Desire Under the Elms

An Essential Foundation: The Role Setting Plays in American Theatre College

For the sake of the audience, a theatre production relies on a well-designed and thematically relevant setting. This is because a setting is responsible for designating the audience in a particular time and place, in addition to creating a specific social or political environment. In some plays, the setting is so detailed and ornate that it becomes a character in itself. In others, particularly in modern theatre, the set is so bare that the audience has to work with their imaginations in order to orient themselves. The setting furnishes the shaping of the plot, as well as the motivations and sometimes the personalities of the characters. But most importantly, the setting of a theatrical production is crucial for demonstrating to the audience the overarching thematic message that the playwright is trying to convey. For Eugene O'Neill, his set in Desire Under the Elms proves the importance of a home and its relationship to an individual's identity. In Thornton Wilder's Our Town, the set is vital to conveying the philosophical messages about the transience of natural life.

Something unique about Desire Under the Elms is that it is an adaptation of the Greek tragedy of Phaedra. In the legend, Phaedra falls in love with her...

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