Friday, June 13, 2008

Six Characters in Search of an Author

Imagine a world where everything you believed in was suddenly shattered. Not just by war or a force of nature, but the very definition of what was possible changes. Existence as we understand it has to be redefined. Living beings are created by pure thought and will.

Sounds like a science fiction movie right?

Director Joe Feliciano believes that this is the level of earth shattering potential Luigi Pirandello is exploring in his classic play Six Characters in Search of an Author. In a play that typically can seem like a lot of talking about art theory, he has paid careful attention to what the action of the play is.

We all saw the movie Cloverfield, right? Well... actually I didn't and I'd like to keep it that way. But most of us saw the previews - unknown entity comes and changes everything you thought of in this world. This is the spirit that Feliciano hopes to capture in this production. Six "beings," neither human or real, invade a rehearsal hall declaring that they are the play. They have their story to tell and although they seem quite real at the moment, they need the help of the actors to share the story with the world. Just as a play repeats, once their story is told they have to start again. They have to live through the angush and the horror that is their lives.

Even if it means dieing at the end of every performance.

Six Characters in Search of an Author is a theatre classic, however, we often forget why it’s important. As a staple of the theatre and literature curriculum, many of us know the story – six characters show up at a theatre and demand a performance of their drama. The idea was so innovative and shocking when first premiered that members of the audience shouted “asylum – crazy!” as they stormed out of the theatre. Art that claimed to be more real than life is not a comforting idea.

It’s a notion we can relate to today; most of our communications take place online or through cell phones rather than in person. Who is the real me? Is it the login name that wanders the internet or is it the person sitting in front of the computer screen. I can’t help but thinking of Alice in Wonderland when the caterpillar asks “who are you” and Alice doesn’t know how to answer.

The show riffs on the question of how closely life imitates are or whether it art imitates life. Indeed, Pirandello goes so far as to state "Beings more alive than those who breathe and wear clothes."

Six Characters in Search of an Author
Promethean Theatre Ensemble
Running June 21 through July 12.
Read the play here.

Happy Birthday:
June 15: Simon Callow (b. 1949)

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