Experiments in Rhetorical Performance
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.
Chapter Five: Purpose in Motion: Dramatism in Stephen Schwartz’s Children of Eden
Purpose in Motion: Dramatism in Stephen Schwartz’s Children of Eden
In the fourth chapter, we focused on the agent ratio and its use in writing, in interpretation, and in musical theater staging. In this fifth chapter, we focus on Burke’s purpose and the purpose ratio. For what purpose did the act occur? This might seem obvious, but describing the purpose for which the act occurred has important consequences on how we view student writers, how actors can create motivations for interpretation, and how directors can motivate purpose-directed staging.
Writing with a Purpose
In his analysis of the dramatistic pentad, Burke continues with purpose, or for what purpose did the act occur? In our example of red tide in Florida, we might describe the purpose of this act as “in order that corporations will give campaign contributions to state lawmakers that allow them to dump harmful pollutants in coastal waters,” or we could describe this act as “in order to naturally cleanse the water of different impurities.” One description supports a position that human pollution is the cause of red tide, while the other description does not. In our example of President Kennedy’s assassination, we could describe the purpose of this act as “to retaliate against the anti-Soviet policies of the President,” or we could describe this act as “to retaliate against the Soviet appeasement policies of the President.” One description supports the lone gunman theory while the other supports a...
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