Staging in "Six Characters in Search of an Author"


Pirandello's masterpiece, "Six Characters in Search of an Author" is
well known for its innovative techniques of characterization,
especially in the fullness of character as exhibited by the
Stepdaughter and the Father, but it is especially renowned, and
rightfully so, for the brilliant staging techniques employed by its
author. Pirandello uses his innovative staging techniques specifically
to symbolize, within the confines of the theater, the blending of the
theater and real life. Chief among these, of course, is the way in
which the author involves the audience in his production, to the point
which, like a medieval audience, they become part of the action, and
indeed, a character in its own right. The use of lines provided in the
playbill was the first of its kind; never before had an author dared to
ask the members of the audience to perform, even though unpaid, and
indeed, paying for the experience themselves. But without those lines,
how much less impressive would that moment be when the Director,
understandably at the end of his rope with the greedy characters (who
have been from the start trying to coerce him into writing a script for
non-union wages), shouts "Reality! Fantasy! Who needs this! What
does this mean?" and the audience, in unison, shouts back, "It's us!
We're here!" The moment immediately after that, when the whole cast
laughs directly at the audience, pointing at them in glee, is nearly
unbearable for an audience, as shown b! y the riot after the first
performance, when the audience not only ripped the seats out of the
theater, but stole the popcorn. Pirandello also used a technique he
inherited from the "Cirque de Soleil," involving a trapeze hung from
the catwalk. But though the trapeze was not in itself his own
invention, its use during the intermission as a means to annoy the
audience was absolutely innovative. He had gotten the idea from
watching the inhabitants at the mental institution in Switzerland where
his wife was recuperating from a Venetian holiday. The Swiss hospital,
renowned for its experimentation, had started a program of gymnastics,
meant to boost the patients' self-esteem. The Stepdaughter's foray
above the audience's heads, during the "intermission," is a direct
reflection of that Swiss technique; no one before Pirandello had dared
to use it in the theater before, but it not only symbolized neatly the
problems with defining reality inherent in the text, but kept the
audience from actually getting a rest during the intermission, since
they couldn't tell when it started and began. Last, though still
important, would be Pirandello's nod to Brecht, with his medieval
circular staging. With the voices of the Actors, the Director, and the
Characters coming at them from all sides, and with the members of the
cast actually clambering over the audience members as if they (or
indeed their seats) were not there, Pirandello masterfully tied the
audience members inextricably in to the action, bringing home the
meaning. For the main truth of Pirandello's play is that not only is
there no difference between art and reality, there is no reality, or
perhaps more specifically, no art, at all, and indeed, no members of
the cast anymore than there are members of the audience. In the final
analysis, the only difference between the cast members in Pirandello's
play and the members of his audience is that one paid to get in and the
other got hired.


Quotes: Search by Author