Why is Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore regarded as a work of self-conscious theatre, and in what way does it criticises the theatre of its time?

Why is Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore regarded as a work of self-conscious theatre, and in what way does it criticises the theatre of its time?
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  Why is  Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore  regarded as a work of self-conscious theatre, and in what way does it criticises the theatre of its time? “It seems that laughter needs an echo.” 1  When published in 1925  , Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore  was widely regarded as one of the most inspiring, influential, ground-breaking metatheatrical plays of the time. Extraordinarily, it was  possible to converse vis-à-vis on stage, about the stage, particularly apropos the actual meaning and main purpose of performance itself. Remarkably, Luigi Pirandello led the way in contemporary theatre studies uncovering major issues and challenging traditional and conventional principles, as William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra similarly performed and extraordinarily achieved long before. From 1921 to his death Pirandello accurately reflected on the notion of theatre in a kaleidoscopic new light, strongly and critically refusing to accept the standing suggestion of art as mere mimesis  of nature; he  perceptibly reinforced the romantic and poetic vision(s) of C.M. Brentano while experimenting with a controversial brand new sense of pure tragic (performed in a comedy). As follows, he visibly  predicted the forthcoming season of  grotesque  and fully broke with the formal melodramatic conventions of his time. Undoubtedly, numerous playwrights of the century were facing and struggling with crucial queries concerning the complex relation between actors and scripts, the challenging liaison developed among directors and actors, the shifting role of the audience and consistently of the stage. Similarly, Pirandello explored the realms of bourgeois drama, which brought on stage conservative sore themes as ordinary domestic dilemmas, adultery, incest, pending financial losses; a naturalistic drama, based on the concept of verisimiglianza or faithful reproduction of daily life. Apparently, Pirandello replicated and focused on the exact same topics, while on the contrary he was combining tragic materials with comedy, bringing bourgeois drama conventions’  to its most extreme realistic consequences, until it spontaneously burst from inside; as a result, he provided the audience with a final catharsis  that was no longer conclusive or decisive. The main roles portrayed in middleclass society (i.e. the faultless husband, the lovely yet adulterous wife, the anxious business man) were  pictured with extreme rigour, harshness and austerity. As a result, they were methodically, systematically and tragically ridiculed, until they finally demonstrated to be somehow self-contradictory, totally fabricated and completely out of context. Predominantly, in Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore  the problematical role of maternity made a visible and consistent appearance. The dominant difficulties concerning women’s lives were largely observed and examined by Pirandello, who sadly lost his own wife to mental breakdown. He wrote the comedy with a clear intent of unmasking the natural contradictions and tragic limits of naturalistic, middleclass drama. 1  Henri Bergson, Laughter: an essay on the meaning of the comic, 1900  For that reason, let’s focus primarily on the plot. Six mysterious characters brusquely arrive on stage, while a company is rehearsing a famed comedy,  Il giouco delle parti , written by Pirandello himself. They take the stage and firmly demand all the attention. They wish the actors to perform their  personal, incomplete tragedy since their scriptwriter strongly refused to complete it, as they requested. Hence, they are forced to witness and rectify the spontaneous recital of their sad, miserable lives until they obtain a favourable conclusion. Revolutionary, Pirandello here brought on stage not only a  provocative, personal drama but also the impossibility to fully portray it. The innovative and unique disposition of Pirandello ’s theatre was captured also by Antonio Gramsci, who  would sympathetically write: Luigi Pirandello è un ardito del teatro. Le sue commedie sono tante bombe a mano che scoppiano nei cervelli degli spettatori e producono crolli di banalità, rovine di sentimenti, di pensiero. 2  It is significant to remember that when Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore  was firstly presented to an audience in 1921 it proved to be a total fiasco. Suddenly, Pirandello had to defend himself from the indignation and the resentment of numerous detractors and reviewers. Truth is, he deliberately attempted to demolish the foundations of bourgeois drama: the concept of verisimiglianza  and naturalism. The audience did not experience the delight and illusion of looking at a familiar ordinary world, pictured as they expected and knew; as an alternative they observed a cruel, absurd, somehow unnatural performance that proved to be mechanical and artificial, to their eyes. Similarly, the characters presented did not possess a stable, persuasive and unitary personality. On the contrary, they seemed senseless, rigid and groundless as some sort of bizarre marionettes. A clear misinterpretation took place, as Pirandello desired to display and emphasise the exact opposite. Although, the language adopted by Pirandello rightly showed numerous distinctive inner conflicts. It was indeed a convulsive language, made of continuous suspensions, questions, exclamations. A verbal repetition of declarations that gave the wrong impression of a passionate but irrational communication, somehow distant from both reality and fiction. Moreover, for the first time the stage itself indicated a substantial, dramatic change: Troveranno gli spettatori, entrando nella sala del teatro, alzato il sipario, e il palcoscenico come è di giorno, senza quinte né scena, quasi al bujo e vuoto, perché abbiano fin dal principio l’impressione di uno spettacolo non preparato. Due scalette, un a a destra e l’altra a sinistra, metteranno in comunicazione il palcoscenico con la scala. Sul palcoscenico il cupolino del suggeritore, messo da  parte, accanto alla buca. Dall’altra parte, sul davanti, un tavolino e una poltrona con la spalliera voltata verso il pubblico, per il Direttore- Capocomico. Altri due tavolini, uno più grande, uno più piccolo, con parecchie sedie attorno, messi lì sul davanti per averli pronti, a un bisogno, per la prova. Altre sedie, qua e là, a destra e sinistra, per gli Attori, e un pianoforte in fondo, da un lato, quasi nascosto. 3  It was not, in fact, a theatrical space that pretended to be a real place, but a true, empty and nude innovative platform that, as a creative womb, gave birth to an srcinal work of art. Correspondingly, the six characters disturbed the author with a fragmentary, incomplete script and tried to persuade him to adopt a new accurate, yet improvised text. A visible case of fiction pretending to be real by means of a different fiction, this way plainly reflecting and replicating itself. Nevertheless, their lives were unique and inimitable. Above all, unbearable and impossible to be categorised, performed or meaningfully completed on stage. 2   Antonio Gramsci, Avanti!, 1917 3   Luigi Pirandello, Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, 1925    Extraordinarily, moved by human consideration and identification, the director agreed to grant them a creative pass and offered his personal understanding of their lyrical pain, plus his own company to  perform it. Though, when their lives were lastly brought on stage they proved to be, once again, a miserable tragic failure; the actors were assessed as completely unexperienced, inconceivably mediocre and totally immature, inadequate to perform their duties. This production is also a significant example of play within a play, as stated before. When Pirandello wrote the preface to his comedy he obtained a complete, different result. His true aims and intents, his own self-motivated characters were finally made understandable to the readers: Posso soltanto dire che, senza sapere d'averli punto cercati, mi trovai davanti, vivi da poterli toccare, vivi da poterne udire perfino il respiro, quei sei personaggi che ora si vedono sulla scena. E attendevano, lì presenti, ciascuno col suo tormento segreto e tutti uniti dalla nascita e dal viluppo delle vicende reciproche, ch'io li facessi entrare nel mondo dell'arte, componendo delle loro persone, delle loro passioni e dei loro casi un romanzo, un dramma o almeno una novella. Nati vivi, volevano vivere. E allora, ecco, lasciamoli andare dove son soliti d'andare i personaggi drammatici per aver vita: su un palcoscenico. 4   4   Luigi Pirandello, Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, 1925  
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