Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Marionettes as the essence of the characters?

I went to "Marionette MacBeth" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier last night with my friend Victoria. There was a quote in the program which I thought was really interesting, but after seeing the performance, I'm not sure I agree:
"An actor on the stage, even the most capable, will imbue the character with his own physical aspect and personality. The marionette underscores the symbolic aspects of each character, as the writer imagined them. The marionette proposes itself as pure interpretation -- not a mediation, but rather the essence of the character." Eugenio Monti Colla

The marionettes are about three feet tall and were made by and manipulated by an Italian troupe. The voices were Chicago Shakespeare actors. It was quite wonderful but I was very aware that I was watching marionettes and that was what made the show so delightful. The audience loved them. When the marionette horses reared their heads or one character sat down and then made a point of crossing his legs, the audience roared with delight. Actors would not have elicited such a response from such an action.

The marionettes were most believable when they were stationery, moving their arms and gesturing. Locomotion was more difficult. Walking seemed more like skipping, leaping, galloping. The only locomotion that really worked was the ghosts floating on by.

It is interesting to think about embodying the "symbolic aspects, the essence, of a character." It reminds me of being a conduit for the Holy Spirit in liturgical movement. Can we ever present a blank slate? Still mulling the quote in my mind: "The marionette proposes itself as pure interpretation -- not a mediation . . ." Allows the viewer to bring his/her own interpretation? A blank slate for the viewer? Yet, at the same time it proposes itself as "the essence of the character." I guess it's not contradictory. I like the concept, but I'm not sure it works in reality.

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