Taylor Chapman-Moten

COMM 108 2-2:50
October 4, 2006
Drama Duo Written Analysis

                  We chose the performed scene from A Delicate Balance because it illustrated a situation that my partner and I could relate to. It is a quarrel between a mother and daughter that erupts out of each person's unwillingness to swallow their pride and attempt to accommodate the other. Though it is apparent that there is love between the daughter and mother, little spats as depicted in this scene are really what build stronger relationships-when they talk anyway, despite their differences. In this scene, the dialogue deals in the dramatic realm-between two characters (there is no audience focus).
                  In this same way, I felt as though this state of affairs could be understood in various places. This scene was appropriate to us and hopefully the audience too, because everyone, at some given point in life, has been in a similar situation. If not with a family member, a friend or someone who plays the role of a confidant. We've all experienced trying to vent our frustrations on someone who was bent on getting us to see the absurdity of our fussing.
                  The purpose behind the selection is to entertain the audience by painting a picture of a common scene in the life of a young developing teenager. It's an awkward time in life, when we expect others to understand exactly what we mean-even when we are incapable of truly expressing our feelings. Julia, the daughter in the play, tries in vain to exert her idea of the way things should be around the house that is governed by the rules and ethics of her mother. The purpose and goal in performing this scene is mainly to entertain and also to call attention to a certain display of behavior. For some in the audience, it may bring clarity to a similar situation in their own life. In seeing the way the mother lets her daughter's attacks roll off her back, and protect herself with sarcasm-maybe this will prove helpful for someone else who is dealing with a nagging companion. We can never really know the true purpose of a work composed by someone else, because purpose is relative. What function this dialogue may serve in one person's mind may be completely different in someone else's.
                  The four levels of characterization are physical, social, psychological, and moral. Physical characterizations in my character, Agnes the mother, are that she is a woman in her thirties or forties. The chosen scene did not provide any physical attributes for the character. I can only conclude that Agnes is a woman, who must be at least thirty years of age to have a daughter old enough to be in such an emotionally charged rage (usually the formative teenage years). The social characteristics of Agnes are that she is dramatic, sarcastic, witty, accepting and carefree. She enjoys amusing herself and annoying her daughter with her lack of concern for the tantrums that she throws. In her own way, Agnes throws a mocking emotional fit; one that counteracts all of the selfish motives of her daughter. In earlier lines in the scene, Julia exclaims, "Do you think I like it? Do you?" Later on Agnes expresses in her "fit", "I don't recall if I ever asked my poor mother that. I do wish sometimes that I had been born a man." Obviously, one of Agnes' social traits is her ability to diffuse a situation through cynicism. Psychologically, Agnes' focus is to keep the peace in the house and maintain her own state of well being in the midst of chaos. She's mindful of not alarming the other houseguests, while getting her daughter under control to realize how insensitive she's being towards the guests that are in need of comfort. Agnes is set in her ways of thinking and acting, and is not thrown easily by her daughter's fit or temper. Overall in her psyche, she would rather remove herself from strict seriousness by keeping a sharp and derisive tone. The mother's moral characteristics are almost synonymous with her psychological characteristics, thus I had the most sympathy for her character. She is moral only to a certain extent. She is caring and compassionate, until her daughter gets completely out of control and develops a great lack of respect in talking to the mother. At which point Agnes could care less about the daughter's rant, and becomes set on extinguishing the dramatic rage. The mother knows that the moral thing to do is to let Harry and Edna stay there with them until they feel comfortable enough to go home-this would be the ethical thing to do (lend support and help to friends in need if you have the resources to do so). Concerning the guests, Agnes has a strong sense of moral obligations, but to her daughter she reserves her ethical outlook. Julia truly lacks much moral judgment, and for this reason, I had very little sympathy or compassion on her character. She yelled at her mother, mocked her and swore at her. Decent or proper behavior was not exerted by Julia, in the way that it should have.
                  The goals, obstacles and strategies of Agnes vary from those of her daughter Julia. Julia's goals are to get her mother to listen to her complaint about the houseguests that her mother has allowed to inhabit her room. Her goal ultimately is to get the visitors out of her room. Agnes' goals are to keep the peace in the house. She supports this in saying, "If only they (men) knew what it was like...to be a wife; a mother; a lover; a homemaker; a nurse; a hostess; an agitator; a pacifier; a truth-teller; a deceiver". Agnes feels like it's her responsibility to carry the weight of the family obligations on her own two shoulders-and though she complains, these seem to be her ultimate goals. Julia's obstacles are her mother's insecurity to her feelings and her own inability to communicate respectfully, which could have resulted in her pleas being heard more effectively. These were really the two barriers that inhibited successful communication from Julia to her mother. The mother's obstacle was the daughter's selfishness. Because of Julia's determination to get the visitors out of her room, she didn't want to hear anything her mother had to say that did not pertain to the removal of Harry and Edna. Without the auditory or psychological barrier that Julia had put up in listening to her mother, Agnes could have possibly reasoned with her a little better. However, when Agnes suggested that the guests could sleep in her husband's room and he'd sleep with her, this sparked a sharp and somewhat rude comment from Julia, which further incited the situation. It was painfully obvious that Julia's strategy was to throw a tantrum and get her way by blatantly voicing her aggravation to her mother. Agnes' approach was to put up a protective shield composed of a sense of humor and mockery.
                  During the rehearsal process, my greatest discovery was of the difficulties behind creating a sense of place. My partner and I discerned that the scene should take place in the kitchen, since the stage prompts in the beginning of the play suggested that the dialogue took place right before dinner with Agnes sitting and Julia pacing. However, it was far more challenging to decide where in space everything would be. If the stove was positioned forward, I'd have to adjust my gestures to suit that imaginary prop. I couldn't pretend to hold a chopping knife one minute, and then tie an apron the next. I had to remember to be consistent with my actions, keeping in mind that I'm not just mimicking a movement, but that the audience was following along also.
                  In becoming the character Agnes during rehearsal, I also had to keep in mind the use of body fact and body act. I am a 19 year old, 5'5'' African American female, with short light colored dreadlocks and a little extra body weight (body facts). I am playing the role of Agnes, a woman somewhere between the ages of 30 and 40, who is a mother and a wife, who feels as though she is too old to be arguing over something trivial (body act). It is unclear whether she was skinny, what her nationality was or her religious faith. However, I can eliminate that she was uneducated as it indicated in the script that she had read a psychiatry book, and she spoke in full sentences void of choppy or indistinguishable dialect. In keeping all of this in mind, I had to adjust my usual actions to bring to life those of an older woman who is a mother. In this I also had to apply the use of possibility in character action. It was never made clear that Agnes had back problems, but in her expressing, "I am too old", I can discern the possibility of a back strain, and grab my back when saying this line. The use of subtext was also apparent in the dialogue in various exchanges of sarcasm between the mother and daughter. In one line, Julia says, "Why are they here?" The stage direction asserts that this is said between her teeth with controlled hysteria. This was the inwardly felt expression of the character that could clearly be felt in the undertones of the text.
                  In a dramatic analysis of A Delicate Balance, my partner and I answered who is speaking, to whom, what about, when, where, why and how. The mother, Agnes and daughter, Julia are the speakers, speaking to each other (to whom); and the reason (why) for their dialogue is to exchange or vent frustrations about the sudden living arrangements of guests in Julia's personal living space and of Agnes' need for relief from playing peacemaker. This scene takes place in the evening before dinner (when), in the kitchen of their home (where). The daughter is speaking in a highly emotional tone with some remorseful undertone after seeing her mother's discomfort with the quarrel. The mother however, speaks in a mocking tone for her own amusement to avoid being sucked into the dramatic whirlwind kicked up by her daughter. The diction (or how the characters spoke) was that of a more consultative and casual or informal tone.
                  The general nature of both character's personality is round and dynamic yet simple. However, Julia is more anxious, whiny and troubled; contrasting with Agnes who is peaceable, self controlled, and even tempered. The fit she throws is out of ridicule for the sincere one her daughter was having. The life history and habits of each character can only really be examined by their temperament in this scene. We can deduce that Julia has led a life of getting her way for the most part, or else, why would she even argue the point of intruders in her room? She's been accustomed to having her living space being exclusively hers, and also getting away with talking back to her mother. Children usually do not randomly decide to throw a tantrum over something so trivial. The situation in this scene could have easily been negotiated. But by Julie's words and actions, I would venture a guess and say that she's been throwing tantrums for quite some time as a habit when things don't go her way. By the same token, I'd believe this as the mother wasn't too shocked at her daughter's disrespect. Agnes has much more respect in her history, as she notes that she never would have talked to her mother the way Julia talks to her. However, a habit of hers is to not take attitudes or disrespect seriously-probably done to preserve her own sanity.
                  Julia's attitude toward life is one that is more pessimistic; one that focuses on the petty little things-she's more focused on making mountains out of mole hills. It seems as though, like many younger generations even today, she feels as though her life's issues must be taken seriously. What is serious to her should be serious to others, and making fun of her situations seems to reduce her back to "child" status instead of boosting her to the position of a "mature adult". Agnes' attitude toward life seems more traditional, yet questioning. She believes that a daughter should under all circumstances, respect her mother. Through her own verbalized inner thoughts about role reversal of the sexes, it seems as though she felt underappreciated playing the role that women were expected to play during those times. In the last line, Julia tells her mother to go to hell, which is definitely the epitome of disrespect. On the same note, I could say that Julia's behavior was absolutely unacceptable for a healthy mother-daughter relationship. From the first words out of her mouth to the last, she was rigid, compulsive, and bad-mannered, she hounded her mother, mocked her, and blew the entire situation out of proportion. Agnes reacted in the only way she knew how to keep from breaking down herself; to retreat into her own mode of mockery. She went from being peaceable to self-protecting, cynical and sarcastic-mirroring the tone of her daughter. In the beginning she tried to stay calm, then the stage directs imply that she started acting out for her own amusement in suggestions of gender role reversal. It seemed like her approach was classic to the idea of laughing to keep from crying. The way Julia behaved made me annoyed with her character, for carrying on over something so trivial. I felt sorry for the mother for even having to go into a dramatic fit to defend herself against her daughter, who was clearly out of control.