COSTUME AND CULTURAL EXPRESSION

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COSTUME AND CULTURAL EXPRESSION: A STUDY OF MOLIERE’S THE MISER AS A PRACTICAL THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE.

COSTUME AND CULTURAL EXPRESSION: A STUDY OF MOLIERE’S THE MISER AS A PRACTICAL THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE.

Table of content

Title page

Dedication

Acknowledgement

Certification

Table of contents

Abstract

Chapter one

1.0 general introduction

1.1 background of study

1.3 objective of study

1.4 significance of the project

1.5 scope of study

1.6 research questions

1.7 research methodology

1.8 definition of terms

Chapter two

Literature review

Related literature in project research

Chapter three

3.1 the biological of moliere

3.2 critical analysis of the play-the miser

3.3 social background of the play

3.4 costume: a historical over view

Chapter four

Visual presentation

4.1 costume chart

4.2 photographic illustration

4.3 costume drawings

Chapter five

5.1 conclusion

5.2 recommendation

Works cited

ABSTRACT

          In its entirety the research lucidly examines costume as an instrument for cultural expression, with specific reference to the play production of the Miser by Moliere. Chapter 1 introduces the research, its scope, and significance. It gives also an idea of the research methodology applied. Chapter 2 reviews relevant previously published scholarly research in other to give a theoretical framework. Chapter 3 presents textual analysis of the play the Miser with background information on Moliere the playwright with information on the social background under which he wrote. Chapter 4 presents graphic and pictorial illustrations to enable the reader comprehend in detail the costume of the era under study. Chapter 5, the last chapter, concludes the research and recommends possible lines of development.

CHAPTER ONE

1.0       GENERAL INTRODUCTION

          A study summarized in the book the Four Minute sell by Janet Elsa, indicates that during the first four minutes of contact with a stranger, our understanding of that person’s nature and personality is based on three primary, unequal factors: appearance 55%, tone of voice 38% and what the person says 7%. Appearance to which is given the highest figure in percentage indeed constitutes all visual aspects of the personality and this includes dressing, make-up and accessories such as hats, scarves, fans, canes, umbrella, jewellery worn or carried by the person. The suggestion here is that visual elements, like verbal, have the capacity to communicate. It is thus not out of place to say dress and make-up have a language of their own. Talking about dress, it is important to remember that dressing oftentimes among other things is used to express the cultural background of a particular group of people.

Michael Gillette’s position that ‘’what a person wears and how it is worn, says a great deal about that person and the society which he or she lives’’ (387) agrees with the opinion of this researcher. This substantiates the view earlier expressed that dressing could express the cultural background of a particular group of people.

FUNCTIONS OF DRESS

Protection

Many theories have hypothesized that protection was the primary functions of early clothing attempts but that this function has now become, at best, secondary. Whether protection was of primary or secondary importance in clothing’s beginnings is a mute-point since it continues to be an important function of some dress and is an inherent factor in most. Clothes protect one from harsh weather or climates, vegetation, humans or other animals.

Identification

Clothes usually identify ones profession, ethnic group, status, sex and age. For instance most societies use clothing to distinguish the sexes; this is because there are clothes for males as different from those for females. These clothes vary from one society to the other.

Aesthetic value

Clothes are mostly worn for aesthetic reasons; this is because every human being desires to be attractive and to be in conformity with others of his kind. However some people may wear clothes to seduce people of the opposite sex. It is important to note that the fashionable dress of one culture or era may be aesthetically displeasing to another.

Impersonation

Clothes can also be sued for disguise. This easily achieved because of the powerful signal clothes can send. For instance the policeman’s uniform by virtue of the image of authority, which it connotes, become s imbued with power so much so that someone else other than a policeman wearing it, commands the same respect accorded any policeman. This suggests why people who have impersonated the police by merely putting on their uniform have often gotten away with it. In spite of the seeming negative image of the term impersonation there is the positive side to it from the perspective of the actor who indded must disguise doing his job which really is to impersonate the real world in other to educate, entertain and inform the audience.

FUNCTIONS OF STAGE COSTUME

Stage costumes serve several important functions. These are:

  1. To create right mood for the environment
  2. To reflect the historical period on which the play is set.
  3. To reveal the climate and season in which the play is set.
  4.  To identify the locale of the play.
  5. Costume also serves to denote the sex, occupation, rank and the age of the character in drama.

1.1       background of study

through out all ages and in different societies, drama has always served social functions: it entertains, enlightens and educates. Of all these, none of its function is more recognizable, than its ability to function as a social model, in terms of highlighting the ills, flaws, and foibles of a given society. Indeed, drama functions as a social model in that it is not created in isolation. In creating a dramatic work, playwrights model after actions and situations of real life. This lends credence to the fact that drama is a microcosm of the larger world. In this vein drama becomes a miniature and compressed copy of the real world.

Drama does not operate in a vacuum; it uses the instrumentality of living and none living characters (Dramatis personae) to convey its message. Thus human characters (or their models) as actors assume designated roles as defined in the drama. These characters are part and parcel of the drama that has been written by a playwright. In drama, the focus is achieving believability, thus thee playwright takes time to represent a convincing replica of the imagined characters. In the same light the director and his team of experts strive to represent characters as convincingly as possible, one of such element used to achieve verisimilitude is costume and accessories; the core issue of this study.

Costume as reviewed by the encyclopaedia Americana, refers to ‘’apparel that is intended both to impress an audience and to help the performer to impersonate a character’’ (63). Since costume in drama is consciously packaged to communicate the essence of the actor, it follows that costume in drama often stands for what the actor represents. For this reason the costume and the actor are visually perceived as one, they merge into a single image on stage.

In drama and theatre clothes convey certain signals similar to those in everyday life, yet there are significant differences between costumes communicate the same information as ordinary clothes with regards to sex, position and occupation; on stage, this information is magnified, because every element is in the spotlight, and consciously packaged. Consequently, costumes on stage must meet other requirements not normally imposed in everyday life.

Apart from the aforementioned qualities, costumes perform a cultural function, as a vehicle for cultural expression, revealing the way of life, norms more, world-view and temperament of a given culture. Culture is made up of two components, materials and non-material. The non-material is made up of the ideas behind the norms, value, belief system and social institution while material culture consists of all the artefact and fashion of the people. It is in this latter component that costume belongs.

Costume help create cultural identity and unity among a given social group. Indeed some ethnic and tribal groups are identified not just by the pattern, but also by the colour of their costume. Examples of this are the Moslems with their black Abaya, flowing cover gowns to hide female sexuality from public view for women and dishdasha, white flowing gowns for men. The symbolism of these expressions are highly valued, another example is the Tiv people in the middle-belt of Nigeria are identified by two predominate colours; black and white, these colours in this light convey ethnic configuration and the when these two colour are used for theatrical costume, it helps to establish, locale, setting and way of life of the tiv people.

In the course of this research attempts are made to explain the interrelationship that exists between costume as an art from, borne from the material culture, and how it is applied as a tool for cultural expression.

1.2    STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

          One of the major features of costume is that it helps to locate a particular culture where a play is set and establish symbols. It is the need to solve problems such as these (wrong interpretation of cultural norms and values), that a research work as this becomes pertinent. Wrong interpretation of people’s culture is a serious problem as it can ridicule, lead to violence and even reinforce stereotypical notion.

The global mayhem and rampage that followed the representation of Mohamed, the Islamic prophet of Allah by a Danish cartoonist is an example of the destructions and wanton wastage of human and material resources on account of cultural misrepresentation. Proper understanding and application of costume therefore can play a very important part in reflecting and indeed enhancing cross-cultural understanding.

1.3    OBJECTIVE OF STUDY

The objectives of this study are to accomplish the following;

  1. to contribute to scholarship
  2. to debunk erroneous notions
  3. to stimulate further research into contemporary culture.

It is hoped that these objectives are met, as they have far reaching benefits, particularly in increasing cross-cultural awareness and bridging gaps in understanding of the importance of costumes in the distinctive cultures of our multi-ethnic society.

1.4         SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

The significance of this study goes beyond immediate academic merit, the purpose of it, is that it will serve as a guide, not necessarily a blue print for would-be costumers. Considering the obvious problem of lack of research materials, it is hoped that this project will partly fill this vacuum.

Significantly this work will also stimulate further interest in the study of antic culture which most students have disdain for.

1.5         SCOPE OF STUDY

This study is structured into five logically laid out chapters. The research contains itself only to the visual elements of the play. It shall be dealing with the production of the Miser as seen on stage at the University of Port Harcourt theatre (the Crab) rather than the text or manuscript.

1.6 RESEARCH QUESTION

A research work such as this betrays it essence if it fails to highlight possible questions that it seeks to address. The following questions were used to seek external input into understanding the current awareness of the public in appreciating the role of costumes in our culture and in particular, in the play, the Miser by Moliere.

  1. How does costume express the temperament, sensibility of a particular culture?
  2. What is being communicated by costume?
  3. What are some of the problems encountered during the paly production process for the Miser by Moliere in terms of costumes and possible recommendations?

These questions addressed citing diverse sources to buttress the viewpoint.

1.7 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The research method applied in this study is that which ‘’Ukala’’ (2000) describes as the historical methodology. It entails the investigation of documented sources, such as books, journals, report, audio-visual aids, achievers materials, drawing etc. this methodology traces the beginnings and development in specific places and period. To achieve this secondary sources strictly used.

1.8         DEFINITION OF TERMS

In a research work of this nature, attention must be given to concept and terms, which requires definition, to ensure consistency in analysis. The essence is that the research has an obligation to make clear to the reader a precise language the researcher intends to convey.

1.8.1      COSTUME

According to Barbara and Cletus in their text ‘’anything worn on stage is a costume whether it be, layers of clothing or nothing at all’’ (4); while the Oxford Advanced dictionary drifted it as a ‘’kind of clothes worn by people of different background at a particular historical era’’ (262) and Julia Tompkins in her attempt to clarify this says that:

It is a theatrical apparel that is intended both to impress an audience and to help the performance to impersonate a character, style of dress or cloths in any culture and the period (Tompkins 102).

Funk and Wagnalls new encyclopaedia (v7) has defined costume as thus:

… dress or clothing in general including the inner or outer garments of men and women, the ornaments, including Jewelry, worn by both sexes; and the style of dress habitual to a people, to a social class, to a locality, or to a period of history (Funk and Wagnalls 82)

According to encyclopaedia Americana, theatrical costume refers to ‘’apparel that is intended both to impress an audience and to help the performer to impersonate a character’’ (63).

Simplistic as the definitions might seem, there is a broader definition of the term: costume is broadly defined as ‘’clothes that are worn to reveal and define both the play’s character and the meaning of its action, stage costumes help to communicate the dame information as ordinary clothes the major difference is perhaps that normal clothes are worn for several reasons except for entrainment. Also stage costumes have one advantage in that it could be simulated’’

The above definition is a combination of diverse views on the subject.

1.8.2 DRAMA

          The African encyclopaedia defines drama in a simplified manner as a ‘’a type of ritual, a way of expressing oneself and a form of entertainment’’ (171).

This definition identifies three basic element of drama, which are; ritual, self-expression and entertainment. A concise definition of drama comes from Funk and Wagnall’s new encyclopaedia (Vol. 8); the etymology is traced to the root word ‘’dram’’ (Greek) which simply means, ‘’to do’’. The book defines drama as:

…. Literary composition, in either verse or prose, that tells a story through action or speech and is usually intended to be performed by actors before and audience. A drama, which may also be called a play, is one of the elements of theatre (Funk Wagnall 146).

A conventional drama is divided into acts, which are often further divided into scenes. There are two principal branches of the drama that are traditionally accepted, namely comedy and tragedy. Tragedy deals, with serious theme; the hero meets his tragic end some flaw in his character, as a result of contending with some forces, otherwise the hero is admirable. Comedy on the other hand deals with the light and amusing aspect of life and a happy ending. While tragedy excites deep feeling of pity and fear, comedy excites lighter.

1.8.3 CULTURE

According to J.D Atemie et al, there is no universal agreement on the meaning of culture, however from the perspective of the majority of social scientist, culture means much more than just some aspect of human social existence. It is an embodiment of the totality of human existence.

Thus, culture had been defined by peil as:

Everything pass down by human society except its biology,

Language and technology, laws and customs, beliefs and

noral standard (Atemie et al 107)

Culture is also defined by the Oxford Advanced learner’s Dictionary as:

art, literature, music, and other intellectual expression of a

particular society of time or the customs, arts, social

institutions etc. of a particular group or nation (Oxford 285).

While S. K Sanderson sees it as:

A total life waste characteristic of the member of the society, including tools, knowledge, and pattern ways of thinking and acting that are learned and shared and are not direct product of Biological inheritance (Sanderson)

A more recent definition is that found in an American anthropology text book which states that:

Culture refers to the enormous whole of learned socially influenced behaviour that has characterized mankind during the entire course of it history2

The constituent elements of a culture consist of the whole complex of the distinctive features that characterize a social group, according to Accara Jaja, it states thus:

These features may be spiritual, intellectual material or emotional. Culture is a common words it comes with much conceptual baggage, much of it vague and some of it contradictory (Jaja 29)

While UNESCO defined culture as:

The network of complex, distinctive spiritual material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only the art and letters but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of human being, values system tradition and belief (UNESCO)

Also G. Hofstede defined culture as thus: ‘’The software of the mind and collective phenomenal shared with the people who live in the same social environment ‘’(Hofstede 47).

Lastly as regard the term culture, adudu in the fullness of time by J. Okoh defined it thus:

Culture is the way of life of a people and this way of life of a people includes the rules and regulations governing the people’s behaviour. It also covers such things as customs and traditions, beliefs, religion, moral behaviour and methods of doing things (Okoh 54)

The above definition is the most acceptable, and quite explicit.

1.8.4 COMMUNICATION

Communication according to Perry Storm is a transmission by symbols of information and idea, relating dress and indeed costume to communication, she explain thus ‘’dress is a medium of communication. It communities social information and personal identity’’ (102)

Clothes can also convey symbols perception and impression.

1.85 SIMULAITON

Simulation as defined by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is ‘’the deliberate making of certain conditions that could exist in reality e.g. in order to study then or learn from them’’.

COSTUME AND CULTURAL EXPRESSION: A STUDY OF MOLIERE’S THE MISER AS A PRACTICAL THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE.

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