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The Vitality of Theatre

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How could a drama have power of influence through hundred years? How could a performance spread out in many different languages? Why do some productions have resonance generation after generation? And why do many people realize that theatre is the best symbol of life? All these questions are about one issue of the drama-that is what makes a theatrical work outlive the test of time and have the lasting vitality so as the theatre can be one of the most active art form today. This essay is to discuss the issue by studying on the theatre itself and analyzing classical dramas from America and China respectively.

Theatre is an opening door. To put simply, theatre has a character of uniqueness, and you would never experience two same dramas. With time goes by, as the main subject of the theatre, people have always been trying to adjust the program to the current context of culture. The two important component elements of a show, actor and audience, the process of their communications and interactions could not start over again or be copied ever. And that could be the most original and essential glamour of the theatre where it is different from the movie.

More specifically, theatre has no predetermined results, it always changes and has various possibilities. Before the formal performance, the actor or actress would continuously create and destroy his or her character because all attempts could be immature. Then on the stage, what they act is momentary past but permanently exists in the audiences' memory. While under the stage, Audience makes the stage become more complete. A scene without viewers is just like a breed fetus that has not been labored. When audiences come to the show, the atmosphere is going to be different. Actors usually seem to be having a motivation or a kind of passion to create and to deliver emotions in front of the audiences. Every moment, people's smiles, tears, applauses or cheers and all their reflections could change the result of a show. Echoing with the audiences, actors would probably have extemporaneous play or mortify the play. Theatre is created by a group of people and it opens to new artists and new audience all the time.

When studying on American theatre, we cannot ignore Arthur Miller (1915-2005), who is one of the most influential figures in American modern theatre. Chinese audience would not be unfamiliar with his name because many of his works had performed on Chinese stage. Among it, we have to mention "The Crucible", which caused sensation when performed for the time in Shanghai in 1981. "The Crucible"(1953) was based on "Salem witchcraft trial", a false accusation happened during the colonial era of North America in 17th century, which involved hundreds of people. Using the past to satirize the present, Miller, by this work, criticized the rampancy of the high-handed policy of U.S presented by McCarty. In the 80's of the 20th century, this play was of great significance to the Chinese audiences who had just experienced the decade-long political movement of "cultural revolution". Facing a historical unjust case from a foreign country and stifling stern test, the audiences had to self-examine their human selfishness and frailty. This is a tragedy of moral that exposes the ugliness in human nature, its in-depth exposure obviously caused echo in another culture and we feel that the affective content from different historical backgrounds are unexpectedly so similar with each other. There exists a pair of fundamental conflict in this play, honesty and lie. Salem on the stage is a town that embodies various human desires, abnormal grudges out of those desires, nearly insane release of rage and dirty slanders. When citizens of the small town are in danger of death, the only way to survive is to lie. Actually, the real tragedy is originated from the then society structure where feudal church imposes asceticism and strangles human qualities. The ruling class, though always persuades people to be kind and friendly, they themselves never mind bathing their hands with blood of the innocent people. In order to safeguard their so-called dignity and rule, they even use fabricated charge to ruthlessly persecute and give mental abuse to their dissidents. Up to now, this play remains one of the repertoires of National Theater Company of China. Though I have not had the chance to watch it in site yet, I got the pleasure to have a video copy of the play recently. When Proctor, the hero of the play, tore up the confession and said excitedly: "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name," I , as other audience, was really electrified and whipped into a fever of excitement by this part of lines spoken precisely by the leading actor with loud and clear voice and the strong emotional release from within the heart of the character he played. The hero eventually chose death for the exchange of personal dignity. At least I somehow started to realize the meaning of Hamlet's "To be or not to be?" The world in drama is supposed to be absurd. Is the real world not? Human beings often get dissimilated by the civilization they created. What is credible in such a colorful world? How could an individual deal with similar problem in present world? "The Crucible," undoubtedly leaves us with some modern enlightenment and I guess that is why it is long-lasting.

"The Death of a Salesman" (1949) is another masterpiece of Arthur Miller. As a playwright living in the transition period of modernism of the 20th century, Miller was inevitably affected by the aesthetic style of that time. "The Death of a Salesman", as an American tragedy, is different from other traditional realistic old stories. It presents the spiritual cross section of the character on stage and the audience not only get shocked by the complicated conflict among the different characters and the ups and downs from the turn of story plot, but also can meet with emotional bombard and impact from the setting and music built to express character's psychological illusion recall, and finally forced to come back from dream. Willy is a dual loser in life, either as a salesman or a father. It goes without saying that the whole play is centered on the suicide of Willy. To carry out this extreme conflict, Miller designed rather complicated conflict relation structure to show Willy's every step of spiritual palpitation toward death. By the distancing effect of stage and a special character, Ben (Willy's brother), Miller manifested a conflict which was different from the representation of the real world, and the flashpoint in this work is the mental bitter monolog of Willy. The



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