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PROJECT TOPIC: APPLYING THE OUTSIDE-IN DIRECTORIAL APPROACH IN THE PRODUCTION OF GEORGE BERNARD SHAW’S ARMS AND THE MAN

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ABSTRACT

Productions have always been a major part of the theatre. In fact, the integral point of audience speculation surrounds the production itself. For this purpose, there is an intense obligation to bring together, various pieces and motif of life into a creatively constructed performance and visual design, which lays on the shoulders of creative artistes and knowledge officers who thrive to explore their environment of creative interpretation, leadership and design capabilities (Inyang, 2016). This study analyses the director, as a creative artiste, his or her approach and the production process of Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man as directed by this researcher, with the aim of providing insight on the adopted approach for the production. The concern of this research has been to artistically evaluate the Outside-In Directorial Approach employed by this researcher in her production of George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man at the University of Uyo Model Theatre, during the 2018 Production Year. In doing this, a critical analysis of the play production was carried out with regards to directing. To enrich the survey, a detailed introduction and background study on the art of directing had sufficed, followed by a review of directing as an art and scholastic endeavour. The next step has been focused on the nitty-gritty of the Outside – In Directorial Approach its theory and practice. A textual and production analysis of the play including its thematic and character analysis was also carried out. Through the textual study, production process and analysis, we have been able to arrive at a number of artistic conclusions and recommendations which would serve as research outcomes and contribute to the body of knowledge in the area of directing and theatre in general.

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1     Background of the Study

Even though other aspects of the theatre are equally important, directing, which basically involves play analysis and visual expression, is one of the most important, if not the most involving. One of directing most brilliant minds, Inih Ebong aptly captures this perspective: Play directing is the behind – the – scene activity between the director and his team to create in the ‘private’ seduction of the theatre, away from the curious and prying eyes of the public, the three dimensional beauty that is seen on stage in production (27).

Simply put, the finished work called play production is the end product of a director’s creative effort.

Theatre is a multi-layered art and Directing, which is one of the areas of specialization remains one of its most influential if not the most tasking. This is partly due to the fact that the major preoccupation of every theatre director has always been the communication of his vision through artistic creativity at work in a theatrical production. He is regularly concerned with galvanizing his creative essence, vision and approaches in overseeing a play production that has the taste and capacity to stir the audience’s appeal and emotions. And just like every play comes with its unique artistic trajectory, every director comes with his or her unique style and approach of seeing to the externalization of such a play on the stage.

Historically, it was not until the 19th Century that the role of the theatre director was formally defined even though, there exists derivatives of this personality in the theatre right from time immemorial [Wilson and Goldfarb, 2004]. One of the best explanations for the sudden creation of the director’s job is that staging in past eras was highly stylized and regularized, as was acting and even set design. In other words, Greek tragedies looked and sounded almost the same for centuries (Wilson, 2001). However, with the advancement in technology and the plays started being created in an entirely new environment, there arose the need for a single, unifying artistic vision and as such the birth of the theatre director was activated.

Throughout theatre history, there had always, no doubt, been a figure who did some of the functions of the modern director. Either the company’s lead actors or the playwright himself, were on hand to make stage decisions where necessary. Costumes were left to the whims and financial resources to the individual actors, and one could say, financial, rather than artistic decisions dictated what theatre companies purchased. Wilson’s writing on the subject states:

From the seventieth century through the nineteenth, there was a long line of actor managers who gave strong leadership to individual theatre companies and performed many of the functions of a director, although they were still not given that title. Among the most famous were Thomas Betterton (1635-1710), David Garrick, Charles Kemble (11775- 1854), William Charles Macready (1793-1873) and Henry Irving (1838-1905) (119).

Later in the mid 19th Century, a German, George II, the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen is usually credited with the efforts at defining the director’s role and accelerating the formalization of the art among European and American companies (Brocket and Ball, 2004). The Duke is reputed to have produced plays with elaborately researched, historically correct details in scenery, set dressing and costuming. More importantly, he applied the same detailed approach to his work with the actors. He made the stage picture more dynamic and extensive, and stage action “off the sides” of the stage into the wings.

Wilson notes again:

…the theatre director did not exists before 1874 when a German noble man, George II (1826-1914), duke of Saxe-Meiningen began to supervise every element of the productions in the theatre in his realm. This supervision included rehearsals, scenic elements, and other aspects which he coordinated into an integrated whole. It is true that beginning with Saxe-Meiningen, the director emerged as full-fledged, indispensable member of the theatrical team… (118).

Wilson and Goldfarb also support this position by observing that: A major reason for his ability to organize such a successful theatrical venture was his enormous wealth, but this was not the only reason… He rehearsed for extensive periods of time, refusing to open a show until he believed it was ready… (316).

The early 20th Century saw the rise of Auteur Directors, or directors who viewed themselves as specie of authors, either writing their own texts or significantly altering a playwright’s text to fit into their own new vision. One of the most prominent of this era was the British director, Edward Gordon Craig, who not only radically adopted classical texts and designed his own productions, but also suggested that actors should be super puppets, responding entirely to a director’s vision, without displaying any ideas of their own (Brocket, 1974).

Many 20th Century directors have helped to define new styles of performances, in such a way that today, many options exists for how a play can be produced and how the various elements should fit together under a unified directorial vision. There also exists, numerous directorial approaches with which a particular play can be structured. In the light of the above, this study will attempt an analysis of the Outside-In directorial approach (one that uses the script as a fulcrum to directing a play), in the creative interpretation of George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man produced at the University of Uyo Model Theatre Studio, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, as part of the 2018 Production Season and in fulfillment of the practical component of the course.

1.2     Statement of the Problem

Directing can simply be said or described as the art of deciding how a play, film or television series should be made or performed (Ejue, 2013). It is the interpretation of a play on stage through the use of audio-visual elements in the theatre to communicate a message. There are so many ways and approaches a theatre director can explore while trying to drive home his directorial message.

Nonetheless, over the years, there has been an observable monotoneity among theatre directors especially those in the educational setting. This monotoneity is usually seen in almost all directorial style and path in which most of the plays evolve out on stage.

In other words, most directors just take up the playwright script and do very little artistically to infuse any defined directorial philosophy in the externalization of such script. This could be one of the major reasons most of these directors shy away from attempting to stage any of the so called “difficult’ plays. Difficult plays here connotes plays either by foreign classics or plays with a more elevated and nuanced use of language and imagery.  Thus, this researcher sees the need to employ and analyze a rarely used directorial approach, the Outside-In-Approach in her staging of George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man as a way of calling attention to the approach with the view of spicing up future directorial attempts in theatre studies, especially in the educational settings in Nigeria.

1.3     Justification of Study

What type of production is this? Is the performance a tragedy or a comedy? Is this performance a revival of the neo-classical theatre or a little to classicism? Is this the total theatre?  This production to me has no clear-cut directorial approach, or am I wrong? These are some of the questions borne out of dramatic curiosity and theatrical dissatisfaction on the part of the critical theatre audience. The failure or lack of a good directorial and production approach in play directing is partly a reason for a bad or an artistically unsatisfactory performance. In the light of this, there is usually a need for the identification of a well-defined approach by a director during his creative works in such a way that such identified approach is used as the underlying philosophy and style of the entire production.

1.4     Scope of Study

Despite the fact that theatre directing may be a global art, the scope of this study is however limited to the application of the Outside-in Approach in the production of Shaw’s Arms and the Man, its practice within the Nigerian theatre sphere. Touching among other issues, the scope of this study will therefore revolve around the style, techniques and approaches of the Outside-In Directorial Approach; a rarely or at times, an unconsciously used approach often employed by most directors in the externalization of their plays. In order to achieve this, the artistic and the scholastic analysis of this study would use this researcher’s directorial interpretation of Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man as its major canvas.

1.5     Limitation of Study

This study is an educational exercise in play directing and is mainly shaped by academic limitations. The study is to the particular production of George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man as directed by this researcher. The scope of writing and documentation shall therefore focus strictly on that within the confines of the adopted approach and observations drawn from the presentation of the play in the Model Theatre Studio, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria on the 17th March, 2018.

1.6     Significance of the Study

The study is significant as it is geared towards the implementation of the directing technique as a means to achieving maximum success in a theatre production. It is also significant as it hopes to draw attention to the application of the Outside-In Directorial Approach as a worthwhile technique in the interpretation of a play. The researcher among others will also help open up new vistas on theatre directing and re-echo the sentiments regarding the director as the creator and master artists in a theatrical production. This is added to contributing to the body of scholarly works bothering on directorial styles and approaches in the theatre. The process of staging a production and the process of a director’s approach to realizing his or her vision can be said to be simultaneous to each other. This is the significance of this study to both current and future students of theatre practice.

1.7     Method of Study

The adopted research method for this study is the Qualitative Approach. Relevant primary and secondary data sources including textbooks, in the libraries, information from the internet as well as from the researcher’s manual and production experience during the production of the play under study here, will be extensively explored for the purpose of achieving the goals of this study.

1.8     Organization of Work

This work is divided into five inter-related chapters. Chapter One covers the general introduction and background analysis on the concept of theatre and directing. Chapter Two reviews a cache of relevant literatures in the areas of directing and directorial approaches as well as some directorial theories related to modern theatre staging. Chapter Three is an overview on the concept of Outside-In Directorial Approach and foregrounds of the adopted research methodology for the study, while Chapter Four is focused on the production Arms and the Man, highlighting the application of the adopted approach and the production process, while the concluding Chapter Five summarizes the work and offer recommendations.


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