Struggles of an Artist: Triestine Joyce

Triestine Joyce is based on the life of James Joyce who is an Irish poet and novelist. The true identity of the character that plays James Joyce was not clearly given as “The James Joyce” in the plot but we are informed by the brochure provided for the audience. Play started in the middle of an event only cover a small, specific are of James Joyce’s life. There were diversity in the experience and age of the people who played their role in the play. Donald Bruce Randall wrote and directed the play. He also played the character that stand for James Joyce in the play. Donald Bruce Randall is experienced in drama. He wrote and directed his plays before just as he did this time. The play took place in the Bilkent University’s Performing Arts Faculty.
            As a brief summary of the plot, story starts with the debts of James Joyce and problem of being unable to pay them. Jim plays a little mind game on creditors and buys himself some time to find more money. Afterwards, story concentrates on the Jim’s relationship with his brother and girlfriend. Then, the day comes that James Joyce finds a solution for both being published and paying his debts.
            The rhythm in the play did not change frequently but the rhythm was neither too slow nor too fast. But there were some parts where the subtext veils the original plot. As if there were more events happened in the play that we failed to observe or missed them. This situation is also a well known narration that helps play to draw audience’s attention. On the other hand, there was another narration style in the play that called “in media res”. “In media res” simply suggest that the play starts in the middle of an event that audience have no clue what is going on but as the play moves on storyline becomes whole.

            In terms of characters, Jim’s nature really fits to the mood of James Joyce as it is a mad genius. As a theatrical character, Jim showed us how cunning James Joyce was. On the other hand, Nora played beautifully but she was more of a round character as the plot requires her to be. It was hard to predict the next sentence or the move of her. In most of the scenes Nora completed the characteristics of the Jim as it did in real life. However, his brother Stannie always represented the ordinary people who mocks on artist and never understands what they are doing. Stannie always gave the most cliché answers that we today still hear about everything. But other characters are in the play almost always talked in Italian and make everyone question themselves that “is it a surprising fact that we do not know Italian?”
            I recall that there were two major tirades in the play which are delivered both by Jim. Those tirades were the most exciting parts of the play; because a long speech as we observed in the play always gives an inside idea about the author’s thought in the matter. It is always nice know how the play shaped in the mind of the creator of the play. Both two tirades successfully touched on philosophical issues as if they are the words of “Grim French Naturalists” that they mocked on stage. The first tirade was about the nature lending money. Jim once again showed how cunning James Joyce was and gave Italians a good long speech where creditors left confused. The second tirade was about father figure and its relation with the god. It was rather existentialist than theistic. Whole speech concentrated on correlation of god and our blood-bonded fathers. There were other outstanding ideas that presented during the play such as “Women always try to teach everyone” and “the real world and art cannot co-exist” but those ideas are failed to be expanded.

            In terms of setting, there were some little and totally understandable mistakes such as lighting the stage and delay in the music. The performance of the people on the stage is limited with the opportunities and luxury that has been provided by the produces and the production crew. Knowing that, it was completely understandable for music to be heard with a few seconds delay. On the other hand, lighting the stage is a more important issue than the music. There were two big bulbs as a primary source of lighting with splash shields on each side and a little lamb on the table. That little lamb perfectly did it job and made us understand the depth of the stage and the true distance between the characters. The problem was the main (key) lights at the back of the stage in my humble opinion. I have no problem about having the main light from back of the stage but that specific light should not reach or directed at the audience. If it is somehow lights the audience, people might not follow easily what is going on in the stage because direct light has blinding effect on human eye. On the other hand, light that comes from the back of the stage crates a dreamy look and make all actors and actresses silhouette and make all good details in the stage hard to remark for audience.

            To sum up, I found the play really exciting and beautiful except for the little details in setting. In most cases it hard for me like and appreciate a good play because I am not really into drama. It was a pleasant thing to see my friends and instructor on the stage. I believe James Joyce would be pleased if he can see this play and his own portrait as a character, cunning and clever that created by Donald Bruce Randall.

                                                                                                     Yiğithan Ersoy ELIT II

From the Eyes of a Spectator: AMERICAN BLUES

On April 10, 2014, I went to the play American Blues by Tenessee Williams. It was directed by Jason Hale, and the characters were played by Baran Can Eraslan, Barbaros Efe Türkay, Beste Güven, Melisa Su Taşkıran who are all junior students in the Faculty of Music and Performing Arts, Performing Arts Department at Bilkent University.  One of the reasons why I chose American Blues is that it was written by Tenesse Williams as he is one of the prominent authors and playwrights of the world literature.  He was born on March 26, 1911, in Mississippi, the US. He stood out, towards the end of the World War II with The Glass Menagerie on his upsetting past. He got good reviews and had important roles in the theatre and cinema circles. A Streetcar Named Desire, another success play by him,  guaranteed his reputation in addition to many awards such as two Pulitzer Prizes. He is also an important figure in screenplays, teleplays, short stories and poetry. In his writings is seen the influence of Anton Chekhov, William Shakespeare, W. Faulkner, E. Dickinson. His one-act plays This Property is Condemned and Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen take place mostly in dialogues. He died in 1981 at the age of 70. When it comes to the director Jason Hale, he is an American actor, director and instructor, born in 1971. It can be said that he is most interested in Tenessee Williams plays as he directed The Glass Menagerie by him at the National Turkish State Theatre, which gained Best Actress Award from the Ankara Arts Council and Best Theatre Artist of the Year Award from the Baykal Saran Theatre Award. He still teaches at Bilkent University.

The performance was at the Bilkent Chamber Theatre which is a small one and the audience were just in front of the stage, without any distance between the performance and them. As the plays were one-act plays, there was no change in the atmosphere during the play. The audience was seated as in the ancient theatres and arenas. So, the stage was visible, and being a small room, the auditorium was sincere with wooden chairs.

            The plays were This Property is Condemned and Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen. The former is about two characters, one girl and one boy, living in a town in Mississippi in the 30s. The girl is named Willie. She meets a boy Tom having skipped school that day. The setting is in the railroad where they meet. We get an insight into Willie’s life and inner world. She lives alone as her sister, also whose clothes Willie now wears, the only relative of hers, has died. Tom looks at her with curious eyes and sometimes gets closer to her, even touching her, helping her walk on the rails. They talk about their mutual friend Frank Waters who occasionally visits Willie. She reflects her loneliness in her melancholic way of talking, sometimes at intervals. After talking about the mutual friend and the life of Willie, she walks away from the scene and the play ends. The mood is depressing and melancholic as we are informed about the weary life of Willie though it is a hot summer day. The play makes its route through dialogues. It is mostly related to their situation and there is the theme of loneliness (i.e., of Willie). The climax or the catharsis of the play is when Willie talks about her life and recalls Frank Waters while at the same time they hear the train coming. The audience are observers only, not intervening in the play. Lastly, the play is realistic as there is a possible situation and events without anything mysterious; it is expressionistic and impressionistic as it reveals the inner life of Willie as if a kind of theatrical stream of consciousness.

            As for Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen,  the spectators see a man who has just woken up and tries to know where he has been and a woman who sits by the bed. The time is in the 50s on a hot rainy day. The setting is the bedroom. They talk about one by one like a dialogue but they do not listen to each other: while the man speaks, the woman looks deeply at the outside and while the woman speaks, the man sleeps. So, it can be seen that it is based on monologues. Again, in this play, there is a melancholic atmosphere with insights into the characters’ minds. The play goes slowly and calmly in contrast to the fire in the hearts of the characters. The peak point is when the woman speaks loudly and is hugged by the man as if they are about to make love and then the woman says that she wants to leave that place, and while it rains cats and dogs. The possible theme, I think, is that women are seen as slaves, concluding from the fact that she hesitates to say she wants to go out and abandon that place. As it is in the same stage and the same theatre, it is parallel with This Property is Condemned and the audience’s role does not change. Another parallel feature is that the play is realist as it is a real-life situation, and expressionistic and impressionistic as it too indicates the inner worlds of the characters and their moods, feelings.

            The production was intelligently-weaved like the settings which fit the situations and the dialogues, and the music, especially blues tunes in the former and rain sound in the latter play made them more affective and more expressionistic. As they are one-act play, the setting did not change while the mood went up and down with the ups-and-downs of the dialogues or speeches.
            In the first play, the banana Willie was holding got my attention and later on, when she shared it with Tom, I understood that this way they got to know each other well through creating fondness and warmness in their hearts, which makes the play smartly designed with cause-and-effect logic. And that the girl was wearing a heavy make-up attracted my attention but I afterwards realized that it was a way of showing that she could handle anything on her own like an adult. On the other hand, there were logical mistakes in Let Me Talk Like the Rain and Let Me Listen such as the luggages under the bed though the man did not clearly remember where he was (but before this, it was assumed that they were in a relationship) and had scars on his chest and it seemed to be a one-night stand. There were no other amazing / disappointing elements except for the play itself.
            Ultimately, during the play, there was not much to react to as it was in a calm atmosphere. The audience sat silently and watched the plays. Also, I believe the audience did not know much about the content of the performances and the messages because they were surprised when the plays ended without resolution and any relation between each other. They could not know if it was a break or the end of the play. This surprised expression on their faces was obvious. After all, I enjoyed the performances with my friends and left the theatre satisfied with the actors’ effort.

                                                                                                  İsmail Kaygısız, ELIT III