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The Form Of Production

( Originally Published 1938 )



A Complete Plan for Production

At one time the director would have restated the play on a stage which was no more than a bare platform, using only spoken words and accompanying gestures in his restatement. Today he has something more than an unadorned stage and spoken dialogue with which to build his acted play. He has scenery and costumes and lighting, stage machinery and sound effects, as well as the several possibilities for theatrical effectiveness which are to be found in the actor's voice and body. Instead of being an institution of one or two arts, the theater has become the institution of all the arts; and, as it has gathered the arts into its service, it has developed into the most complex—and complete—institution of all its three thousand years of existence.

The average director, if he knows the modern theater at all, sees the truth of this readily enough; he recognizes the many resources that can be employed in building the acted play; but he often cannot or will not utilize these various resources and make of each a contributing factor in the creation of his play.

The production which the director working with amateurs sets as his goal should be a complete production. The production, born in his imagination, takes shape as he studies the script. As it grows, it should be something more than a hasty visualization of actors moving about a stage, some-thing beyond the hearing of lines spoken with a certain strength, pitch, or inflection. If the director is going to give his audience no more than an unimaginative reader can gain from a reading of the play, why go to all the bother and expense of putting the play on the stage?

In his presentation, we repeat, he will use scenery and costumes and lighting; he will use movement and grouping and pace; and these, and other materials out of which he builds his play, should be in his mind as he works out his production in his study. To use them only as they happen to come to mind later on during rehearsals, to patch them onto the growing play only as he needs them, does not make for a complete, unified production, or a production of so great dramatic effectiveness as one in which they are a conscious part of the plan of the production.

We start the work of production, then, with the idea of a plan. The director should learn to look upon this plan as essential to his work. And the plan he has in mind should include more than the ordinary devising of routine stage business and a quickening or retarding of the pace. It should include all the visual and auditory elements of the modern stage. At a given time, during the action of a scene, he decides that one of these elements should be stressed and be permitted to contribute to the interpretation of the scene; at another time, this element should be pushed into the background and some other should be given the center of the stage.

For instance, there may be a moment when the pageantry of costume can make a greater contribution to the interpretation of some phase of the scene than any other element, at which time this pageantry should be given free rein to say what it has to say. Five minutes later, vocal tone and bodily movement may be the two means through which the restatement in stage terms can best be made, at which time all other elements are subordinated to these. In a word, in the play worked out by the director, the various elements or resources should be brought into a proper focus with a clear, continuous restatement of the text in terms of the stage.

Plan denotes a definite purpose or design. The plan of the production, which the director means to follow, should be one that makes possible the conscious and effective use of all those elements that may express the written play in stage terms.

Planning a Scene from "Hamlet"

We shall endeavor to show what we mean by form in production, by working out a plan for a shortened version of a well-known scene from Hamlet.

Polonius and Claudius have hidden themselves where they may be "lawful espials" of Hamlet's behavior, in order to determine whether Polonius' theory that the young man's love for Ophelia has caused his confusion and "filled his days of quiet with turbulent and dangerous lunacy" is correct. Ophelia has been instructed to remain in the room and "read on a book—that show of such an exercise may color her loneliness." This scene then follows :

Enter HAMLET.

Hamlet. To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and, by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep : perchance to dream : ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. There's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. Soft you now! The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remember'd.

Ophelia. Good my lord,

How does your honour for this many a day?

Hamlet. I humbly thank you; well, well, well.

Ophelia. My lord, I have remembrances of yours, That I have longed long to re-deliver;

I pray you, now receive them.

Hamlet. No, not I;

I never gave you aught.

Ophelia. My honour'd lord, you know right well you did; And, with them, words of so sweet breath compos'd As made the things more rich : their perfume lost,

Take these again; for to the noble mind

Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.

There, my lord.

Hamlet. Ha, ha! Are you honest?

Ophelia. My lord!

Hamlet. Are you fair?

Ophelia. What means your lordship?

Hamlet. That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.

Ophelia. Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?

Hamlet. Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner trans-form honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness; this was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love thee once.

Ophelia. Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

Hamlet. You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it; I loved you not.

Ophelia. I was the more deceived.

Hamlet. Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. . . . What should such fellows as I do crawling between heaven and earth? We are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery. Where's your father?

Ophelia. At home, my lord.

Hamlet. Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in's own house. Farewell.

Ophelia. O! help him, you sweet heavens!

Hamlet. If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go; farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go; and quickly too. Farewell.

Ophelia. Oh heavenly powers, restore him!

Hamlet. I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages; those that are married already, all but one, shall live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go.

{Exit}

Ophelia. O! what a noble mind is here o'erthrown:
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword;
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
The observ'd of all observers, quite, quite down!...
O! woe is me,
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

Re-enter KING and Polonius.

As we begin to transfer the text to the stage, we ought to have two things quite clear in our minds : the setting and the characters. We shall use a permanent set for the play, and, without going into the reasons why we use it, we shall represent the floor plan of our set as follows:

In the plan, A represents a back curtain; B, a platform, four feet wide and twenty-eight inches high, running the width of the scene; C, a smaller platform, two feet wide and twenty-eight inches high; D, three steps, with a ten-inch tread and a seven-inch rise; E, E', two pillars, fourteen inches wide, ten inches deep, and fifteen feet high; F, three steps, eight feet long, with ten-inch treads and seven-inch rises; G, an entrance; H, a low platform; I, an entrance; and J, the footlight line.

An elevation of the set would appear something like this:

The width of the proscenium opening is thirty feet; the distance from the footlights to the platform, B, fourteen feet.

Again, without going into the reasons why, let us establish the characters and their relationships. Hamlet, a young man of deep feeling and keen mind, a lover who loves Ophelia sincerely, finds a set of forces slowly, but inevitably, pressing down upon him and driving him toward action. Like so many of us, he is reluctant to act. He is suspicious of the household, but is in no degree insane. Ophelia is simple and sweet and honest and wholly insufficient to carry out the deception her father has committed to her. She is in love with Hamlet, though she is incapable of a great passion. Claudius is an attractive villain with a guilty con-science. And Polonius is a chattering, senile old man who is not far removed from Shakespeare's clown characters.

With setting, character, and situation in mind, we are ready to begin working out the scene for stage presentation.

Remember, in our study of the script we have already discovered the central idea. In the present case our scene represents a few minutes in the life of a most vivid, fascinating human being named Hamlet. (In the production of the play as a whole, our desire would be to reveal this character as clearly and illuminatingly as our stage language and resources permit.) In this scene, therefore, we will use this test for our stage business, mood, and reading of lines: Will our selections contribute to that revelation of character, which, we are convinced from a study of the written play, the author intended the audience should see?

We must not be misled by false gods. Light patterns, however fascinating, are not the center of the play; or pictorial effectiveness; or cadence; or tonal virtuosity. The play is an emotionalized story. Within it is a central idea. Light patterns, stage groupings, and clever inflections are permissible only when they reveal and aid in the interpretation of the idea.

Polonius and Claudius have hidden themselves behind the curtained doorway, down left. Ophelia, book in hand, has mounted the platform, C. Hamlet enters from the door-way, right. We decide to restate the scene in the following manner.

Hamlet takes three steps, diagonally, toward lower left, and begins to speak. He continues to walk as he speaks, his steps in keeping with his slow, reflective speech. He is down left center when he reaches the words to die. He halts. His head is raised. He speaks the lines:

To die: to sleep;
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,...

Then, on the next word, he again resumes his walk:

... 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; .. .

He halts abruptly. A look of doubt comes into his face. Rigid, he says, after a slight pause:

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause... .

His line of march is permanently halted. The pitch of his voice changes. He is facing almost front as he continues:

... There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life; .. .

His tone becomes fuller, deeper; his speech comes more rapidly:

... For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others which we know not of?

His voice is stepped down to a still lower pitch; a note of bitterness comes into it. He faces slightly to the right and continues :

... Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action...

As he has spoken this last line, Hamlet, having lost his own willingness for action, wheels about angrily and starts back for the door through which he entered. But Ophelia, for the first time, comes within his range of vision. He halts. A new mood sweeps him. Tenderly he says:

... Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! ...

He is the lover now. He pauses a moment and impulsively goes back to a position just below her, and, with his back to the audience, face uplifted, and outstretched hands resting upon the wall below her, he speaks affectionately from the depths of his tortured heart:

... Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

Ophelia is still full of the admonition of her father. Instead of replying as a lover should, and as Hamlet expects, she gives him a formal, conventional, and stupid greeting with:

Good my lord, How does your honour for this many a day?

Hamlet's hands come down. He looks at her. The impulsiveness and love gone from his voice, he replies, as his mind becomes busy with a new, disturbing thought : I humbly thank you; well, well, well.

Still obedient to her father, whom she knows is an eaves-dropper to the scene, Ophelia descends the upper steps, D, and starts down the lower steps, F, to the stage level.

My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
That I have longed long to re-deliver;
I pray you, now receive them.

Standing on the lowest of the three lower steps, and to the left of center, she holds the remembrances out to him. Hamlet, already suspicious of most of the household, is now suspicious of Ophelia. He is hurt. He sinks down upon the second step and says in a voice sad and lifeless:

No, not I; I never gave you aught.

It is her turn to become alarmed. She sits upon the second step, several feet from him and partly facing him. Momentarily, she forgets about her father. Looking at him in surprise, she contradicts him:

My honour'd lord, you know right well you did;
And, with them, words of so sweet breath compos'd
As made the things more rich: their perfume lost,
Take these again; for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind...

The hand with the remembrances is again extended towards him.

... There, my lord.

He takes them; looks at them; laughs bitterly and sadly. Ha, ha! are you honest?

She is startled.

My lord!

Hamlet asks :

Are you fair?

She begins to fear. Her father and her mission are forgotten now.

Ophelia. What means your lordship?

Hamlet. That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.

She thinks of an answer; it is a conventional and trite one, but she speaks it with some spirit:

Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?

Her strange and forced manner have convinced Hamlet that all is not well; perhaps she is using him as a decoy; at least the speech he now makes is for other ears, if they are listening, as well as for hers:

Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness: this was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof... .

He ceases speaking; he looks at her. Something in her face drives suspicion momentarily from his mind. He leans to-ward her and says in all honesty and sincerity:

I did love thee once.

She responds to his mood. Tenderly, without guile, she replies :

Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

In this moment they are two earnest lovers. Hamlet is ready to take her in his arms, and she is ready to be taken. Perhaps—if she speaks one more soft word.... But she does not speak. There is a pause. And in the pause a thought, more powerful than his suspicion, sweeps over Hamlet. He knows he loves her and that she loves him. But his own miserable self—the young man with suicide in his heart, whom he brought into the room—rises before him. He will not, he cannot, drag this girl into the maelstrom with him. He will deny this love—for her sake and for his own. His mood changes. His voice is harsh and loud as he speaks:

You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it:

He lies vigorously:

Hamlet. I loved you not. Ophelia. I was the more deceived.

He jumps up. His speech becomes more rapid, more harsh.

Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me....

She has risen. Her eyes are wide. Her uplifted hand is trembling. She walks past him to lower right, her eyes still on him. He follows after her and, standing close, continues :

... What should such fellows as I do crawling between heaven and earth? We are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery... .

He fairly shouts this last speech and turns from her. But as he turns, his eye rests for just a moment on the doorway, lower left. There is a slight movement of the curtain. He halts in his tracks. His lips tighten. He questions her firmly, his eye still upon the curtain:

... Where's your father?

She is embarrassed. There is a short pause. She cannot tell him an untruth. He waits for her answer. Finally she stammers:

At home, my lord.

Now he knows all he had suspected! He sees clearly why she waited for him and he realizes the motive behind her words. He turns to her; and with anger in his voice he speaks for one behind the curtain to hear:

Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in's own house. Farewell!

On the last word he turns from her and flies up the steps to the platform. She, innocent and credible as she is, now believes him truly mad. Her speech is an earnest prayer:

O! help him, you sweet heavens!

Her voice has halted him. He looks at her. His mind is a composite of emotions. In high excitement he begins anew with swift, loud speech:

If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go; farewell... .

Quick as a flash, another thought rushes into his mind. The pitch of his voice is high. He is angry with Ophelia, but he is pretending madness for the ears beyond the curtain:

... Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go; and quickly too. Farewell.

Again he turns from her to the platform. She dares not face him as she says:

O heavenly powers, restore him!

His excitement has reached an insane delight. He hurries back toward her. When he speaks now, it is not so much to Ophelia as to women generally. The trick played upon him still rankles. His words fairly tumble over one an-other:

I have heard of your paintings, too, well enough; God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance... .

.. Go to, I'll no more on't, .. .

He stops and his face is in the direction of the eavesdroppers as he speaks for them:

It hath made me mad... .

He proceeds to the platform. There he turns.

... I say, we will have no more marriages; those that are married already, .. .

In all probability, Claudius is behind the curtain with Polonius. Hamlet speaks the next three words for his ears:

. . . all but one, shall live; the rest shall keep as they are...

Ophelia has turned around and is facing the steps. Her face is pathetic to look upon. Hamlet's eyes meet hers. He experiences a surge of emotion, but he cries:

... To a nunnery... .

He knows this is the cruel end of his lovemaking. Only with the greatest effort can he leave her. There is a pause, a slight bodily movement toward her. With a voice that is choking back the tears, he says the one word "go" and flies from the room. Her eyes follow him. What a weak, pathetic little thing she is! She is still looking in the direction in which he has gone, as she begins to speak sadly:

O! what a noble mind is here o'erthrown:
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword;
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
The observ'd of all observers, quite, quite down! ...

She has faced front. Now she turns left and starts across the stage to meet her father and the king. Her voice has been upon the point of breaking. Now she cries bitterly:

O! woe is me,

To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

At this point the king draws aside the curtains and enters, followed by Polonius.

Fundamentals of Form

This plan we have outlined for the stage presentation of the scene makes no great claims for itself. It may not have followed tradition, and it may suggest an interpretation at wide variance with one which some director has in mind. All we hope is that it possesses sufficient merit for the purpose of our exposition; that it is clear enough to show that there has been a definite plan and a conscious effort to re-state the written text, to translate it into effective stage terms.

By what did we test our selection of movement or picture, of pace and tone, which we prescribed for the scene?

An unforgivable mistake would be to test our selection of stage business or vocal reading either by what we believe to be beautiful or what we believe to be theatrical. We test our selection neither by some sort of abstract design nor by what we call good theater, but by a meaning within the play which we expect to reveal and clarify through the use of design and effective theater; by the central idea of the play which, in this instance, reveals Hamlet's character.

For instance, we conceived Hamlet as a restless, impulsive young man rather than primarily a thinker, believing that Shakespeare gives us sufficient justification for this conception; so, during the speaking of the soliloquy we have Ham-let move about and stand up rather than sit down, because we reasoned that this was more in keeping with his character.

Again, we considered him to be completely sane. So we asked for behavior and a reading of lines that would not bring his sanity into question.

Before we were ready to ascribe any business, we asked whether our selection was true to character—true to Ham-let's behavior in his specific emotional condition. If we had proceeded to the scene, later in the play, in which Hamlet visits his mother in her apartment, our character's thoughts and emotional condition would have prescribed a very different pattern for his physical movement from the pattern in this scene.

And we submitted our selection to another test: We asked that it be dramatic.

We know that a picture may be pleasant, be quite right technically, and yet possess no dramatic appeal; that a piece of music, though well designed, may be dull; that a literary composition that obeys the principles of writing perfectly may be boring. So the stage business and line reading of a play may be rational and clarifying without being impressive or moving.

By dramatic, of course, we mean that which is vividly expressive. We tried to be rational and also expressive; clear, and at the same time vivid.

The Design of the Scene

In revealing our character in a dramatic manner, we employed the principles of design, for an acted play can be a piece of art just as surely as a picture or a musical composition can be a piece of art; and recognizing the power and appeal of art, we wanted our scene to partake, if possible, of the qualities of the artistic.

A work of art is composed according to a conscious arrangement of its details. This arrangement is termed the design of the picture, poem, or building. We tried to give our scene design.

This scene we have been considering appears to be divided into three parts, distinct, and yet flowing into one another. If we tried to explain or describe these three parts, we might think of them in terms of color and say that the first section (embracing the soliloquy) is painted in drab colors; the second (the rather quiet conversation between the lovers), in more delicate and beautiful colors; and the third (the turbulent speeches and shocking behavior of Hamlet), in raw, strong, contrasting colors.

Or, perhaps we would seek to convey an idea of the under-lying design of the scene by employing the phraseology of music. We might speak of the first part as a slow, legato strain played in a minor key; the second, as a sweetly-sad lyric passage; the third, as a blare of sound, full of dissonance, increasing in tempo and loudness.

Or, perhaps, we would be content to express the under-lying arrangement in terms of a literary composition and speak of the low, slow-moving, reflective speech; second, the short prose speeches of doubt merging into an almost pastoral mood, abruptly breaking, in the third part, into a passage of sharp, staccato language.

Or, we might even seek to explain the scene in terms of the dance and suggest that the scene divide into a slow, even movement, followed by one of more delicate rhythm and action not strongly marked, and ending with a swift, broken movement.

The interesting point is that in each attempt to express the scene, we would be speaking a truth about it, but in no instance the whole truth. It is only when we think of the scene in terms of the various arts—painting, music, literature, dancing—only when we state our impression in the language of these several arts, that we are using a full terminology for the stage translation and are revealing all that the acted scene expresses.

We have tried to motivate the scene and make it dramatic; but we have done something else; we have based our restatement in dramatic terms on certain principles of design applicable to several arts.

The painter works with tangible objects, consciously placing them advantageously within the limited space of his picture; and we do the same in building our scene. The musician works with organized sound; we, too, soon find that the sound of our actors' voices, with the accompanying silences, at times convey more meaning than the logical meaning of the words. The writer works with a written language; we translate this into a spoken language. The dancer works with the movement of the human body, seeking to express an idea, mood, or story through the language of the body; the movement of the actors about the stage has been, from the time of Aeschylus, an integral part of the acted play.

The design of a scene that a director works out is not, therefore, a simple design, but one that is complex; he uses the elements and works according to the principles, not of a single art, but of several; and he often works with them concurrently.

His task—that of arranging something new and significant out of the elements and according to the principles of other arts—would doubtless be more difficult than it is were it not for the fortunate fact that the same principles of de-sign are, in a general sense, applicable to all the arts.

In rhetoric we learned that the principles of word composition are unity, coherence, emphasis, and proportion. In painting, the terms are unity, emphasis, balance, harmony, rhythm. In music, they are unity, emphasis, balance, harmony, position. Although these words are familiar, it may be worth while to refresh our memories, with regard to them, before we proceed.

Unity suggests oneness, a composition in which every-thing converges upon the main idea, mood, or point of view; a thing complete and carrying no extraneous matter. Unity decrees that the painting, story, or overture shall produce a single, harmonious effect.

Coherence means a sticking-together. It suggests that in a composition, means shall be taken to make the relation-ships of the different parts logical and the transitions clear.

Emphasis is a principle based upon the conviction that some things are more important than others. Its purpose is to call attention to the important things. It can gain this attention and intensify the desired impression in several ways: by the use of proportion (the iteration and reiteration of a thought or the repetition of a phrase of melody as in music); by position (the placing of an important figure near the center of the picture or an important thought near the end of a paragraph) ; or by contrast (a sudden change from a low pitch to a high one, a slow movement followed by a swift one, a tall man placed in juxtaposition to a very short one, a crisp, staccato sentence followed by a long, smooth one).

Balance is related to emphasis. It suggests a picture having equality of weight and decrees that the weight of one part shall not be so heavy as to submerge or destroy the effect of another part. When an artist places a tree, house, or figure at the left of his picture and nothing but an un-interesting sky and horizon line at the right, we say that the picture is out of balance.

Rhythm is instinctive with us. It has its roots in the functional processes of our body organism, in respiration, in circulation, and in the swing of arms and legs. In a composition it may be explained as the regular recurrence of like features; and these features are generally measured and balanced. In painting we may find a rhythm intimated in the repetition of lines or in lines not repeated accurately but suggestive of some other line in form and movement. In music we speak of rhythm as "the symmetrical and regularly recurrent grouping of tones according to accent and time value."

Harmony denotes fitness. It is akin to unity. It suggests that the arrangement of the different parts of the composition shall make an aesthetically pleasing whole. Harmony of sound or tone is found when the tones strike the ear pleasantly; harmony in painting is found when the colors do not seem to clash or when the lines give us a pleasant reaction.

These definitions, while simplified and generalized, should give us some conception of the meaning of unity, coherence, balance, rhythm, and harmony.

Why, it may be asked, are these principles important? Because their application tends to create a beautiful and unified whole; because human beings, even if they know little about them, respond to them when they are successfully applied to a composition.

Our scene, as it is prepared for the stage presentation, becomes a problem in composition and, consequently, a problem in design. It is with these principles, as bases for our design, that we worked out the scene.

Understand, we didn't think of these principles first; we thought of central idea and the dramatic; then we looked at these and used them as a means to an end.

Let us go back to the scene and see how we applied these principles of design. Shortly after Hamlet began his soliloquy and after the lines:

... 'Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; .. .

our directions are "He halts abruptly. A look of doubt comes into his face. Rigid, he says, after a slight pause . . ."

We suggest in this first bit of stage translation that we will employ both the pictorial art in the look of doubt that comes to Hamlet's face and the musical pause when he ceases speaking, for emphasis. This is the first moment in the scene when we desire emphasis.

Throughout the rest of the soliloquy it can be seen that we build largely upon the principles as employed by the musician; upon gradual change in pitch and tempo to re-veal Hamlet's mood and the working of his mind.

After the soliloquy, Hamlet perceives Ophelia. We want to show that he loves her. He has but the one line, "Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remember'd," in which to express his love. Perhaps the actor cannot speak the line so that it carries enough. At any rate, we call upon our arts to make this mood clear to the audience. First, we compose a picture of Hamlet and the maid, a picture in which his physical attitude (contrasted with the attitude in which we have seen him during the soliloquy, and therefore emphasized) is that of the lover; and, second, we give his speech a contrasting tone quality that shall convey as much of warmth and sentiment as possible.

Ophelia replies; and it is the tonal contrast in this reply which emphasizes the difference between her mood and the mood of Hamlet.

Several speeches later on, we again wish to bring to attention the love which exists between the pair. We have decided that an emphasis on this love is important. Shakespeare gives but few words to help us. So, we have the lovers sit upon the steps. Their relation is informal, familiar; the picture they make suggests to us a pair of lovers. The picture itself is composed with reference to harmony and balance. And notice how the recurrence of this love motif will tend to give the scene one of its rhythms.

Near the end of this division of the scene, while the two are still on the steps, we wish once again to emphasize this love. We have words to help us now in Hamlet's line, "I did love thee once." We want to emphasize this moment above the moments that have gone before. We do this by setting off two speeches: Hamlet's and Ophelia's, which follows, by means of the pause; we suggest a pause before Ham-let speaks and a pause after Ophelia's line.

The next mood of Hamlet, during which he speaks in a harsh, loud voice, seems to lack coherence with the portions of the scene that have just preceded it. It is only when the actor-Hamlet thinks of what has gone before this conversation and, in the pause, conveys something of this previous condition to the audience; it is only when his voice, re-turning to the pitch and tempo of the last of the soliloquy, cries out "you should not have believed me" that coherence is made with the Hamlet who entered the room.

In the next few speeches we find an application of the principle of balance. The position and attitude of the ac-tors provide a pictorial balance to the preceding portion of the scene, while the tempo, pitch, and loudness of the voices give a musical balance to the conversation upon the steps. This portion of the scene, while balancing the preceding section in several ways, maintains a pictorial balance within itself. Ophelia is downstage, close to the audience, and in the stronger stage position; Hamlet, though behind her and upstage from her, by his movement and gesticulation keeps the picture in balance.

One of the most important speeches during this portion of the scene is Hamlet's question, "Where's your father?" The scene has been loud and strong up to this point. We wish to stress this moment even more than those which have just gone before. So, Hamlet halts, downstage center—the most emphatic position on the stage. His expression changes. He faces, not Ophelia, but the curtains at left.

His flow of words has come to an abrupt cessation. His tone, suggesting that he already knows the answer to his question, makes its contribution. So, literature (in the speech spoken), painting (in the picture he makes), music (in the use of rest and tone), and dancing (in the movement suddenly arrested) combine to make the moment emphatic.

Again the increasing tempo, the staccato speech, the high pitch, the crescendo of tone continue their building toward a powerful climax. The appearance of Hamlet on the plat-form above the stage level contributes pictorially, through emphasis, to this mounting climax. His movement, ever swifter, heightens interest. Then, as a musician returns for a few bars to an earlier, more tender mood, as the artist painting a picture composed of strong lines repeats some line of delicacy and beauty, so for a last time in this scene do we wish to return to the mood of love.

In this instance it must be subtly, quickly revealed, perhaps by the slightest movement on the part of Ophelia, perhaps by the look of love which passes across Hamlet's face, or by the tone of his voice as he speaks the last "go." Then he exits on the upper platform; and Ophelia's speech, like the finale of a piece of music, concludes the scene; for, with the entrance of King Claudius and Polonius, other matter and other patterns come into the play.

Harmony (or disharmony) enters into the composition in the manner in which Hamlet increases his tone and tempo in the last section of the scene; too high a pitch and too great a speed on "you should not have believed me" would destroy the harmony of the scene. Likewise, if we put in much more movement than we have indicated during the section in which Hamlet walks from Ophelia to the platform and back again, the result will be disharmonious.

And the scene, upon examination, will be found to possess unity. Hamlet and his desperate mood are the important thing. Shakespeare has kept this idea in the fore-front. The scene, as he has written it, possesses a single effect; and, in our stage translation, picture, movement, reading of lines, tempo, points of emphasis, and pitch, we have tried to preserve this effect.

Did we apply these principles consciously? In some in-stances we saw our piece of business first and then recognized that it did or did not meet the test of a certain principle; at other times we said something like "we need the musical pause here" and applied it consciously.

For our exposition of form and plan, we have used but one scene from one play. We could have taken some scene other than the one from Hamlet; for example, a scene from The Silver Cord, Cyrano de Bergerac, Winterset, or The Cherry Orchard would have served equally as well. And this is the point we hope to make by the analysis of the scene: Any play, be it old or new, romantic or realistic, will gain in meaning, effectiveness, and pleasure if we know how we are to set about restating that play for the stage.

Using the principles of design employed in the other arts, selecting carefully for agreement with the idea of the play and just as carefully for the dramatic, the director endeavors to restate the written play in terms of the stage. The production becomes a new composition made up of many visual and auditory elements, flowing onward and upward, never lagging, shifting from tonal emphasis to movement and from movement to dramatic silence. At least the director tries to make his production this sort of composition.



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