Introduction to Theatre - Chapter 004

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Theatre and Performance Studies

THE PLAYWRIGHT 29 September 2013 Wright is an old-fashioned expression for one who makes something (IE: shipwright makes ships). Playwrights work on the script, alone and without any guarantee that it will be produced, ending up with only a blue print. The playwright has no finished product. They can only hope thatotherswill be willing to finance, direct, act, produce, and promote the script. WilliamShakespeare(1564-1616) isthemostproducedplaywrightintheWesternworld,“BardofAvon.” Born in the village of Stratford-upon-Avon to the son of a glove maker. He married at the age 18 and had 3 children. He wrote his plays with certain theatres, actors, and audiences in mind, and he always wrote playsto beproduced,notread.Shakespeareunderstoodthetheatre:knewwhatwouldplayonthestage, and had an amazingly good ear for what sounded best in a theatre. Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) is a famous novelist and playwright. Born in Madison, Wisconsin, and grew up in exotic places. Hewrote TheCalaba, The Bridge ofSan Luis Rey,Our Town,The Skinof Our Teeth, The Matchmaker, and Hello, Dolly! His plays and novels are all so different from each other that it is difficult to pinpoint a particular style or theme in his work, but they all share a vivid and theatrical sense of experimentation that keeps them as fresh and effective on the stage today as when they were first written. Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) was born in Chicago’s South Side, where, although she was raised in a middleclassfamily,shewaswellawareofthelifeofAfricanAmericanslivinginthesubstandardtenement apartmentsaroundher.Hansberry’sfatherwasanearlycivilrightsactivist,andshemetseveralprominent black leaders and artists growing up. When her father tried to move the family to a restricted white neighborhood in Chicago, pickets and protests greeted them the case went to court; and the Hansberrys were evicted. She died at 34 from cancer. Johnathan Larson (1960-1996) was born in White Plains, New York, in wealthy Westchester County outside of New York City. He studied theatre but for several years he earned his living waiting on tables while writing a handful of musicals. He died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm when Rent was in its final rehearsals. The Germinal Idea is the beginning notion where a seed or a simple image serves as the departure point for developing a piece of writing. Just as a seed germinates and grows, so too does the playwright’s idea for the script. The Playwright’s Process All of Aristotle’s elements must be tackled before a play is complete:  Story  Characters  Must speak dialogue (most challenging)  Rhythm or sense of music in telling  Spectacle  Must be about something (theme) A novelist may explains how a character feels or describes what action is taking place, but a playwright must do it with dialogue. An essential to all dialogue is that it must sound right. Audiences will be hearing the words, not reading them, so a successful script must have some kind of speak-ability. Stage dialogue has to be clear and conversational, yet it must be intriguing and more interesting than everyday talk. You can read a novel, but you have to hear a play. Characters express themselves in an exciting way, using different forms of diction to reach the audience and reveal what the play is about. Plot is very different from that found in fiction. Since a play shows a story more than it tells a story, the playwright must carefully decide which episodes in a tale can be dramatized and which can be talked about in dialogue. Choosing the most dynamic moments in a story to recreate onstage is one of the playwright’s most important tasks. Plots in theatre have to be more practical than in the other narrative arts. Limited scenery and a likewise number of actors usually mean that a playwright has to compress the action of the story into key scenes that can be done onstage (IE: Shakespeare aware of these points, as the Globe was limited to afew actors,made sure no characteronstage attheend of a scenewas included in the very beginning of the next scene). It is the best way to evaluate a script in terms of Aristotle’s dramatic elements. The plot must engage the audience. Character is essential as theatre is about human action. Story can interest an audience and dialogue can intrigue them, but only through character can an audience have real empathy with a play. It is important to engage the audience with characters whom they can get involved with, even if they do not personally like them. To evaluate the playwright’s handling of characters, one can ask about their consistency and growth.Acharactershouldseemtobeconsistentwithwhattheplaywrighthasprovided,yetthereshould be the possibility for change. Fully dimensional characters grow, develop, and change during the course of the plot. Diction is the dialogue, ideas and speech pattern of the playwright for the characters. Theme is how the playwright expresses the ideas that make a great drama. The greatest plays are those that take on an important issue and turn the theme into human action that enlightens an audience. Revision and Rewriting. Plays are not written, they are rewritten, all writers revise and polish their work before it is completed, but playwrights rewrite more and longer than do other authors. Reasons for revision may be artistic or practical, but they are needed all the same. A theatre event changes each time it is recreated, and playwrights, wh
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