Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for September 15th, 2018

Siegfried in the forest

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Let us take as an example the second act of Siegfried. How should we present a forest on stage? First let us be clear on this point: is it a forest with characters, or rather characters in a forest? We are in the theatre to be present at a dramatic action; so something happens in this forest which obviously cannot be expressed by painting. Here then is our starting point: certain people do such and such, say such and such, in a forest. To create our scenery, we do not have to try and see a forest; we should be picturing to ourselves in detail and in sequence all the acts that take place in that forest…The staging of the scene thus becomes the composing of a picture in time; instead of starting out from a painting commissioned by whoever from whoever, and then afterwards leaving the actor the paltry installations we know about, we start from the actor: it is acting and its artistry we wish to highlight; we are ready to sacrifice everything for that.

It will be Siegfried here, Siegfried there; and never, the tree for Siegfried, the path for Siegfried. I repeat, we no longer seek to create the illusion of a forest, but rather the illusion of a man in the atmosphere of a forest; the reality here is the man, besides which no other illusion counts. Everything must be destined for him, the whole text must join to create around him the atmosphere indicated, and if we let Siegfried out of sight for an instant and lift our gaze, the scenic picture necessarily has no more illusion to give us. Its arrangement has no other end but Siegfried; and when the forest, softly stirred by the breeze, attracts Siegfried’s gaze, we, the spectators, watch Siegfried bathed in moving light and shadow, and not cut-out scraps set in motion by strings.

Adolphe Appia, “How to Reform Our Staging Practices”

Written by nevalalee

September 15, 2018 at 7:30 am

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