Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In the Theater: The Fourth Wall

In theater there's a number of interesting terms and concepts. Today I thought I'd put together my thoughts on the concept of the fourth wall.

The fourth wall is the imaginary invisible wall at the front of the stage, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play. While the origin of the term is uncertain, the concept is generally believed to come into use in the twentieth century with the advent of theatrical realism.

An actor can "break" the fourth wall by addressing the audience directly, or actively acknowledging (through breaking character or through dialogue) that the characters and action are not real. This has the effect of reminding an audience that what they are viewing is fiction and as such can have a jarring effect.

So it is an tactic that can be used to effectively cause the audience to view the play or musical in a different context, to encourage them to think about the point being raised, or in a comedic manner.

What got me thinking about the forth wall? It was this post from one of my favorite theater blogs - The Wicked Stage, he's referring to this article in the la times.

So what do you think about breaking the fourth wall? As an actor do you find it uncomfortable or jarring to break character to address the audience? As a theatergoer does it bother you to have that fourth wall broken, or does it not effect your experience at all?

No comments:

Community Theater in the Mid Hudson Valley of New York. Information on shows, auditions, and our general adventures onstage, backstage and in the audience.