Hunter Intro to Theatre

"Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress" by Gabriela Baez

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    Gabriela Baez

    Performance Reflection

    Theater 101

    Section 1D04

    28 February 2015

    <i>Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress, a Protean Picaresque</i>

    25 February 2015

    La Mama Earth


    The production <i>Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress, a Protean Picaresque </i>tells the life story of Adah Isaacs Menken. The play begins with Adah in her death be, goes on to her childhood in New Orleans, and continues to tell the story of her journey as an aspiring actress and poet during the late 1800s. This play follows the fascinating ambiguous life of Adah as she travels through out the United States and Europe. Three images that were particularly captivating were: the introduction to the play, a short monologue by Adah during the play, and the message at the end of the play. The following three images set the tone for the play and kept a certain resonance throughout the play and after it as well.

    The introduction to plays are intended to set the mood for the rest of the play and the introduction to <i>Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress, a Protean Picaresque </i>was no different. To set the scene, the play took place in a black box theater. The audience seating was raked and facing the stage that was all one level. The wardrobes and changing areas were visible and to the left and reg of the stage. However, they were dark and so it didn’t distract from the main performance. Also props were reused and scattered throughout the stage. The use of lighting was essential to keep the focus on the performance going on at the time. The stage is dark now and the spotlight is directly on the speaker. The opening statement is speaking generally on life and making comedic remarks. However, it was his last statement that was somewhere along the lines of: we should remember every story has some truth to it. This statement stood out because it didn’t seem to connect to the title however the background sounds, from the piano, implied it was important and so it was the music that made it stick out and set the tone for the rest of the play. Actually sound was a particularly essential part of the play hence it set the tone and connected to parts of the play to make it more appealing or entertaining to the audience.

    This image was meant to set the tone and keep the audience thinking about it as they watch the play. This image actually connects to a line during the beginning of the play where Adah’s sincerity about who she is questioned. Opening statements in general are created to set a certain tone and that line made it successful. It wasn’t an acted moment but this was part of the performance as a whole. Adah, the main character, has a biography that is quite scandalous and so it makes the audience question how true the story may be. The play is suppose to illustrate the true story of Adah Isaacs Menken but at times it is inevitable that the audience would question how true or realistic her experiences were because of how scandalous they were for the time she lived and even today. If the directors goal was to have the audience keep this in the back of their mind as they watched the story unravel then they were successful.

    The following image is when versatile actress, Adah, says that ‘she is whoever she has to be.’ At this moment she is having an argument with her first husband. She recently converted to a Jew to meet the standards of her husbands family and they expect her to still be a highly paid actress. However, she has lost her job and her new gig is at bar as a singer but rumor is she’s actually a prostitute. She is all over the newspaper and has put her husband to shame with her promiscuous ways. As they argue the lights are on them and he is questioning what her next job will be and she says she’ll become a poet like she once anticipated being. He is puzzled and questions who she is. She wittily responds that she is whoever she has to be. This was during the first set of the play and the directors intentions were to set the stage for how her life’s character was going to go. The enthralling life of Adah Isaacs Menken was introduced by this line. The audience had already been introduced to the flamboyant personality of Adah. They had also been shown some of her life as she grew up in a unstable household in Louisiana, her impulsive marriage, her lies about acting experience, and how she is able to be versatile in every situation. This was the moment when the audience was able to see how many more lies and how much more twisted Adah’s life was going to revolve around. The scene ended with this moment and so the stage when dark and a new scene began. This moment was successful in creating a sense of ambiguity of who Adah was going to be next and where was she headed to next.

    Another moment in that was quite humorous and expressive of her personality was the scene when Adah pretends to be an experienced actress. She convinces the director that she is a expert Lady Macbeth and has performed for the king. However, her the truth was revealed inevitably when she wasn’t able to recite her lines. During her performance there was a short moment when she steals the spotlight with her witty and humoring ways by making up her own lines. The directors idea was to not only provide comedic relief with this piece but also to show how she is able to change who she is in order to get what she wants, and that is a paying job as an actress. This scene gave a sense how the actress’s life was going to unfold. This was the first of her jobs or adventures in her life where she had to pretend to be someone she isn’t. After this scene Adah goes on to transform herself into the scandalous persona she is known to be today with her many identities that she created for herself in order to accomplished what she wanted. The idea the audience got was that something like who is truly is wont intervene with what she wants to do even if that mean pretending to be a man or black. Whatever it took she was going to do it because things weren’t hard enough at this time for a female actress she had to make it more complicated.

    There were numerous scenes that stood out and were not only interesting, but also essential to the play. However, these three were able to connect back to different points of the play and tied it together. This was an enjoyable play. It was captivating and the way it was set up to have only one focus at a time by using spotlights kept it interesting. Also the actors interaction with the audience made it more enjoyable. At glance one would think the open set and limited actors would make it hard for one to focus on the occurring scene but that was not the case. Each actor was able to completely transfer and was convincing of who they were. The lights were essential to keeping the audience on what was the focus. Overall, it was an entertaining performance and the goal of the director to have the audience question the truth of Adah Isaacs Menken’s short but notable life was a success.

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