Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Unrecognized Designer

It has come to my attention that the ever-growing and fascinating world of graphic and web design has hit a wall. That wall comes in the form of the old-fashioned, “My art is not for critique!” fanatics. These people, how ever skilled, talented, and experienced they may be lack one thing when it comes to graphic and web design and that is: knowledge.
Graphic and web design have merged into a very useful and well-known field in the past decade; new program and technology upgrades have brought the vast world of electronic art and advertising to a whole new level. Designers are usually trained in 2 to 6 years of college education therefore earning themselves a very useful degree and a plan for their future. One might think that this would make them very qualified to work for a firm. The problem is: when a designer tries to work for a traditional artist instead of a firm they are held back by the fact that the artist does not believe that anything done in art is wrong. This, unfortunately means that their degree and hard work mean nothing. Like most things that take time and patience to learn, graphic and web design use a specific technique, and yes, you can do it wrong. What artists have been taught to believe is that art is an expression of your inner self. Though I thoroughly agree with this statement, I also agree that in order to make sure that certain designs are read and seen properly there is a certain way to do things.
I, myself have little knowledge in this field, but I am quite familiar with other designers' work. The designers I am pleased to say I know are very talented both in the fine and digital arts, but they all agree that while your design can be an expression of one’s ‘inner self’ it also has to be done a certain way so it doesn’t look sloppy and unprofessional. It's not snobbery, mind you, it's just fact.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Powerful Medium

Picture a stage; an empty stage. There are no lights, no sounds, and no people; there is nothing, but a stage. Now picture yourself in best evening attire sitting in the audience. All you can do is sit and watch the stage, but as you sit there confused, you see that there is nothing there to watch. The art of theatre is bringing that empty stage to life with an alternate reality filled with lights, costumes, sound, and of course, actors. With all these elements a story is created that the audience can follow or be perplexed by.
To understand part of the magic of the theatre it is important to know a bit about its history. Theatre has been around for thousands of years. It started out as story-telling for ancient cultures such as the Greeks. They used masks to depict emotions and the characters that they were playing. During this time theatre in the round was born. Hundreds of years later in Europe the art of theatre became a form of entertainment for royalties who sat in the balconies and peasants who stood on the dirty ground. A good example comes from the time of the famous William Shakespeare and the not-so-well-known Christopher Marlow. The Globe Theatre was the place to watch most of Shakespeare’s plays. It was a circular open building where, as I said the peasants were forced to watch the plays from the dirty ground while the royalties and noblemen sat up in the balconies and watched the performance. During this time all roles, including women’s roles were played by men. Also during this time, the term “peanut gallery” was invented. It was a place up in the balconies where people would throw peanuts if they did not like the performance. These seats were also very inexpensive. Following the Shakespearian years theatre bloomed into a more main-stream form of entertainment. The development of Broadway in the early 1920s and 1930s also brought a new wave of entertainment in the form of musicals. Without theatre the development of movies and television would not have happened. Theatre was basically responsible for developing the popular forms of entertainment people across the world enjoy today.
Though the history of theatre is very important, there is also one element that theatre absolutely can not do without: actors. Actors are a very large part of what makes the theatre so magical. The most important part of acting is that the actors have no limits and neither does the stage they perform on; anything goes in the theatre. Some character may have an elaborate, yet beautiful looking suicide at the end of the play. Another character may have can sing about the man she fell in love with who loves her sister while her best friend actually loves her, but she is too clueless to see it. Plays aren’t just broken into musicals, comedies, tragedies, dramas, and Serio-comedies; they are broken down into actual stories that the audience can interpret. Each play usually has one or more main characters that the audience can sympathize with or watch grow. Somehow by the end of the play the main character(s) grow in some way or something very significant happens in their life that makes them realize how they took something or someone for granted. The way that a play ends usually depends on the genre. For example, if the play is a tragedy, the play usually ends with death; if the play is a comedy then the play usually has a happy ending where, as things happen in Shakespeare, everyone gets married.
There is also one more thing that makes theatre so important. This is called the “fourth wall.” Breaking the fourth wall violates the unwritten rules of performance in theatre. The fourth wall is the wall that the audience can not cross. If, for example, you go out into the audience and have a conversation with one of the patrons, or you even make eye contact for a long period of time you are breaking the fourth wall. What makes this wall so powerful is that it sucks in the audience. Though the audience realizes that that they are in a real theatre watching real people put on a show, they somehow get sucked into the story emotionally, though their perception of reality is still avid. When the fourth wall is broken the audience doesn’t feel those emotions anymore. The common feeling is, “Oh, these people are putting on a play. How nice.”
Without all of these elements the theatre has no magic. The real magic comes from what the actors do to make the audience experience real emotions from the performance they do. Somehow the story becomes real and the audience is somehow involved, though they aren’t part of the actual production. Theatre is such a powerful medium because, not only can it entertain the audience who watches it, but it makes what they are watching seem real. We may not realize it now, but without theatre our history would not be the same.

The 2007 Stagehand Strike: When the Machine Shuts Down

I like to think of a Theatre production as something like a machine; it needs several parts to make it run. Without the necessary components, or parts, the productions will fall apart. The essential pieces include the producer, the director, the cast of actors, and the crew of technicians. Now, to break down these parts, the producer makes sure that all the money and rights are in order before the show can actually go on. The director is in charge of making sure that all the actors and crew are in their right places when they need to be. Also, without the artistic “vision” of the director there is nothing, but fumbling actors and technicians running about with no idea of what they are doing; everything is words on a page, there is no life to it yet. Actors are obviously there to show off their talents and the hard work they have done for months on end to make the show not only happen, but make it good as well. Last, but not least, the crew of technicians is there to take care of lighting design, sound effects, any other special effects, costumes, makeup, set design, and keeping the actors on their cues. Without the technicians the actors will be doing their performance naked and not made up in the dark without cues, set, and any effects. As you can see, when any part of the “machine” of theatre is not functioning or out of the picture, the production on a whole suffers greatly.

Any sort of painful effects of a non functioning theatre “machine” became very apparent during the stagehands’ strike back in early November of 2007. According to about 28 shows were closed and were suffering from the striking stage hands. In an article from called “Broadway Stagehands go on Strike” by Jeff Lunden, “At about 10 a.m., the picket lines started appearing in front of Broadway theaters. Charlotte St. Martin, who represents the producers, said the stagehands really knew how to hit Broadway where it hurt. "The first show they chose to strike was How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ St. Martin said. ‘And we realized that it was just very appropriate that that's the first one that they would do it for, because they are like the Grinch, stealing the magic of Broadway to all the children and families who are here to see Broadway shows and to kick off their holiday season.’”

Yet, the Theatre-goers were not the only victims in this unfortunate situation. Lunden also wrote, “Of course, who the Grinch is, is up to interpretation. Broadway's stagehands — the backstage workers who install and operate the sets, lights and props in theaters — have been working without a contract since July. Negotiations have been tense and have broken off a couple of times. The dispute is over long-established work rules which the producers say are archaic and expensive. Officials of Local One, the stagehand's union, would not speak to the press, but handed out leaflets to Broadway patrons saying ‘theater owners and producers are demanding a 38 percent cut in our jobs and wages.’” The stage hands obviously believed that they had a reason to go on strike. Working without a contract from July to November in 2007 basically meant that they were giving the big-wigs in the world of Broadway the right to walk all over them for much less than they deserved.

Though the stage hands had a good reason to strike, not everyone felt the way they did. The population of Broadway theatre-goers was not sympathetic in the least. Hundreds upon hundreds of people who came from all over to see a Broadway show were left disappointed, angry, and upset by the fact that their show had been cancelled because of the stage hands. The common emotion among the theatre-goers was outrage. Even some producers were upset and even confused by the stage hands’ strike. In Lunden’s article, the producer for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, James Sanna expressed his confusion, shock, and disappointment, “‘We just opened last night,’ he said. ‘We had a fantastic opening, great notices, and we wake up this morning to find out that [there will] be no performances. We have four shows scheduled for today and 6,000 people were coming to the theater and it's very, very disappointing that we have to turn them away.’” As most people can see, the Theatre-goers also had a reason to be upset.

All concerns from both sides seem very legitimate. On the one hand we have the stage hands who have been upset over working with no contract for about five months. It can be expected that they would get upset and want a contract to be instated. On the other hand, we have the anxious directors and producers who have been working on and putting money into their productions; not to mention the other establishments that get money from all the people coming to see Broadway shows. Also, the people who actually go to see the shows who have ordered tickets sometimes months in advance so they could get any seat possible have been told that their show has been cancelled.

For all those who were affected by this terrible and most inconvenient event, my heart goes out to all. However, the stage hands in this were the ones that were being treated unfairly. Though the people that planned on going to see a show were out of luck during the time of the strike they were not the ones who ultimately suffered. They missed a show; the stage hands lost months of decent pay. Their jobs were affected by the fact that they were working with no contracts and a minimal amount of pay. In the end, I believe that the stage hands got the short end of the stick in this deal. Though the strike was resolved and everything is back to normal in the world of Broadway, I still have to hand it to the stage managers; they work very hard every day to make productions work and who knows, it could have been worse.



First Posting

Hello Everyone.
My name is Megan and I am infatuated with anything art-related.
If you become a frequent visitor to my blog then you must know that this is a strictly arts-related blog.
On this blog you will find:
  • Researched opinions on goings-on in the world of the arts
  • Original scripts that I would like opinions on
  • Random facts and trivia that I have learned about the arts
  • Profiles on people in the business of the arts
My primary focus is usually theatre, but I am willing to expand to other branches of the arts.
Suggestions are welcome; profanity is not.

I thank you all for visiting and have an artful day!