Essay, Research Paper: Marisol By Rivera


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Marisol, a play written by Jose Rivera, is the play I enjoyed reading the most
this semester. Rivera, one of the leading contemporary Latin American
playwrights, writes with an image. After reading Marisol, I came away with a
very specific picture of what Rivera had in mind. He easily combines the
realistic moments of life, the dangers of the Bronx, dealing with an emotionally
unstable young man, Lenny, and the friendships developed with those we work
with, with his world on the verge of apocalypse where the mundanities of life we
take for granted have changed. Marisol has elements of pure theology where
Rivera's own possible musings are written in to his characters. These elements
include the appearance of Marisol's guardian angel in Marisol's dreams, the
threat to Marisol's life in the form of a woman turned to a pile of salt and the
smoke from a fire in Ohio blocking the sun in New York City. These all occur in
the first act before the War of the Heavens begins. This play was written in the
early nineties, copyright 1992, 1994, and revised and copyrighted 1999. Rivera
was very specific in his stage directions and overall views of the design and
production of the play in order to facilitate his image. These stage directions
and other designs should be followed by the people producing his play in order
to produce the image the play means to impart to the audience. He poises a gold
crown, suspended in the air over the set, over the actors, over all of his
creation, signifying God. But this crown, this God, remains motionless, remains
detached from all the proceedings. To support his unnervingly imminently
apocalyptic world, the mundanities that we would take for granted that are
missing from Marisol's world, like the moon and the extinction of coffee, are
dropped to the audience in a conversation between June, a co-worker and
Marisol's best friend, and Marisol at work(Rivera 22-23). To accomplish the
subtlety of unnerving the audience, Rivera gives a perfect office building; two
desks, a radio, books, papers, the New York Post (Rivera 20) contrasting
perfectly with the utter absurdity of facts pouring out of their mouths. This
show should be done in a small theatre, and for design explanations, I will use
the Studio Theatre at Towson University. This will allow the action to be
closest to the audience, including them in the show. The set would consist of
three brick walls painted directly onto the walls of the theatre. The wall
behind the center rows of seats would remain black due to seat proximity. The
back wall of the staging area (backing the scene shop) would be painted to the
rafters , leaving the balcony itself black but the wall behind the upper balcony
painted. The wall would have faux windows with iron gates on them running
horizontally at about four feet above the floor. The two side walls would also
have brick running up above the balcony. The two side walls would be completely
masked by a black dropcloth for the first act. There would be two wagons used in
Act One, neither bigger than 8 feet (which I am guessing to be the width of the
scene shop door). The graffiti'd poem, "The moon carries the souls of dead
people to heaven./The new moon is dark and empty./It fills up every month/with
glowing new souls/and carries its silent burden to God./Wake Up." (Rivera,
9) will be painted on the scene shop door which will remain closed. All
entrances and exits will be from the four studio doors. The exterior door of the
studio will be Marisol' s apartment door and have a series of locks she will
lock behind her. It will only be used once. There will be a ladder from the
balcony to the floor that the angel will use for her entrances. It will lock
onto the bars for support. On one of the wagons will be June's kitchen, and the
other will be Marisol's apartment, including bed, table, lamp, and clock (Rivera
12). The office will be downstage with the two desks, chairs and props wheeled
in from opposing house doors and meeting in the middle. The gold crown will hang
from the upstage center of the theatre. Act Two will see the removal of the two
wagons to the scene shop during intermission and the removal of the two black
drops from the side brick wall paintings. The addition of various and asundry
trash cans, trash, and piles of junk will help to transform the studio during
intermission. There are three sections of sidewalk making an "I" shape
onstage, running across the backwall, down centrestage and across the foot of
the stage area. The ladder between Marisol and her angel will also disappear.
This should complete the feeling of being in a familiar, yet completely
different place, which is where Marisol ends up. Costumes for Marisol are
relatively simple, the play being a contemporary piece, yet again, in some
places Rivera leaves very specific instructions. Marisol wears a simply cut but
very nice dress with a long winter coat with matching scarf and gloves. She will
change into flannel pajamas in the third scene in act one. For work the next day
she wears a suit, but she looks not quite as well put together as she did in the
first outfit. Her hair is pulled back, but almost unkempt. Her scarf is crooked
and there is a run in her stockings. Later that day, she changes clothing when
she packs to move in with June. She is wearing jeans with running shoes, a shirt
with a sweater over it. Those are the same clothes she wears through the end of
the play. Rivera maps out both of Angel's costumes. The first act sees Angel in
"ripped jeans, sneakers and black T-shirt. Crude silver wings dangle limply
from the back of the Angel's diamond-studded black leather jacket." (Rivera
9) At the end of act one, Angel has changed. "The Angel wears regulation
military fatigues, complete with face camouflage and medals… The Uzi is
strapped to her back." (Rivera 35) The Man with Golf Club is simply wearing
rags, "a filthy black T-shirt and ripped jeans…His shoes are rags"
(Rivera 10) June has short red hair, gelled in a spiky hairdo. She has a nose
ring and many earrings. She wears a calf length flared skirt in green, slit on
both sides up to the knee with brown calf high boots with thick heels. A brown
button up shirt with big cuffs and a matching green shirt underneath. Her dark
gray peacoat is thrown over her chair. Later in act two she is dressed like a
skinhead, her short hair slicked down, with black army boots, beat up green army
jacket and surplus pants. Woman in Furs is dressed in a dirty fur coat with silk
pajamas and matching high heels. Man with Scar Tissue is in a wheelchair,
wearing "shredded, burnt rags. He wears a hood which covers his head and
obscures his face. He wears sunglasses and gloves." (Rivera 41) Lighting in
this show in act one could be limited to area washes mostly. There will be light
amber and amber gels interspersed with non gelled lights. There would be a dim
series upstage for in the subway. There is a special at the top of the ladder
for Angel. There is a section for Marisol's apartment, the office and June's
apartment. There will be several white Frenels for effects, like in I iv when
the woman outside Marisol's door turns to salt. There will be a red special to
mix in for when the angel drops her wings of peace. During intermission all the
previously non gelled washes will be gelled primary blue to lend an unusual and
different feel to the second act. Marisol by Jose Rivera is a play requiring
some very specific elements from the designers in order to stay true to the
author's image. This unnerving image of reality gone wrong in a pre-apocalyptic
world carries the audience through the play by being close to them and dragging
the audience into his vision too.

BibliographyRivera, Jose. "Tape" Humana Festival '93: The Complete Plays.Ed.
Marisa Smith. Smith and Kraus:1993. 211-218. Rivera, Jose. Marisol. New York,
NY: Dramatist's Play Service, Inc, 1999
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