The Language Archive was a really lovely, romantic, tragic play and I enjoyed how beautiful the writing and language of the text was. As a reader, we got to learn and read a new language and were able to understand a deeper meaning and connection about the love and reason for language.
While I was reading this play, I couldn’t help thinking of the playwright. I was wondering; where is she from? Is English her first language? I wanted to know her experience with language and why this story had to be told. As I learned more about the playwright, Julia Cho, I find that she grew up in Los Angeles, California and English is her first language but she also has parents who were Korean immigrants. She has written many plays and won a awards for her plays; BFE, Durango, and The Language Archive. Reading up on her, it’s just incredible how she was able to come up with a beautiful way of talking about language.
“When we say a language dies, we are talking about a whole world, a whole way of life. It is the death of imagination, of memory.”
The quote above blew my mind. I couldn’t even imagine coming up with such a creative way of talking about normal everyday conversation. But it’s true. When we stop talking in own languages and the languages we have with others, those words are never found/said the same way. I just loved that!
Another interesting aspect of this play were the characters breaking the 4th wall. This happened often and throughout the play. Sometimes I love it when characters do this. In a way it’s chilling for me because I can see the character stepping out of their surroundings but also finding a way to stay present as the character. In this play, the characters would break the 4th wall but at times, the other characters could hear what they were saying to the audience. As shown in this video; Act 1 Scene 1 (20 seconds). Language Archive Scene 1
I never thought I liked plays that break the fourth wall but this one seems to be doing it so well. There are also times in the play where they break the fourth wall but it’s confusing because the other characters don’t notice. I’d like to see how they change the difference between the characters noticing and the characters not noticing and see how they portray it on stage. I always think that a play is meant to be seen and this is one of those reasons.
In the production I have posted above, there are actors I am familiar with playing the roles. Tony Amendola and Betsy Brandt I especially recognize. This production was done at the South
Coast Repertory from March 26th – April 25th, 2010. I would’ve loved to see this version of the play. I love those actors from things I’ve seen them do in film and it would be interesting to watch them perform theatre. Most of the time when you are watching film you see these amazing actors but you never get to see their stage work because it’s usually not recorded or advertised to the same extent that television is.
Mark Brokaw directed the particular production shown above. Mark won the Drama Desk Award, Obie Award, and Lucille Lortel Award as Outstanding Director for the play How I Learned to Drive. This is interesting because I’ve heard Rich Brown (Western Washington University Director) talk about his process in directing How I Learned to Drive. Naturally, I wanted to see what Mark’s process was when it comes to directing. On an interview Mark had about directing How I Learned to Drive, he says when it comes to a set he is “distrustful when everything’s already there.” Mark believes that ‘you can create a far greater spectacle from actors and words alone.’ This gave me an idea of what type of direction The Language Archive must have had with Mark directing it. I can tell when I watch the above video, there is minimal set and props. There are a few backdrops it seems but the props and set pieces aren’t extravagant and leaves room for visual and actor work.
I really enjoyed reading The Language Archive and being a dramaturgist(?) for a while. I found out a lot of fun information about the play, playwright, and previous performances just by letting myself be interested in the work. Go read The Language Archive! I hope you enjoyed what I had to say about it!
- Cho, Julia. The Language Archive. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2012. Print.
- New York Times. MARK BROKAW: A Director Who Refuses to Fill In the Blanks by Don Shewey. New York: 27 July 1997. Web 15 Mar. 2016. <http://www.donshewey.com/theater_articles/mark_brokaw_for_NYT.htm>
- South Coast Repertory. The Language Archive. Costa Mesa, CA: 26 Mar. 2010. Web 15 Mar. 2016. <http://www.scr.org/docs/default-source/media/09-10programs/archiveprog.pdf>