Dr. Dennis Razze, Director of Theatre at DeSales University, recently spoke to English classes at Lehighton Area High School. He addressed the seniors on the literary and theatrical elements of horror.
The presentation was coordinated by substitute Librarian Jo Lynn Gazo and English teacher Sharon Leitzel. A 1999 graduate of DeSales, Gazo said, "I think it's important for students to realize the importance of literature and how it relates to theatre, dance, etc."
Discussing the theatre dating back to ancient Greece, Razze said that tragedies were written in order to scare the audience and elicit a certain emotion. He explained how literature can bring us to see that we all have flaws, can make bad choices, and become a monster.
"Horror and tragedies play on our irrational side. It's in all of us. The Greeks and Shakespeare knew that we have to balance the rational and irrational," said Razze. "We need to achieve balance as human beings."
Citing examples, Razze described how the actor onstage in the production of "Passion of Dracula" turned into a bat and flew over the audience. The audience would scream, gasp, and then laugh. "We love to be scared. It relieves tension," contends Razze. He explained how doing something like this in front of a live audience is much harder than doing the same in the movies.
Horror became popular in the 1800s with "Dracula" and "Frankenstein." Playing scary music in the background helped to create suspense and terror. This began the melodrama – the combination of music and drama. Today, melodrama is the most popular form of entertainment.
Razze has directed more than 50 productions at DeSales and has been awarded certificates of merit from the American College Theatre Festival for his direction of "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Music Man," and " Oklahoma !"
He is also a composer who has created musical scores for "The Tempest," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Twelfth Night," "Romeo and Juliet," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and Act 1's production of "Antigone."
In addition to being Director of Theatre at DeSales University , Razze is also Associate Artistic Director of The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. For PSF, he has directed "1776," "Cyrano de Bergerac" (for which he also wrote the score), "Amadeus," "My Fair Lady," and "Man of La Mancha." In addition, he directed Act 1's "Sunday in the Park with George" last spring.
This coming summer, he plans to direct the production of "Sweeney Todd." Based on Christopher Bond's 1973 play "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street," this musical tells the story of a barber who becomes a murderer bent on revenge. His partner in crime, Nellie Lovett, is a baker who disposes of the bodies by baking them into her pies. Lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim
For additional information about the Theatre Department at DeSales University, visit www.DeSales.edu.