6 Questions to ask a piece of “real” theatre

real fruit (seems unfair to call it a “play”…)

1. How do I (as an audience member) understand the real elements as real? What scenographic cues am I given to counteract the basic inclination by the theatrical frame to fictionalize? How can I tell the difference between a costume and “just clothes”?

2. What dramaturgical patterns are being used in support of communicating the piece’s real world antecedents or elements? How can constructedness show unconstructedness? Are we looking for not-dramaturgy in the same way as looking for non-acting?

3. Just as other styles like Naturalism are articulated by particular writing or performance techniques (e.g. mimetic acting style, respect for the solidity of the “fourth wall,” direct citation of actual-world memes), what core techniques constitute the “tool box” of reality-based theatre?

4. How does the play cite its original source material? How does the onstage word or object connect itself to its original world counterpart? How does a real-world object tell this story differently than a prop?

5. What is gained (or lost) in the assertion of reality?

6. Does the genre of real theatre have an implied political agenda by virtue of it being reality? How does this particular piece participate in (or resist) that agenda?

“What are its key components? A deliberate unartiness: “raw” material, seemingly unprocessed, unfiltered, uncensored, and unprofessional….Randomness, openness to accident and serendipity, spontaneity. Artistic risk, emotional urgency and intensity. Reader/viewer participation. An overly literal tone as if a reporter were viewing a strange culture, plasticity form, pointillism, criticism as autobiography, self-reflexivity, self-ethnography, anthropological autobiography, a blurring (to the point of invisibility) of any distinction between fiction and nonfiction, the lure and the blur of the real” (Shields Reality Hunger S3).


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