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Six Characters in Search of an Author

Mar 28, 2016

6-characters-in-search_A-Noise-Within“This season is themed ‘breaking and entering’,” states A Noise Within co-director Geoff Elliott. “And if there is any one play that of the six from the fall and the spring that so totally fits and falls right into that theme, it would be Six Characters in Search of an Author because these are characters who literally break out of the page, out of some ether that they’re floating in, and, not physically, but spiritually and mentally assault this company of actors.”

Six Characters in Search of an Author was written in 1921 by Luigi Pirandello. In the story, actors gather onstage for rehearsal, but as they are about to begin, six unknown people—The Father, The Mother, The Stepdaughter, The Son, The Boy, and The Child—join them. The director is furious and demands an explanation.

“The Father explains that they are unfinished characters in search of an author to finish their story.”²

Of course this seems ridiculous, yet the director begins to listen to the family’s dysfunctional story, and subsequently he directs the actors to act out the family’s story. This plot sounds incredibly complex and confusing, and perhaps that is why after the play received mixed reviews after it’s debut in 1921, Pirandello wrote another edition, including a foreword “clarifying its structure and ideas.”³ At the Paris debut in 1925, Six Characters in Search of an Author was hailed as a major work of modern theater.⁴

 

Luigi Pirandello

Luigi Pirandello

 

Pericles Lewis writing for The Modernism Lab at Yale Univesity states:

Pirandello’s work plays with the central tension in the modern theater between the desire to create a perfect illusion of extra-theatrical reality on the stage and the contrary impulse to celebrate the very illusoriness of all theater. Modern drama calls attention to the fact that theater is both a representational art, like painting or writing, and a performing art, like dance or music. The actors on stage are at the same time real people and representatives of fictional characters. One of the startling elements of Pirandello’s play is the separation (which he emphasized in his stage directions) between the “characters” and the “actors.”

 

Jenny Foldenauer's costume sketch for Madame Pace

A Noise Within: Jenny Foldenauer’s costume sketch for Madame Pace

 

Like Anton Chekhov, Pirandello came to the theater after having already established himself as a writer of short stories and novels. His prose fiction deals with themes related to the illusory character of personal identity, and it formed the basis of some of his early plays.

The split between the “Actors” and the “Characters” in Six Characters seems at first to represent a division between “reality” and “illusion.” Yet, the “real” actors are specialists in achieving illusion, and the characters claim with some justification to be more “real” than reality. Like the modernists who celebrated the power of myth to transform the everyday, Pirandello celebrates the theater, which reveals the element of self-dramatization inherent in the roles people play in everyday life. (Modernism.research.yale.edu)

 

Rafael Goldstein

Rafael Goldstein

 

Rafael Goldstein who plays The Son remarks in the ANW promotional video: “My first thought when I read Six Characters in Search of an Author was how in the hell are they going to stage this, because it is such a strange play.”

 

Pierce English-Rigel

Rigel Blue Pierce-English

 

Rigel Blue Pierce-English (The Child), trained at Pasadena’s Theater 360, says, “I would describe it as maybe a tragi-comedy, like some parts of it, what people say, are funny, but it’s really sad. Usually, I think, I always think, I can’t wait until people see this part….”

 

Abby Craden

Abby Craden

 

Abby Craden (The Mother): “It’s really a philosophical untangling of what reality is, and what it is to be alive, and what it is to participate in life and identities. I find it very fascinating actually. I think it keeps revealing itself in many different ways to all of us as we re-rehearse it.”

Goldstein continues his description, calling Six Characters in Search of an Author as an absurdist play. “You can’t help but feel for these very real people in very real situations.”

 

One image of Frederica Nascimento's working scenic model

One image of Frederica Nascimento’s working scenic model; source, A Noise Within

 

In October 2014, Laura Collins-Hughes of the New York Times called Luigi Pirandello’s play “an inquiry into the nature of identity and reality,” while also declaring it “a love letter to the theater.”

That often amusing face-off between artists and their material is central to this sturdily constructed play, which retains its experimental feel nearly a century after Pirandello wrote it. But there is a remarkable psychological astuteness to it, too. Part of the tragicomedy of life is the human tendency to let our traumas define us.¹

Six Characters in Search of an Author has been adapted by Robert Brustein, is directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott, and runs through May 14.

 

ANW Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott; photo by Daniel Reichart

ANW Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott; photo by Daniel Reichart

 

 

Six Characters in Search of an Author
Sunday, March 27th – Saturday, May 14th, times vary
A Noise Within,
Tickets: $40-$44, purchase here
Box office: 1.626.356.3121
For complete details, visit ANoiseWithin.org

Cast photo, top right, by Daniel Reichart.

 

Events:
Wednesday, March 30th: “A noted scholar will join A Noise Within artists in a lively and in-depth , pre-show discussion on the play.” Free to all ticket holders.

Informal post-show conversations between the artists and the audience after performances on April 10, April 22, and May 13.

 

 

Jenny foldenauer's sketches for the character of The Stepdaughter played by Alison Elliott

Jenny foldenauer’s sketches for the character of The Stepdaughter played by Alison Elliott; source, A Noise Within

 

~~~

 

¹ Source: “In Need of an Ending to Their Family Tragedy” by Laura Collins-Hughes, New York Times, October 30, 2014.

² Source: Wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Characters_in_Search_of_an_Author.

³ Source: Wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Characters_in_Search_of_an_Author.

⁴ Source: Modernism.research.yale.edu/wiki/index.php/Six_Characters_in_Search_of_an_Author.

 

One image of Frederica Nascimento's working scenic model; source, A Noise Within

One image of Frederica Nascimento’s working scenic model; source, A Noise Within

 

 




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