Performing Arts

By the very nature of the name performing arts we know that the performer(s) are just as important as the script or score.  It is the total package that creates the experience of the play/ musical/ opera/ or reading, the script / score only comes to life when you see the performance or hear the music or hear the reading. The writer(s), producer(s) and performer(s) all have a part in the portrayal of the art.

Just imaging reading the script for “The pirates of Penzance” opposed to seeing the performance. The performance adds a layer to the script that you do not get from reading the musical. It is through the performer(s) that the musical truly comes to life, no matter how good your imagination can you hear the music, see the character come to life or understand the depth/ layers of the score. An example of this is “the major general song in the Pirates of Penzance”, although you can read and understand the silliness of the character, it is the funny walk and rapid bursts of song that gives life to this character. The ‘major-general’ comes to life with his prancing, overly dramatized manner of speech and bursts of song, which attempt to show his importance with his role and intelligence. The character is absurd and creates an overly dramatic character with exaggerated characteristics and mannerisms helping to create the entertaining performance, without the visual affects the score losses some of its depth.   It is the total package which helps to make this musical a success. For like many performing arts, the written work needs the performance to truly be experienced.

Musicals, plays, operas all rely not only on the composers (writers) but also on the producer(s) who bring to life the visual portrayal of the work. The producer(s) manage how the work is played and the help the director(s) and performer(s) interpret how they believe the composer(s) want the work portrayed. The production of the musical, play, or opera is a combination of these players. It is through their efforts that we can see and be entertained by their work. Performing arts by their very nature is an art form that requires an audience, for without the audience there is no validation of the worth of the work being presented.

So not only do performing arts require those who write, produce, direct and perform but they also require an audience to truly be considered a performing art. Unlike paintings, drawings, books, essay and other similar works which require only the author and an audience. Paintings like the ‘Mona Lisa’ can be viewed by many but the actual art form never changes. Performing art on the other hand changes depending on who produces, directs, and performs it. You can see a play several times and depending on the producer, director and performer(s) see the same character portrayed in several different ways. The fluidity of a performance is unlike a book where the words never change, nor do their meaning.  The ‘major-general’ in the “Pirates of Penzance” has been performed in many different countries and under the production and direction of various individuals all with different ideas on how the ‘major-general’ character should be portrayed.

The performers who have portrayed this character have also added to the way in which we as an audience see him.  Like many I when remembering this character, I remember the first production of this musical that I had seen, the recorded production of the Stratford Festival (1985) production of “the Pirates of Penzance”. This character portrayal makes mention of things that are Canadian in nature, just as other performances make mention of things common to the area in which they are performed.  Although the musical’s main characters never change the references made in between the various stanzas of the ‘major-general’ song may. This is an example of the producer/ director/ and actor engaging the audience (for a particular geographical area). The engagement of the audience is a key factor in performing arts, for it this engagement which produces the best performances. The writer(s) may not have intended for the audience to be amused by the various character performances but they surely must appreciate the longevity of the musical, and its success it in a large part due to all of those involved with its production.

The success of a performing art is measured by the audience and the number of shows produced in various cities and countries. Truly successful performances all have one thing in common and appreciative audience. It is the mixture of good writing, producing, directing and performing which engages the audience; therefore a good performing art is one which is commercially viable.

On Broadway stages true success is measured by the number of weeks a play, musical or opera remains open and the number of individuals who go to see it. Some truly successful plays, musical and operas have been around for years. Examples of this are ‘Cats’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘the Nutcracker’. All of these show how long lived a performing art can be.  Another way of measuring the success of musicals such as the ‘Pirates of Penzance’ is the number of smaller production companies which perform the musical. The smaller amateur performance companies usually try to choose their productions based on well know plays, musicals or operas.

I myself am amazed at the way I which some performing arts are able to maintain the longevity they have. Performances such as “Cats”, “Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Misérables” have had multiple performances and been performed in countries all over the world. The stories told by these particular works are ones which transcend time, culture and languages. The story “Cats” tells of the Jellico cats and the night they make their selection as to which cat gets to ascend to the ‘Heavenly Layer’ and be reborn. The production of cats ran for many years on Broadway and was in fact the second longest running show in Broadway history. This showcases how several individuals are required to produce and maintain the running of a musical. Many performing arts require exposure to an audience for their creative work to truly be seen.

Performing Arts require not only a talented writer/ but also a talented producer, director and performer(s). These individuals are what drives the participation of the audience and the possibility that their performance will be successful.

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