Musical theatre workshops and productions

Blog 6 – STAR WARS: The Force Awakens and DOWNTON ABBEY

STAR WARS: The Force Awakens and DOWNTON ABBY – what I have learned from them.

 Star Wars and Downton Abbey (still continuing, as this is written) – in some ways, they are polar opposites.  But I think there are a few ways they are similar.  And the similarity helps me understand what is good theatre.  star wars

1.Both take us to another world.

In some sense this is the purpose of all theatre.  Whether the “other world” is a new place or a new corner of the mind, the sense of mind-travel is at the heart of drama. Still, Downton Abbey and Star Wars are notable examples.  For Americans of the 21st century, it sometimes seems like England of a hundred years ago is as far away as the galaxies of space travel.  They are both novel, unusual, and intriguing.  No wonder that both pieces have so completely captured our fancy.

  1. They present us both a vividly outlined world and a group of deeply detailed persons.

Without fully realized characters like these, one has only a travelogue.  But at the same time, persons who are not firmly rooted in their place and time erode into stereotypes.  Not so in either of these dramas.  Within the new worlds that we enter, we encounter persons who are real, persons about whom we quickly come to care.  A valuable lesson in the art of theatrical creation!

  1. Women emerge as leaders. A CARNIVAL FILMS PRODUCTION FOR ITV1. DOWNTON ABBEY. EPISODE 2 ITV’s new costume drama series, Downton Abbey, written and created by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes and made by Carnival Films for ITV will star Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as Robert, Earl of Grantham and Elizabeth McGovern as Robert’s wife, Cora, Countess of Grantham. They will lead an all-star cast, which also includes: Penelope Wilton, Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Lesley Nicol, Siobhan Finneran, Rob James Collier, Joanne Froggatt and Rose Leslie. Set in an Edwardian country house in 1912, Downton Abbey will portray the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them. PICTURED: MAGGIE SMITH as Violet and MICHELLE DOCKERY as Lady Mary Crawley. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc/CARNIVAL FILMS and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com Photographer: NICK BRIGGS. For further information please contact: patrick.smith@itv.com

Star Wars -the appearance of the first female Jedi Master provides a turning point that is critical – and decisive.  No matter how many more entries to this saga may appear, none will ever be mistaken for earlier episodes.  At the same time, I must say that I find Downton Abbey even more fascinating in this regard.  The discussions this year will be utterly dominated by Mary and Edith, Cora and The Dowager, Anna and Mrs. Hughes.   Weaving in my earlier two reflections, it is fascinating how these women are so completely creatures of their own time and, no less, fully creatures of ours.

We talk about the same things in creating theatre.  We all want to be changed and deepened and enriched – Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Downton Abbey take us there.

Larry Little


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