Aesthetics: The Dialectics and Theatrics of Theatre and Communication

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Introduction
The book Aesthetics: The Dialectics and Theatrics of Theatre and Communication is a comprehensive discourse on the various aspects of aesthetics and its critical connection with the theatre. In recent times, there has been a growing concern among scholars over the quality
of media presentations; thus raising the age-long debate on the acceptability of certain artistic and aesthetic standards. This concern has equally generated rigorous scholastic debates on the quality of teaching in our higher institutions and the quality of presentations either in the mass media, creative arts, music, literature or theatre.

E. D. Akpan has been Widely credited as the scholar who ignited serious academic concerns on this subject in the last quarter of the last century. Since then, there have been books and a journal devoted to the on-going debate on aesthetics.

Dr. Johnson’s effort is, scholastically speaking, one which has broken new grounds in the area of theatre arts and communication. I have not read a more comprehensive discourse on the subject by any Nigerian. The book, which has eight lucidly-written chapters, is quite detailed in all the aspects of the author’s exposition.

Johnson, an accomplished practitioner, seems to see aesthetics in almost all aspects of theatre production – from the script, acting, directing, costume and make-up to music, songs, sound, lighting, scenery and the stage.

Dr. Johnson’s style seems to improve with each chapter and he appears to be in his elements when he draws from his teaching or stage experience. Some of his statements read like poetry or even like a rhapsody. As a work which draws a lot from personal experience, the ‘I’ seems to pervade the discussion and sometimes appears to obtrude against the free ?ow of his home-grown experience and rendition. Again, Johnson seems to have the high-sounding terms of his
discipline, some of which he has had the liberty to coin and which enrich the vocabulary of theatre arts. But, to the uninitiated, some of these may sound like Faustian riddle. But I was entertained by them. When I ran into the ‘dramatic-ness’ of the drama (and not its theatricalityl, I
naturally ducked when he talked about the ‘believabilism’ of a genetic colour differential.

I am not quite sure that Johnson intended any obfuscation at any point but I think some may have escaped him. As a work by an African scholar, there are very many African (Nigerian) examples. I am quite pleased with this because Euro-American texts are not likely to provide our examples
if not in contradistinction to their seeming superiority in techniques.

This book will certainly ?ll a yawning gap in theatre aesthetics and theatricality from the African point of view. I am quite pleased with Dr. Johnson’s efforts because I see in it a work that cuts across disciplinary boundaries. Theatre Arts is one of the communication arts and is rightly a sub-discipline of communication. Many of the examples and aspects of aesthetics are of general and speci?c interest to the student or scholar in communication arts.

If the film producer/director or broadcast programme director/producer is not interested in his discourse in acting, directing, make-up, music, scenery and the stage, what else would he or she be interested in? Even when he discusses lighting and scenery, it is for the same reason that the theatre artist should be interested.

This is a work whose future seems assured in the market and, before long, we could be heading for a revised edition arising from feedback from other practitioners and scholars. One other thing I enjoy in this work is readiness to be grounded as an African work preferring to draw most of its graphic and lucid examples from African / Nigerian sources. This is a work the Nigerian market has been waiting for, for a long time. It probably should have come from communication. But no matter. It is like rose, any colour will do!

Des Wilson
Professor of Communication
University of Uyo and Editor,
Journal of Aesthetics and University Media
July 2004.

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Description

Contents
Chapter 1: Aesthetics: A Discourse
Introduction
Aesthetics: Foundations
Aesthetics: Theoretics
The Aesthetic Concept
The Aesthetic Attitude
Aesthetic Emotion
Aesthetic Elements Identi?ed
The Aesthetic and the Moral
Applied Aesthetics
Aesthetics: Reapplied
The Aesthetic in Lighting
Aesthetic Theories versus Theatre Arts
The Hedonistic or Pleasure Theory
The Contextualism or Naturalism Theory
The Formism or Imitation Theory
Subjectivist and Objectivist Theories
Who Quali?es as Aesthetician?
Working De?nitions

Chapter 2: The Aesthetic in the Script
Introduction
The Cover Design
The Title
The Story of the Drama
The Language with Which the Story is Told
Characters and Characterizations
The Setting
The Duration of the Drama
The Creative Technicalities in the Script
The Story-Telling Approach
The End-is-the-Beginning Approach
The Open-ended Device
The Futuristic Style
The Flashback
The Plot on Which the Story is Anchored
The Levels of Con?ict
The Moral Lesson

Chapter 3 The Aesthetic in Acting
Introduction
The Creative Casting
The Person of the Actor
The Carriage of Roles
The Striking Relationships
Background Depictions
Movements: Both Intra and Inter
Style and Acting
Acting in Relation to Atmospheric Conditions
Acting in Relation to Health Conditions
Acting in Relation to Age
Acting in its Average Score
Acting and the Acting Space

Chapter 4: The Aesthetic in Directing
The Premise
The Person of the Director
Special Demands of the Script
Choice of the Play
Audition and Casting
The Aesthetic in Blocking
Suitability to Role
Suitability to the Situation
Suitability to Mood
Suitability to Stage Action
Props’ Selection
Stage Arrangement
Rehearsing to Attain Mastery
The Arts of the Collaborators
The Director’s Interpretation and Communication
The Choice Approach in Directing the Play
The Audience versus the Aesthetic
Targeting to Achieve Total Effect
Post-Production Feedback

Chapter 5: The Aesthetic in Costume and Make-up
Introduction
The Availability of a Good Designer
The Texture of the Material
The Costume Tailor
Uncompromised Fitability
Status Conferral
Choices of Colour
Costume and Style
Costume and Relationships
Costumes in Relation to Scene Change
Time Change/Location Change, etc.
When Skin Decoration or Bare Body Gives the Aesthetic
The Aesthetic in Make-up: Introduction
Foundation Make-up
Character Depiction
Approximate Depictions
Making-up for Mood/Occasion
Make-up and Period Depiction
Making-up Deliberately to Appeal

Chapter 6: The Aesthetic in Music, Songs and Sound
Introduction
Relevance
Mood Creation
Music Signi?ers
Music Melody
The Rhythm of the Music
The Aesthetic in Songs: Introduction
The Purpose of the Song
The Singer
Who Sings the Song?
The Length of the Song
Chorus or Solo?
Songs and Accompaniments
Singing and Dancing
The Aesthetic in Sound
When Noise is Beautiful
Purpose in Sound
Clarity of Sound
Sound Control/Intensity
Sound and Equipment

Chapter 7: The Aesthetic in Lighting and Scenery
Introduction
Lighting and the Revelation of Scenery Forms
Lighting for Costume Enhancement
Creation of Effects
Availability of Equipment
Even Basic Illumination is Beautiful
“Beware of Green”
When Light Tells a Story
The Aesthetic in Scenery
The Scenic Background
Dominant Background Colour
Environment for Action
Scenery in Relation to Characterization
Scenery in Relation to Time and Place
Scenography and Mood Creation
When Scenery is a Thematic Reinforcement
The Scenic Persona, the Designer
Scenic Design and Lighting

Chapter 8: The Aesthetic in the Stage
Introduction
A Properly-Designed Stage for the Theatre
Stage and Space Provision
Stage-Type and Creating the Aesthetic
The Stage versus Directorial Approach
The Stage and Décor
Flexible Staging
The Final Word
Works Cited
Addendum

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