Emotion in Motion: Acting at Dartmouth

It is always a fascinating to witness the student-actors on stage become someone else. They lose themselves to become another. On stage, they bring to life some of the most captivating plots and characters. Their ability to communicate the thoughts and feelings of their characters by moving — closer, farther, subtly, abruptly — manifests utter realism.

Throughout the term, we have seen shows like Intimate Apparel and Urinetown where the actors play characters so powerful, so moving that they continue to live on in our minds. We have seen ensembles that have moved entire audiences with their gentle unison. We have also seen dancers who have grasped our thoughts with every twist and turn. Every character on stage becomes so much more real as they express themselves dynamically.

We Feel It Too

One of the most evocative characters was that of the antagonist in Intimate Apparel. A cunning workman, he manages to woo a pen-friend into marriage, though he has never met her; she happens to be our heroine. The relationship quickly becomes troubled. He steals her hard-earned savings, cheats on her, and emotionally abuses her. As I looked around, I could tell that so many people watching this performance could relate deeply to the pain our heroine experienced — although we might have never experienced it ourselves. We felt how crucial that money was; we felt those tears rolling down her cheeks; and most of all we felt how much she still loved him through all he did. In those moments, we became her.

In moments like this, it is very enlightening to distance oneself from the performance for a moment to appreciate the sheer immersion these actors create within their audiences. It is not enough that they become the character. No. They pull you in to experience their character for yourself.

Rose Petals and Dandelions

A recent Dartmouth Wind Ensemble performance brought a guest performance by the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble. It was the fusion of soothing music and smooth movements. The choreography of the five dancers exuded a certain centering, one so unique that it can hardly be described. The movement of their arms, coupled with their feather steps and vacant countenances, left your mind with a vacuum — one to be filled with your deepest thoughts. It was purely therapeutic.

The Wind Ensemble played with grace as the dancers serenaded the audience with their steps. The fusion of instrument and player, of player and player, and of the entire ensemble was one to behold. Such synergy, made alive by every stroke and breath, puts you in a different state.

Happy Songs, Unhappy Ending

Urinetown, a play that touches on the dangers of utilitarianism, brought a deep reflection of capitalism in a humorous musical. The hero of the musical sparks a revolt against the corrupt company responsible for the misery of the people. There happens to be an interesting twist: his beloved, our heroine, happens to be the antagonist’s precious daughter. As things progress, this dilemma sparks an existential crisis within the heroine and she eventually turns against her father — going as far as ordering his death.

The songs were sung with such flawless vocals. The choreography went on to reveal more about the characters and their relationships than was openly stated. The duet performed by the hero and heroine revealed their innocent, pure love while the song performed by the antagonist and his company’s staff revealed his tragic flaws. Overall, the expressions in the songs and dances narrate the story on a deeper level.

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