Taking a break from the conversations of theme and politics in Angels in America, let’s talk about the complexities of the mechanics and manpower which goes into the actual execution of such a play as Angels in America. Plays need entire crews to make sure everything goes correctly, and especially in modern theater, where technical feats are more and more common, and in a play such as Angels in America where scenes are various and complex, actors play multiple characters, and people are strung up on harnesses to fly, it takes a whole village to create this seven-hour illusion. This video from the National Theater shows the people behind the scenes who prepare the set, costumes, sound, and everything else needed for the play, they not only prepare the stage before the play begins, but they also completely alter it during the two-hour turn around time between Parts 1 and 2, Millennium and Perestroika. “One tip I would say is preparation, you need to plan whilst the other show is ending what you need to do in order for the second show to be up and running.” Tess Dacre a sound manager says in the video, highlighting the need to intense preparation and planning before, and during the the performance. This video gives just some insight into the work that the large and skilled crew do to create the long and incredible production.
Richard Eyre was the director of Ibsen’s Ghosts at the BAM Harvey Theater in 2015. In this interview he is asked “Why do people have to write plays which are so sad?” He answers that “that is what art is about… perceiving pieces of the world that can’t be put together in any other way.” He is touching on the ability to put yourself in the mind of the ‘other’, and by being able to do this, you are learning how to empathize with other people. The ability to empathize is important, especially in our class conversations about the ghosts of our pasts being represented through tradition or culture. Being able to empathize with the ‘other’ also lends to more meaningful self-reflection which can help us answer questions about what it is like to be haunted by these ghosts which Ibsen is trying to call to our attention. Plays like these allow us to access worlds of tragedy, and through characters in plays, we are given many versions of the ‘other’. Particularly in Ibsen’s play, we are presented with several characters, all which are vastly different than the others, and each one playing an important role and representing a clear perspective from society. Manders and Oswald clearly represent two clashing perspectives about society, Oswald is a young, modern artist who doesn’t think twice about couples who aren’t married but are living together, while Manders represents the traditionalist and religious point of view. Both of them vying for influence over Mrs. Alving. These characters allow us to explore the sentiments of people which arise during times of hardship and controversy. These sad plays are important because, as in the words of Eyre, they “show us individuals, who are not like ourselves.” Once we are able to step into the minds of these characters, we can begin to feel as they do, and we can gain a better understanding of what it means for Mrs. Alving to be haunted by her newspaper ghosts; but then, we can begin to ask ourselves what our own ghosts are made of, and where do they come from? Are we all haunted by our cultures? And what does it mean for those who do not have one clear culture, are they haunted by their lack of cultural stability? What do your individual ghosts look like and can you see the ghosts of other people as well?