It is a common knowledge that African-American experience due to its being sad and this is why dramatic always attracted attention of writers and playwrights as well as other people who could disclose to the world the reasons of oppression due to racial factor, depict, describe or portray the life of African Americans at the beginning and almost till the end of the twentieth century and emphasize the necessity of equality and friendship of people of different cultures, nations and religious believes. What black people fought for was nothing but mere justice and desire to have a life every person deserves, not a life of a slave who having no rights at all has to silently go through the oppression and humiliation he is exposed to every day. There is no wonder that August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” was once a success and would be a success now if it were staged again as the last time it was staged around sixteen years ago. This play is of a great informational value as it describes the life of a lower class society and the restriction of their rights because of the racial discrimination. It should be admitted that this play would be pretty relevant to the contemporary audience as the problem of discrimination of any kind has always been vital and aroused great interest among readers as well as spectators. It would be one more reminding to people that irrespective of race, gender, color of the skin and religion what unites all of people is having heart and emotions, and thus an ability to feel, love, hate, suffer and be happy. The reaction of the audience can sometimes be unpredictable but the production of “Two Trains Running” due to its being highly dramatic and ability to evoke sorrow and compassion is likely to positively impress even the most hard-hearted and demanding audience.
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The play takes place at Hill District which is an African American Neighborhood at 1621 Wylie Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Being culturally active in the middle of the twentieth century this place was prosperous. The period of time the play covers is a week. It describes the period of black people’s constant fight for their rights, it is the time of African American Civil Rights Movement when black people fought for abolishment of racial discrimination and giving them the same rights and freedoms as white people have. The main ideology of this movement was to change the attitude of white people towards black people, in other words, to eliminate racism.
As far as production demands are concerned, they do not seem to be numerous at the first sight. But when working under the production certain expenses for the decorations and costumes should be taken into consideration. Of course the production of “Two Trains Running” is not going to involve such serious expenses as for example one of the plays by Shakespeare but the reality of setting will still be not easy to achieve. The costumes will demand not much, the beauty and quality of tissues is not of prior concern. On the contrary, the simpler the material the better as here we deal with urban people whose works rarely involve working in office or appearing in public. The costumes of each character should reflect his or her family and financial status: “I ain’t never seen him in something but black. Everything he wear is black. Black hat. Black suit. Black shoes. Black tie.” (August Wilson, 11). The use of subdued light is preferable when staging the scenes at home as well as at the restaurant. The use of powerful searchlights is not necessary and it would be better to use strong diffusers when staging scenes which take place in the street because the light should not be bright even when the day is sunny. It will help reflect the tragedy of the situation and reveal the inner state of some characters. Multiple settings occur in the play but they can be turned into single ones by some of them played in the background, behind the stage. This would add even more tragedy to some of the scenes. Unlike lights, sound should paid more attention to. Though it can seem to be nonsense sound should make up for insufficient lights but it should get a little muffled at the scenes with cries or loud cues to let the spectator feel the inner sufferings, anger or other emotion the actor is trying to express.
For the production to be accepted and appropriately interpreted the casting side should be paid a special attention to. In the course of production certain casting challenges may arise. First of all, the actors should be African Americans who respect their origin and feel like defending their nation:”He gonna have something he be proud to tell everybody.” (August Wilson, 30). Secondly, emotional side of an actor is also very important as to express your feelings in the way that the spectator could believe you need either to feel the environment very vividly or to have some experience with the sufferings or happiness you are expressing. And finally, people of different ages, starting with children and ending with very old people, should be found for mob scenes as well as some extra players should also be found. The actor casting should take place in three parts. The first would be the selection of actors according to their appropriateness to the characters. Here the age, appearance and speech should be taken into consideration. At this stage we need two actors for one and the same character in order to later, at the second stage, to choose the one who will be best suiting for the part. The main criteria here is the emotionality and ability to express different feelings at one and the same time which means crying and then laughter or being kind and then start shouting. The emotional range should be very wide. A person with a strong will or at least able to express strong will is necessary for the part of Memphis. His sense of pride and desire to show that he is the only one who is right should be very distinctly depicted. A smart girl able to change some of the character features is the one who should be picked out for the role of Risa. Her whole looks should show how much she does not like gambling and that she will turn out to be right in the end. The actors should not only correspond to their characters but to live their characters’ lives at least for the time the play is being rehearsed.
Theatre space should not be necessarily wide and spacious. The production is valued not by abundant flashy decorations or unbounded stage. There should be enough space for placing necessary decorations and for actors to walk back and forth. “Two Trains Running” does not demand brightness as it represents life of lower level of society. Everybody knows that flashy decorations usually hide the poor acting this is why not only the balance between acting and decorations should be achieved but acting should stand out and eclipse decorations.
Then the time of the most important stage of production comes. This is the rehearsal and it takes most of time and efforts. The thing is that the time spent for making decorations or choosing the right place of lighting devices turns out not to be worth it if the play of actors does not evoke any emotions whereas if the acting is good and the necessary effect on the spectator is produced the lack of colors and expressiveness of decorations is not so visible. The rehearsals should be regular and each scene should be rehearsed until perfect. At this, it is important not to let the actors overact and end up with their play being artificial and not sincere. Separate time should be pointed out for each group of actors playing in one scene and then two or three scenes should be combined in order to determine the time limitations. What’s more, no blind rehearsal of one and the same scene without any improvements should take place. If something does not work out then the change of some members of the actor cast should take place.
Before starting staging the play both the director and the actors should try to penetrate in the world the characters of the play are living in. What is needed for this is the concern of director and actors themselves. For some, deep studying of the play’s history will be necessary. The actors and other people working on the production should not only have a general idea of what was going on in those times that the play takes place but to have certain background knowledge about it. If needed, documentary movies can be used in order not only to get to know the situation and events as such but to see in real what black people experienced in the time they fought for their freedom and how difficult it was for them to achieve something in life. The poll should be carried out in order to find out how much other people know about African American Movement and what it involved and which emotions it evokes in people as well as what to their point of view may make them interested in the play staged on such a subject area.
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It seems that the best suiting metaphor to define this play would the “the ray of hope” as what “Two Trains Running” deals with is people’s hoping that with time they would get what they strive for and regardless all the difficulties they believe that everything will work out and they will end up being like everybody else. It deals with black people’s trying to show that they are nothing but ordinary people who are not somebody whose rights can be neglected but humans who want just a mere happiness and peace.
August Wilson. Two Trains Running. Dutton, 1992