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proto-absurdist and Nobel Prize winner Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters In Search Of An Author is one of theatre's first metafictions. Bizarre and controversial in its day, audience members supposedly shouted out "Madhouse!" during its first performance because it was so unlike anything they had ever seen on stage.The first scene starts with an acting company beginning rehearsals for another of Pirandello's plays Il Gioco delle Parti (The Game of Roles). This goes fine until six strange people appear on stage. They claim to be characters of Pirandello's from a play he never bothered to finish. The Manager at first thinks they're crazy but, after some convincing, agrees to put their play on stage so they may finally have an end to their tale.Though generally only ever gathered through snippets of dialogue throughout the play, we learn about the characters and their relationships with each other; The Father and The Mother separate after The Mother falls in love with another man. The Son, their child, is forced to go live in the country. The Mother has The Boy and The Child with this other man man but after his death, the family falls into poverty and moves back to the town. The Mother's Step Daughter is forced to become a prostitute to keep her family afloat and unknowingly sleeps with The Father. The Father learns about The Mother's financial situation and takes her back into his house along with her children, The Step Daughter and The Son. However due to The Son's cold nature towards his half siblings, The Child drowns, and The Boy who tried to save her shoots himself in despair. Or at least this is what was meant to happen if the story had been finished.In the second scene things get an little complicated as the characters watch the company's attempts to re-create their lives. They complain that the actors look nothing like them, that the set looks nothing like the scenes where their story took place, and generally that the company is "doing it all wrong!" The biggest complaint is on the part of The Step Daughter. She and her step-father unintentionally have an affair, but when she starts describing this scene, the Manager stops her insisting that there is no way they could stage this. The Step Daughter is furious because this is an essential part of her character arc, and there's no way her story can be told without it. What is real and what is part of the play begins to blur by the end of the scene.The final scene is a rehearsal of the final scene. The Characters complain that the Company can't replicate the emotion of the scene as the The Child drowns and The Boy shoots himself. This scene would be devastating if the end weren't the manager getting fed up with the bizarreness of the scene and saying, "To hell with it all. Never in my life has such a thing happened to me. I've lost a whole day over these people, a whole day!"Six Characters explores the nature of literature, theatre, realism, character and author. The play can be downloaded from hereWritten by Italian
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