it very difﬁcult to reverse directions.
Gest, a key term in Brecht’s visual theater, pertains to the physical, psychological, social, and economic relations between human beings. He asserts that “the grouping of the characters on the stage and the movements of the groups must be such that the necessary beauty is attained above all by the elegance with which the material conveying that gest is set out and laid bare to the understanding of the audience” (200–201). In the new scientiﬁc age of learning, according to Brecht, pleasure comes from understanding, but understanding is possible only in a theater that presents a dramatic situation as clearly as it can.
American Drama in the Age of Film by Zander Brietzke