House of shadows as text and performance : structural and conceptual considerations of/for the contemporary musical play

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This paper is an explication of my thesis production House of Shadows, which was presented in November 2004 towards the fulfilment of the degree of Master of Arts in Theatre and Performance (Theatre Making) at the University of Cape Town. The explication focuses largely on the structural and conceptual processes in the creation of a new musical. As a theatre-maker, my research was driven by a need to {re)consider the musical as a compelling art form. The first chapter considers the contemporary South African theatrical landscape, creating the context in which House of Shadows was created. I have also discussed aspects of the play that make it distinctively South African, despite the American roots of the musical as a popular form of theatre. In the second chapter, House of Shadows is examined within the context of the (contemporary) musical play. The aspects of the musical play that found expression in the text and performance of House of Shadows are given individual attention. These include: the book, the score, the design and the direction. A significant focus is placed on the way these individual elements are integrated to form a unified and unique whole. The third chapter proposes a conceptual framework for reading musicals by examining the validity of the musical as festive theatre. The four key structural elements - display, contest, celebration and ceremony - and the objectivecommunal renewal - of festive theatre are discussed in the context of House of Shadows. This chapter concludes with an opinion of using this framework for analysing musical texts and performances.