Wednesday, September 16, 2015


We talked a little bit in class about Tolkien's ideas on Drama. In "On Fairy-stories," Tolkien says that "Drama is naturally hostile to Fantasy." He talks about how elements of Fantasy can only be mimicked, and never entirely successfully. He humorously describes his experience at a children's pantomime based on Puss-in-Boots. He says that there was a ridiculous attempt to show a transformation of an ogre into a mouse. He says, "Disbelief had not so much to be suspended as hanged, drawn, and quartered." I definitely see what he's saying here. I've seen quite a few plays that had unrealistic and silly effects, but that's just one of the limitations of theatre.

There are some things that theatre simply can't achieve. Despite this limitation, however, I think that theatre is an incredible art form. While there are some things that can't be represented 100% accurately on stage, there are other things that theatre does better than other art forms. Like film, theatre brings stories to life.

Another thing I think we talked about is how far theatrical effects have come. With today's technology, we can do so much more on stage than we could in Tolkien's day. Many of today's popular plays (I'm thinking of Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, and Les Misérables) have incorporated new technology and are probably much more elaborate than what Tolkien was familiar with. Considering today's technology, what do you think Tolkien would have thought about modern theatre? Do you think he would be less skeptical of its shortcomings?


Arien said...

When it comes to truly being absorbed and lost in the world of a drama I think the audience is just as important as stage craft. Although the capability of the theatre to fool the senses has greatly increased, if any member of the audience is disinterested that person will not be able to experience the drama properly. I worked at the Santa Fe Opera house for a couple of seasons and made sure to take full advantage of my free entry to all of the dress rehearsals of the operas. I must have seen all 3 dress rehearsals for each of the 4 operas per season. After seeing all of those it became clear to me that my state of mind could greatly impact my enthrallment in the performance. What I'm getting at is that maybe Tolkien just wasn't all that interested by the theatre and as such never really became absorbed by drama.

Vairë said...

I will say that without training in theatre, Tolkien forgot something very important. If one only accepts the willing suspension of disbelief, the theatre becomes just as much a true story. The theatre of his time also lent itself to his skepticisms. The era of "The Method" in acting had not appeared, and many actors were still stuck in wooded representation rather than truthful storytelling. Still, I agree with Tolkien in thinking that the theatre is not yet the right place for the faerie story.