The Concept of Meta-theatre in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Six Characters in Search of an Author puts the theatre and its processes themselves stage. The play is an allegory of the theatre. In the play, the playwright introduces some characters who call themselves characters. Those characters extensively talk about their drama with the manager. Six characters tell that the drama they have been carrying within them can't be enacted on the conventional theatre.

Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936)

Moreover, six characters add their drama can't be enacted by actors on the traditional theatre with its own usual theatrical accoutrements and costumes. The director responds that theatre is the place in which a drama is performed and only actors can perform drama. To this assumption six characters, particularly the stepdaughter and the father retorted by saying that actors can't penetrate the depth of characters inner, passions and aspirations. 

From this bit of action in the play we come to realize that the central issue the play deals with is the theatre. In choosing the theatre as its subject the play brings into light the limitations of the then theatre. To perform the sexual encounter between the stepdaughter and the Father, the manager and second Lady Lead were worried about the absence of Madame pace. To stage the scene of the sexual encounter between stepdaughter and the Father, the presence of Madame Pace was necessary. The manager advised Leading Lady to impersonate Madame pace. But the father vehemently opposed any idea of impersonating characters by actors to fulfill the absence of Madame pace, the Father asked the actress to hang their hats and mantles on the set's clothes pegs. By putting them on the show, they will lure Madame Pace with the very articles of their trade. Pace appears from the rear. The birth of Madame Pace is described by the Father as an exercise in the magic of the stage itself. The leading Lady denounced this process of producing Madame pace as vulgar trick.

This debate the father and the Leading lady over the birth of Madame Pace out of the theatrical props and accoutrements reveals the self-referential nature of the play. To the father (character) the true theatre must be denuded of its constraining convention. Only the theatre denuded of stripped of its confining convention can enable characters to be born on the play which is about, to undergo enactment. The father maintains that-characters can get born out an urgent fantasy and insistent wish exactly like Madame Pace got born out of the sheer necessity of the theatre.

Elsewhere in the play we come across both six characters and the manager together with actors debating over what kind of theatre would be conducive to the enactment of the play. It seems theatre is the subject about which those characters who are on the theatre in the play discuss extensively. The manager is on the stage. Characters (the stepmother and the father) are on the stage. They directly or indirectly associated with theatrical process. But they talk about what the theatre should be, that is what is exactly called meta-theatre. The Play mirrors theatrical practices undergoing on theatre. That is why this play is called the theatre of the theatre. 

The distinguishing feature of Six Characters in Search of an Author is its self-referential. In the second Act, we come across the manager (a theatre personnel) dividing the drama of the stepdaughter and the Father into Acts. This shows explicitly that the play is a play preoccupied with in what sort of theatre the drama of six characters could be performed. The talk about theatre, the theatrical discussion as to the best way of enacting the lived emotions of characters jointly occupies the center of the play. Hence it is a meta-theatre.

Related Topics

Six Characters in Search of an Author: Introduction

Six Characters in Search of an Author: Summary

The Relation between the Creator and the Created in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Modernism in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Scientific and Philosophical Theories of Relativity in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Art and Life in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Relationship between Characters and Actors in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Illusion and Reality in Six Characters in Search of an Author

Luigi Pirandello: Biography