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Dramatism and Musical Theater

Experiments in Rhetorical Performance

Kimberly Eckel Beasley and James P. Beasley

Dramatism and Musical Theater: Experiments in Rhetorical Performance is an innovative workbook for both students and teachers in advanced communication performance. Meeting at the nexus of English composition, advanced rhetoric, theater, music, and drama, this book utilizes Kenneth Burke's method of dramatism to discover the motives inherent in performance practices, whether they be in the classroom or on the stage. In this book Kimberly Eckel Beasley and James P. Beasley take the five corners of the dramatistic pentad (act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose) and demonstrate their utilization in performance analysis. The authors then correlate those performance practices with the production of five contemporary musicals: Little Women, Aida, Street Scene, Into the Woods, and Children of Eden in order to emphasize the use of the dramatistic pentad in character, scene, and staging direction. By doing so, the book highlights dramatism as a performance practice necessary for effective participation in artistic communities.

Dramatism and Musical Theater: Experiments in Rhetorical Performance is also an indispensable guide for teachers and directors to successfully navigate the challenges of collegiate theatrical production.

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Chapter Two: Scenes in Motion: Dramatism in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida

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CHAPTER TWO

Scenes in Motion: Dramatism in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida

In the first chapter, we focused on the act ratio and its use in writing, in interpretation, and in musical theater staging. In this second chapter, we focus on Burke’s scene and the scene ratio. Where or when did the act occur? Again, this might seem like a simple task, but describing a time and a place is more difficult that it first appears, for the focus is on a description, not the literal date and place. How we describe “when and where the act occurred” has important consequences on how we view student writers, how actors can create motivations for interpretation, and how directors can motivate scene-directed staging.

Scene Ratios

In an analysis of the dramatistic pentad, Burke continues with scene or “where and when the act occurred.” For example, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. That is the specific date and place, but how we describe that time and place is needed for our ability to interpret our interpretations. If we describe November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas as a “conservative hotbed of anti-democratic sentiment,” then that is different than describing November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas as a “sympathetic region to Democratic appeasement of the Soviet Union.” One description of the scene supports a “lone-gunman,” while the other supports a “government conspiracy” of President Kennedy’s assassination. How we describe...

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