Article Title

Trying to Like Shaffer


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Even Peter Shaffer's detractors have praised his theatrical craftsmanship. Shaffer is without peer among contemporary dramatists in exploiting the theater's full range of expressive means, including such devices as mine, masks, gesture, music, elaborate costuming, color, special lighting, and auditory effects. In discussing his own work, Shaffer takes particular interest in the mise en scene. He has generous praise for his set designers and for those directors who contribute effective "business" during rehearsals. He revises conscientiously, aiming for dramatic clarity and visual effect. Shaffer's proper delight with his revision of a crucial scene in the second act of Amadeus is indicative. Here as Mozart's jealous rival, Antonio Salieri, attends the first production of The Magic Flute, the monumental silhouette of Mozart's father appears from inside a spectacular Light Box. According to the stage directions, "A great sun does indeed rise inside the Light Box, and standing in it the gigantic silhouette of a priestly figure extending its arms to the world in universal greeting." At the same moment, Salieri, sharing an important moral discovery with the audience, proclaims excitedly: "And in this sun-behold-I saw his father. No more an accusing figure, but forgiving! The Highest Priest of the Order-his hand extended to the world in love!"1 Of this revision Shaffer writes: "I must confess to a fondness of this new scene. It is rowdy and vigorous; it contains devices of mime which are pleasingly theatrical; it dramatizes the moment -previously only hinted at when Salieri perceives Mozart to be himself the Flute of God..."2 A magnificent scene it is indeed, for surely no one writing for today's stage is better able to visualize a dramatic moment than Peter Shaffer.

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