Comm 108 - Floss
Tuesday/ Thursday 11:00 am
Drama Duo Intent Paper
October 12, 2015
In choosing a selection, my partner and I first looked for something that we liked. The scene between Eddie and Catherine in "A View From The Bridge" by Arthur Miller spoke to us. Next we asked if it was good literature, that is if it displayed universality, individuality and suggestion. We tried to identify themes in the selection to determine if was universal.
The themes we discussed and identified were:
(1) Conflict between dynamic parent/ child relationships at a time the child is coming of age,
(2) complex feelings in non-biological parent/ child relationships, and
(3) struggles for power and autonomy in family dynamics while trying to maintain harmony between family members.
We decided since these themes were not unique to this piece of literature but were universally relatable to many different situations and experiences, it was in fact universal.
We also determined that it displayed individuality based on the fact that it depicted these universal themes in a very unique way. The writing style had a unique dialect, the characters had depth and were unlike any other, and the setting and plot were unique to this play and playwright.
Because the work could be interpreted many different ways and Eddie and Catherine's goals, obstacles, tactics and expectations could also be read so differently from one reader to the next, we decided it met the final requirement for good literature, that it exhibited suggestion. This suggestive quality was also evidenced by the fact that my partner and I initially had very different interpretations and insights of the text and characters before collaborating. We also determined that this scene selection met the course requirements by being contemporary, being appropriate in length, as well as operating the dramatic realm (both dramatic speaker mode, and primarily dramatic audience mode, with some lyric audience moments).
In deciding if the scene was appropriate for my partner and myself, we were drawn to the ebb and flow of the conflict between Eddie and Catherine in this scene and we thought that it gave the selection a good overall shape. We thought this would be appropriate for us because the characters we would be portraying had great depth and we thought we could do a good job portraying the various levels of characterization as well as their goals, obstacles, tactics, and expectations. Although it was not a requirement for the piece, it also helped that I could relate to themes from this piece in both the child role (remembering my experiences from teen and young adult years) and also to the parent role (relating my experiences with my own step children).
We determined that the scene would be appropriate for the audience because the audience members are all at an age of early adulthood or older in which they may very likely have had conflicts they could relate to as either the child role, the parent role, or both. We also wanted the selection to be something our audience would also enjoy and understand. Since the language in this piece is written for characters who were not very educated and who were in a time in the not too distant past, it is very simple and easily understandable. We thought the audience would enjoy the Brooklyn dialect of the characters (some of which was written into the text) as it would give them greater depth and sense of place and time.
The purpose in choosing this selection was to perform something that would be both enjoyable for us and our audience. A secondary goal in choosing this particular scene which ends with unresolved conflict, was to encourage the audience to read the rest of the play or watch a full performance of it. We both enjoyed reading the play and although we could only interpret a small selection for our audience, we wanted it to be something that would spark an interest in them to discover what happens in the end. A final goal in performing this selection was to come to a better understanding of the literature. This goal was met as there was so much we discovered through the portrayal of our characters that we did not at first notice in simply reading the text.
By diving into the work using a dramatistic analysis (asking Who?, To whom?, What?, When?, Where?, Why?, and How?) my partner and I were able to set the scene and establish an agreement on how we were going to interpret this scene. The "who" and "to whom" was easy to identify since the selection was in the dramatic realm (Catherine talking to Eddie and vice versa). The "when/where" was explicit in the text (1950's/ outside an apartment in poor immigrant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York). The "what" of the text was the dialogue itself as well as the motives behind their conversation (defining Catherine's relationship with Rodolpho as well as trying to come to consensus on what that relationship should be.) "How" this occurred was by having a highly emotional conversation/ disagreement in the street in front of their apartment. And finally, why this happened was because they both had various conflicting goals, obstacles, and strategies as will be discussed later in this paper.
In identifying the four levels of characterization for the character I portrayed, Catherine, or Katie as she is called by Eddie, I had to re-read some of the text to look for clues as to her physical, social, psychological, and moral characteristics.
Her physical characteristics that are explicitly stated in the text are that she is a 17 year old female who according to Eddie is so beautiful she needs to stop wearing high heeled shoes because she draws too much attention from men. He tells Catherine she looks like a Madonna, "You're the Madonna type. That's why you shouldn't be flashy, Kate. For you it ain't beautiful. You're more the Madonna type." Beatrice also confirms that Catherine gets a lot of attention from men, "How can she help it if they look at her?" This further supports the idea that Catherine is physically attractive. It is also implied that she is starting to develop womanly curves when Eddie tells her "Don't walk so wavy like that". The fact that the play took place in the 1950's when a curvier physique for women was idolized, further supports this conclusion about Catherine's physical characteristics. Since my physical characteristics are similar (average height/ weight/ curvy physique) my main goal in portraying Catherine as physically distinct from myself was to focus on the difference in movement between a 17 year old (Catherine) and a 29 year old (myself). I tried to be more energetic, more spry, and more awkward in my own body, imagining I was still getting used to the physical changes that occur in the teenage years.
Catherine's social characteristics that are stated in the text are that she is an orphan, that she was raised by Eddie and his wife who live in a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn surrounded by many Italian immigrants. Since we know that Catherine's adoptive parents are not familiar with the customs and norms in Italy when Beatrice says "Maybe that's the way they do in Italy," we can infer that Catherine herself was raised her whole life in the United States and probably in the same neighborhood in New York (judging on how familiar her family is with everyone in the neighborhood). For this reason, and also due to the dialect written into the text, I decided to use a New York accent in our performance. Another social characteristic of Catherine's is that she is smart. She says in the text "I'm way ahead on my studies." This also implies that she is a hard worker. The text also tells us that Catherine is headstrong. She often disagrees with her adoptive parents and they even tell her she "has a sharp tongue." In interpreting the text, I kept these social characteristics in mind to make decisions as to what Catherine's tone would be when speaking to Eddie and also what how to portray her non-verbal responses (eye-rolls and turning away in disagreement) and utterances (mumbling under her breath and trying to interject in disagreement).
These decisions also relate to Catherine's psychological characteristics. We know that she has aspirations of being an actress when Eddie tells her "You oughta be on the television," and she replies, "Oh, I wish!" We can see in the text that she has love and respect for Eddie and a desire to be in good standing with him. The text tells us that Catherine often takes Eddie's arm or hugs him. She also obeys when he tells her to change her shoes and expresses discomfort with possible discord when she asks if he is mad at her. Another component of her psychological characteristics is that she is developing feelings for Rodolpho, but is not sure is she wants to marry him. She is confused about her feelings for him when she says she doesn't know if they will marry, but she "likes him" and they "just been goin' around." In many ways, Catherine's primary psychological characteristic is confused. I tried to portray this through eye movements and trying to look pensive but also in disbelief as my character was being told about Rodolpho's possible ulterior motives in seeking a relationship with her.
Catherine's moral characteristics are that she is struggling with deciding whether it is better to obey and believe Eddie or follow her heart as it regards to Rodolpho. She is also contemplating whether to pursue a physical/sexual relationship with Rodolpho. Later in the play, she is discovered coming out of the room with Rodolpho buttoning her blouse. I attempted to keep this moral dilemma in mind in my portrayal of Catherine's interactions with Eddie as he was discussing her relationship with Rodolpho.
After examining Catherine's four levels of characterization, it helped me to understand her goals, obstacles, tactics and expectations. In the scene we selected, Catherine's primary goal is to get Eddie to understand that Rodolpho respects her and Eddie and to ultimately get Eddie to have a relationship with him. This is evident in Catherine's line to Eddie asking him "Why don't you talk to him, Eddie? He blesses you and you don't talk to him hardly." She also tells Eddie that Rodolpho has "all kinds of respect for [her] and [Eddie] too". Another goal is that she is trying to maintain harmony between the man she is developing feelings for and her father figure. As the scene progresses her goal becomes to also convince herself that Rodolpho is not pursuing a relationship with her solely to gain citizenship. She repeated states "I don't believe it," as if she is not only trying to convince Eddie but herself that Rodolpho's love is true. Finally, at the end of the scene, Catherine's goal is for Eddie to leave her alone. She tells Eddie she doesn't want to hear what he has to say and she wants him to let her go and leave her alone.
The main obstacle to Catherine achieving this goal is Eddie's mistrust of Rodolpho. Eddie repeatedly states in the text that he believes Rodolpho is simply using Catherine as a means to get citizenship in the United States. Catherine's tactics in trying to change Eddie's mind are to explain to him how much Rodolpho respects her, how kindly he treats her, and to explain how he has never mentioned anything relating to his passport of immigration. When the tactic of persuading to explanation fails, Catherine resorts to simply denying that she will believe Eddie's version of the truth in hoping that simply stating that she doesn't believe will convince Eddie to stop trying to persuade her and see her conviction as evidence that Rodolpho truly cares about her. When avoidance and denial fail to change Eddie's mind she screams that he loves her, in hope that this revelation will convince Eddie of Rodolpho's level of seriousness and care for her.
Catherine's expectation at the beginning of the scene is that Eddie will come around since he loves her and will go talk to Rodolpho. However, as the scene progresses, Catherine's expectations change as she sees Eddie is refusing to change his mind. At that point, Catherine's expectation is that Eddie will continue to disagree with her and try to change her mind until she gets away from him.
By reading, analyzing, and interpreting this text, my partner and I were able to come to a deeper understanding of the text. Defining specific character motivations and characteristics helped inform us of the subtext, or what each character was really trying to say to each other. This helped us make very definite decisions regarding how we would choose to portray these characters. My partner and I agreed not to watch any other performances of this play prior to our performance as we did not want it to influence our interpretation of the text. Once our performance is complete, I plan to watch other performances of the text to see what other interpretations there may be. Overall, I came away from this process with a better appreciation for and understanding of the text. Through the process of selecting a piece of literature, I also developed an enjoyment of reading plays and I look forward to discovering other playwrights and plays this way.