05 May 2017

Constructed Action

by Cecily
Here's a video I like watching:

Besides watching it, I also like thinking about it. Almost enough to make me want to write a Discourse Analysis paper about it. But not quite. I'll totally write a Discourse Rambling Observations blog post, though.

There's a lot going on in this song, discourse-wise, even before you get to the ASL version. Multiple times and places and Mental Spaces! It's a complex setup that is very elegantly conveyed with minimal overt description or explanation- both in the song's English lyrics and also in this ASL rendition.

The main, current-tense event is Bridesmaid-Angelica leading some toasts at Eliza and Alexander's wedding. That's "now" in the musical; the grounding framework for the song. Within that, Narrator-Angelica steps out of time to reminisce about the night she, Eliza, and Alexander all met (at a revel, on a hot night). Narrator-Angelica has some comments to make about this night, but also allows Revel-Night-Angelica to tell her own story and also comment on the (current-to-her) procedings.

Container-story: Bridesmaid-Angelica is asked to give a toast, and does so. Mid-toast, she allows Narrator-Angelica to reflect on a previous occasion.
Narrative/Commentary: Narrator-Angelica is aware of (maybe becomes aware of?) the significance of the night in the past when the Schuylers met Hamilton for the first time, leading to the current container-story wedding and toast.
Revel-Night-Angelica describes meeting Hamilton, falling for him, gauging his suitability, noticing her sister's infatuation, and introducing Alexander to Eliza. She steps in and out of the action here, sometimes participating (Revel-Night-Angelica) and sometimes commenting (Revel-Night-Narrator-Angelica).
But it's not just the four phases of Angelica being depicted in this song- Revel-Night-Eliza and Revel-Night-Hamilton also appear, in first person. So in both the English and the ASL versions of the song, the performers (Renée Elise Goldsberry and Josh Castille) are, from within the role of current-time-wedding-Angelica, taking on a number of additional roles. However, in the English rendition, the actors portraying Eliza and Hamilton use their own voices to play themselves in the past-Revel-Night sequence. In the ASL version, the lone performer manages to portray not just the various Angelicas but also Eliza and Hamilton, with no costume changes or anything.

Josh Castille has some chops! The translation is excellent, and his performance is excellent, and also this dude has like the most expressive face the universe has ever known. Here are my favorite moments:
  • 3:03 Angelica being a snot-head to Alexander. Her refusal to look at him (and obvious concern that someone else might be watching) is a very convincing addition to the song's content.
  • 4:00-4:10 Angelica noticing Eliza being in love. In particular I am very fond of the heart-shaped-eyes at 4:08.
  • Alexander at 5:02. I laughed out loud the first time I watched this- it's dead-on Generic Straight Dude Showing Off signing for about 3 seconds. (The rest of the time, Alexander is much more of a real, individual person.)
There are lots of other nice moments and translation decisions and facial expressions, too, but I think the most impressive aspect overall is the clarity of the (frequent, very fast-paced) switches between characters. Camerawork helps with some of that, but it's mostly very well-thought-out decisions about posture and eye gaze, plus the thing about the most expressive face in the universe. And he probably practiced a few times.

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