Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Whilst touring the Internet, I found a slideshow by Frederick Burwick of UCLA on his course on Romantic Drama. Click here to view it. I'd love to have taken his class to discuss the issues he brings up: how to breathe life into a piece meant for 19th-century sensibilities; how to restore the musical essence of melodrama when the melodies are not in existence; how to bring period style in a theatre without period equipment, etc.

The photos, however, underline my feeling about period drama -- actors MUST learn to present themselves visually. I look at the postures and bearing of the young actors and they convey nothing to me except physical awkwardness. If you, the reader, look at some of the period photos and drawings on earlier posts here, you will see that every actor worth her salt could communicate emotion and atmosphere without a word. Contemporary playwrights depended on this ability in their actors. Remember there were no directors in the modern sense, and an actor who had no understanding of projecting sense non-verbally, or even standing and moving gracefully, had no chance of lasting on the boards. For plays from the past to rise successfully from the page, we need actors who can treat their part as if it were a slow and narrative ballet.