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Theater is a form of art where live performers express the experiences of an individual or a society, both real and imaginary ones, in front of an audience. Theater helps to convey messages that one would naturally be unable to convey. The purpose of this report is to whether there is indeed any truth in the statement that Harold Clurman said that “theater is deep human communication through the mask of fable (Styan, 66).”
Harold Clurman, a noted theater critic, declares openly that though theater is a means of communication, it often seeks deeper insight to understand it and decipher its meanings. Communication in its basing sense refers to the process of conveying a meaningful message to intended recipients. At the heart of communication are the message and its recipients. It is therefore correct to say that since with art there is conveying of messages, though sometimes hard to understand, theatre is indeed a mode of human communication. Theater uses things such as satire, moral stories, song and movement to pass across a message. With the human ability to make out details and actually understand what an idea means, theater is a means of communication (Styan, 66).
There are different types of theater productions but the bottom line is they all convey some messages. Theater is rather deep, and often, uses a lot of time, effort and fables to convey the message. The fact that it requires human understanding and concentration to understand makes Harold assume that theater is a method of learning and a means through which human beings learn and teach (Styan, 68).
Theater is like human life since they both look at the life of a human, though art is sometimes about unrealistic things (Richard, McLanathan, Gene 273). The two show the wants, ideas, and needs of the human race before translating them to messages that we later communicate. As human beings, so many morals surround our lives and at that, communication becomes vital. Theater works help the humankind to reflect on what they are doing thus the reason why we can relate human life to theater. In Antigone, Sophocles brings about various themes that are common to human beings. He notes that rivalry and tragedy are some of the basic human experiences, that through theatre, the messages can be taken home.
It is true that theater is a means of communication; this is because using different presentation styles, they give insight to current trends, situations, and most of all art is a form of entertainment. In the play Antigone, we see how justice and morality are perverted when Polynices is punished for fighting with Thebes. Eteocles is buried as per traditions but Creon declares that Polycines should not receive a decent traditional burial. In this setting, we learn of the value of morals, and respect for the laws of the Land. Creon does not focus on the effect that his judgment has with regards to morals and laws. He should have both brothers either buried decently or left in the plains. Just like Creon, human beings also have a disregard for laws of the land and moral values hence a rise in incest, same sex marriages and such things that disregard nature (Styan, 46). Human beings rarely understand that though counter effects of our actions are not instant, they are always present at some point.
We also learn through this play how power plays a role in the society. In human life, power is associated with prestige leaders tend to misuse this instead of actually using it to make a better life for their subjects. Creon is such a leader, who does not like disregard to his words and laws and as such when Antigone gives her brother a decent burial as per her beliefs, Creon captures her saying she defied his divine law. In this case Creon uses his power, and punishes Antigone for standing up for what she believes in. (Styan, 66)
Education, entertainment, development and criticism are some of the innate human needs. Theater serves all these purposes in its broader perspectives. Much as theatrical performances focus on education and development, their entertainment quality is what makes people watch them repeatedly. With entertainment, it simply means, in works of art involving theater, individuals must be able to relax and laugh at the events being shown. In a play like The Caretaker by Valerie Monogue, entertainment is enhanced by the play’s ambiguity. The twists in the play hide the shallow imaginative plan of the play and focuses on what will make the audience glued. Entertainment is a need that one cannot ignore as it gives us ease of mind to enable us get involved in other activities in a better way. Entertainment is in many forms but indulgence in it is what gives human beings satisfaction. In theater, characters too indulge in entertainment and hence a role in human issues.
Theater helps in development of a nation, a community or on individual. With development, individuals are able to enhance themselves in regards to mind, environment and life in general. Theater educates and education is a major requirement for development. Theater works also show where people do not take interest in and as such pinpoint the areas that we have neglected such as poverty, religion, and social culture. In a play like Who is Afraid by Virginia Woolf, the author describes events of Nick and Honey and Honey’s pregnancy (Styan, 134). The story shows how development and criticism can be communicated as the play focuses on the corrupt ideals of the Americans. Therefore, theater is used in communication in a bid to criticize, educate, develop and entertain human beings.
When we describe theatre as a fable, it means it is an unrealistic production displaying real issues and occurrences. In order for a theater production to be effective, there is need for a producer and/or director to go the extra mile and use theater elements (Richard, McLanathan, Gene 276). These include sound and sound effects, music, costumes, make-up, directions, sets, lighting, dialogue and props. Lighting is a theatrical element that helps bring out the color, focus, intensity and mood of a theatrical piece. Lighting will give the audience a sense of direction, and as well as the desire to watch a theatrical performance. Creative lighting brings out the mood of the play. If not correctly used, therefore, the mood may be misread and as such distortion of the intended meaning.
In theater, make-up is used to enhance certain characters as well as specific details that a director intends to show the audience. In Memphis: The Musical, costume and make-up bring out the typical American life of racism, sex, rock and roll. Heavy mascara and eye shadows, featured prominently in the play. The old school costume that replicate that of the infamous Skin heads bring the authenticity of the era during which this musical is set. Make up also include things such as masks, headgears, glasses among others. Make up allows for an effective use of sounds and give a desirable effect in relation to what you are putting across to your audience. Costumes are other theater elements that help enhance the bigger picture. Costumes include clothing, shoes and accessories. All these help the director and make up artist dress the actor appropriately so that the message is delivered (Richard, McLanathan, Gene 276).
Stage directions are another element that helps in creating the big picture. This refers to any physical movement of the body that was due to instructions given. These directions include facial expressions, body language, gestures, and body movement. Directions often translate to the final production with the help of sound and dialogue (Elam, 97). Dialogue is therefore another element of theater that helps in production of the final piece. Narration is also an element of theater only that it is story like while dialogue is unsystematic and does not follow any sequence. Sounds also play a major role in enhancing the fable quality. Sound and sound effects give the production a dramatic effect (Richard, McLanathan, Gene 276).
In my humble submission, theater is indeed a means of human communication that uses dramatic and satirical events to communicate a particular idea to an audience. It is these theatrical “tools” that make it a fable. It is a deep means of communication of dramatic events and with the combination of major elements of theatre; it gives simple messages deeper meaning (Elam, 77). Theater is broad and that makes it desirable to communicate to a large crowd of people that use this form of entertainment.
The use of fables in theater gives them a touch of fantasy; this makes it easy for a producer to tackle any topic however sensitive to individuals or to the public it may be. Theater is important and aggressive since it helps in streamlining a community by ensuring that we condemn and bring out all vices. Education is also spread through works of art and with educating individuals; we enhance the levels of development of a community. Development brings about responsibility and hence in the end theater will promote that (Richard, McLanathan, Gene 276).
In conclusion, Harold Clurman is right in positing that theater is indeed deep human communication hidden in fables. This is seen in that all pieces of theatrical works always use fables to tackle events or issues. Fables, gives theatre a deep meaning and the audience a task to try to decipher the meaning. Communication involves two or more parties and a message that requires transmission and theater has been an effective means of achieving this. Therefore, theater is indeed human communication that should be enhanced for this purpose (Elam, 77). Theatre is a very important tool of communication that theatre enthusiasts derive a lot of meaning and communication. It goes without saying that through theatre, human life is imitated albeit indirectly. Life in itself is further the stage and human life is the performance. Everyone serves as an audience in the relationships that we share on a daily basis.