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And They Dance Real Slow In Jackson

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The play is set in a fictional town in Indiana called Jackson. It is centered on a girl’s life from age five to age twenty-six named Elisabeth. This girl has a disability called cerebral palsy and is unable to move her legs, so she is confined to a wheelchair. The play shows the audience scenes from her life and those having to do with her life. These scenes include her consciousness, acted out by an ensemble of characters; other children’s interactions with her and conversations about her; situations that her parents are faced with; and townspeople’s thoughts and conversations about her plight.

The director’s staging played an important part in clearly conveying the action. One obvious example of the directors input was the location of Elisabeth’s bedroom at the top of the two story stage. This helped the audience understand her seclusion from the world and an inner solitude that grows with time. Most of the time that Elisabeth had to interact with other characters, she would have to yell down the stairs or out the window in a desperation effort to communicate with someone. The staging of the head moose upon directing his fellow moose counsel was brilliantly staged upstage front and seemed to be addressing the audience, making them feel like a part of the play. The consciousness ensemble was also well directed in their moans and hand motions as well as the lighting scheme, seeming to make it obvious that the scene was out of reality.

The director’s apparent unifying metaphor was that a person who is bound to a wheel chair is like an invalid and shouldn’t interact with “normal” children, shouldn’t hold a normal job, and is somewhat similar to a ghost or the supernatural. Elisabeth is viewed by most adults in the play as more of a problem in life than a human being. The children by the river even come up with the idea that she can unscrew her legs and send them on missions of hate and destruction. The fact that the townspeople misconceive her condition only adds to the pain and suffering that she has known all of her life, not being able to perform physically.

The play achieved a good tempo and moved along from scene to scene well. There was no boredom in the audience to indicate otherwise. The mood of the play effectively changed from scene to scene well also. There was some intrigue felt by other children and townspeople, abandonment felt by Elisabeth, some farcical explanations of the girl and her situation, and also some helpfulness expressed by townspeople and her parents, as well as the over protection expressed by her mother. All of these moods in the play fit together nicely and helped achieve the purpose of the play.

Overall, the actors in the play did a good job. They meshed well with each other and were very audible and understandable. One of the stand-outs in the play was Amanda Sullivan. She played the role of Beth, Elisabeth’s mother. She was physically a good mother figure. Her voice was perfect for the role as were her actions and movements onstage. Joanna Massey was another actor who stood out to me. She played a child named Nancy who’s dainty little-girl-like actions fit the script perfectly. Her flippant actions and fitting voice successfully conveyed her psychological attributes and motivations. These and other actors who performed well made the play more enjoyable as well as more believable. None of the actors failed to fulfill their character’s personality, and this is very important for a successful production.

The scenery was made up of three three dimensional platforms. The large one in the middle had two different levels, the top of which was Elisabeth’s bedroom. There was another to the right and one to the left that only had stairs leading up to one level. The scenery was never changed and it was abstract in that there was hardly any props or changes from scene to scene, so the audience had to imagine the different settings of the play. This was not difficult, however, and can be contributed to the great job of acting and directing.

The costume designer did a great job in characterizing each role with a costume. Most of the little girls wore sundresses that detailed their characters well. Beth wore a very conservative skirt and blouse with dress shoes and a makeup design characteristic of a middle aged mother. Ben wore a uniform with his name embroidered on it to symbolize a working american father. When in a scene together, it was obvious that they were a married couple. Another costume that fit well was Billy’s who wore blue jeans and baseball sleeves with some type of sneakers representing a normal kid. The preacher in the scene of Zelda’s funeral wore a nice grey suit. None of the costumes noticeably inhibited movement of the actors and Nancy’s sundress seemed to enhance her ability to skip around like a little girl. Overall, costumes and makeup helped the audience to recognize the purpose of each character and helped the understanding of the play.

The sound that was involved in the production was made up of a slow horn that created a somber mood and usually indicated entrance into and exit from the consciousness of Elisabeth. This helped the audience to realize that this was coming and fit well with this dramatic action. The lighting designer was very effective in using light to contribute to the production. For the most part, the lights were normal color and were either directed to the top of the platform or on the stage, wherever the action was taking place. At the beginning of the play, the stage was dark, and along with the horn, a somber mood was produced. Other than that, outdoors scenes were indicated by lights projected to the left and right of the stage with shadows of leaves and sticks. Also, when Beth was visiting the center in Evansville, the lighting designer shone a light with the shadow of a window that was effective in visualizing that they were indoors. Another interesting way that light was used was to indicate a change in reality during Elisabeth’s consciousness scenes. Different color lights such as yellow and red were used for this effect. They clearly indicated to the audience that the actors had left reality.

The apparent goals of the production were to point out the psychological situation that people with disabilities can face as well as to possibly create a change in the attitude of the audience toward the handicapped by showing the situation from both sides. This was accomplished with an effective collaboration on the parts of the director, scenic designer, lighting designer, and costume designer.

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