Theatre as Visual Rhetoric
In Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics,” he defines art as both “any human activity that doesn’t grow out of EITHER of our species two basic instincts: survival and reproduction” (164), and “the way we assert our identities as individuals and break out of the narrow roles nature cast us in” (166). Although McCloud was discussing graphic novels in his work, I think that these quotes and his argument apply to any type of visual rhetoric. As a former theatre minor at Marquette, I have had the opportunity to be privy to this argument in the form of theatre. Watching a play unfold onstage has an effect on the participating audience, largely due to the intricacies of each scene. While a good play must start out with a good script, there are specific visual elements that help create an argument and make an audience feel a certain way in a play. I am going to use theatre and some of the components of McCloud’s Definition of Artistic Process to show how visual rhetoric is just as effective and important as textual rhetoric.
In McCloud’s Definition of Artistic Process, he breaks down visual rhetoric into seven components, the first being the idea or content of the piece. In theatre, this component is the script which is used as a framework for the entire play. Reading a script is much like reading a story, except it typically strips the story down to just dialogue and some stage directions. The second component of McCloud’s Process is form, or the genre of the piece. A script can be performed a multitude of different ways, but one way that is very common is a dramatic reading. This allows the piece to be performed without stage direction, and usually with the actors sitting and reading from a piece that they have rehearsed. This is where I find visual rhetoric winning out-although an audience can capture some of the author’s intentions through a dramatic reading, the audience is not as affected by it as they would be if it was done...
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