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Featured Pages: Oscar Wilde
The dramatic structure (composition) and the elements of drama are the LAWS we study.
Search & ReSearch!
The pages of the book come from several directories and websites. Most of the Theatre Theory is not organized. Most of the pages are from the Script Directory, which I used for THR215 Dramatic Literature and Playscript Analysis classes. The pages on "formal elements of drama" are from the 200X Aesthetics course (Aristle and the Basics of Drama Theory).
This Fall (2000) I direct "The Importance of Being Earnest" and therefore we start with Oscar Wilde and the concept of well-made-play.
If you want to make a sense of the project, see the syllabus and the textbook (Modern Drama by W.B. Worthen), last 100 years: from Ibsen to Post-Beckett.
* The Compact Bedford Intro to Drama (textbook) *
Script Directory is organized into pages by playwrights, but of course we do use comparative analysis, when we talk about topics (themes).
Individual and society (see Self), Man and Woman (Gender), Family, Generational conflict and etc.
This directory is to help to see the common, the difference and continuety in history of drama.
Also, there are historical periods with specific ideologies and aesthetics. (Marxism, for instance).
History of Theatre classes are recommended. General knowledge of literature, art, western civilization, philosophy... The more, the better.
Use 200X Aesthetics for the basic definitions (in addition to dictionary and glossary).
Here is the table to overview the six different fields we have to cover: [ no table ]
This is a new directory -- therefore it'll take some time for pages to mature. The basic aim is the comparative analysis: "death" in Hamlet and in Beckett, "family" in O'Neill and Williams -- and so on. Simple? Yes, we are to use the same methods to understand diffrerent scripts.
See another "thematic" directory @ Film600 (with some postmodern tendencies).
.... [ Will the philosophers help or only confuse the students? ]
Read and reread Hamlet
6. Steps in Analysis.
Vertical vs. Horizontal Analysis.
Three Fundamental Questions.
The Three Readings.
The Final Analysis.
Analysis for Directors and Actors.
Analysis for Designers.
A Few Last Words.
[ from "Page and Stage" ]
2002-2003: Don Juan by Moliere
"Fighting: Fighting of all kinds, whether hand to hand or with high tech weapons, is the easiest way to grab the attention of an audience. It is less risky to have actors fight on film than live, and exploding cars and other pyrotechnics are impractical on the stage. Therefore fighting is more common (some would say epidemic) in film and television, though playwrights have also used it through the centuries. Shakespeare, after all, began Romeo and Juliet with a street brawl and a stabbing. In any case, this kind of overt conflict almost magically galvanizes audience attention. But there is a fatigue factor--it cannot be sustained indefinitely. Even the most skillful action sequence must end before the audience becomes sated and its attention wanders.
Argument: Almost as powerful as fighting is the argument. It can range anywhere from a mild disagreement to an in-your-face shouting match. A good argument is essentially a fight with words. In fact, today we speak of verbal abuse as being on a par with physical abuse. It is hard to imagine any dramatic material that does not contain an argument of some kind. Since it involves language rather than hardware, it has the added advantage of developing character as well as introducing ideas and facts that further the plot. Good writers use an argument to get characters to reveal thoughts that they otherwise would conceal. An emotional argument gives an excuse for their characters to reveal inner states of mind without seeming artificial and "stagy."
Confrontation : Confrontation occurs when one character or group encounters an opposing one. The appearance of Indians silhouetted on the hills above the cavalry column, or the arrival of a man's ex-wife at a party with her new boyfriend is a form of conflict that requires neither physical nor verbal action. Tension is generated because the audience is unsure what will happen and empathasizes with the discomfort of the characters.
Tension/Suspense : Such confrontational conflict may even be indirect, as in the case of two characters who are in close proximity but are unaware of one another. The audience experiences tension or suspense as they anticipate a potential confrontation.
Moral/Intellectual : The most subtle and profound form is moral and intellectual conflict. It not only exists as a form of conflict on its own, but underlies all the more overt physical forms as well. For instance, we respond viscerally to the fighting between the Americans and Germans in Saving Private Ryan, but the moral struggle between the Nazis and Allies gives the conflict deeper meaning. On the other hand, there are writers who use their characters as little more than mouthpieces for their own ideas. At worst such plays can become more like debates or propaganda than drama. At best they can move society forward. Such plays have their origin in the late 1800s with the "thesis plays" of Emile Zola in which he argues for his humanist social agenda. Then came the "problem plays" of Henrik Ibsen such as An Enemy of the People in which environmental pollution is made an issue on stage for the first time. George Bernard Shaw's "plays of ideas" such as Mrs. Warren's Profession which argued for tolerance of prostitution also fall into this category. A more recent example from this period, although based on a novel, is the musical adaption of Les MisÚrables in which the injustice suffered by the underclasses is portrayed. Moral conflict may not always be a writer's safest choice. Some have suggested that the television sitcom, Ellen, suffered loss of viewers and cancellation when it subtly shifted its focus from light entertainment to moral issues and controversial ideas.
Dramatic Conventions : A convention is an accepted or usual way of doing things--the conventional way. Some dramatic conventions are based on necessity, and others on style. For instance, it was a convention of the nineteenth century theatre to illuminate the auditorium as well as the stage. This was a necessity since the gas lighting of the era was too dim to use as spotlights, thus the whole theatre had to be lit in order make enough light to see the stage clearly. On the other hand, a convention of Japan's Kabuki theatre allows stagehands dressed in black to appear on stage during a performance to assist actors with props and costumes. They are disregarded by the audience and considered to be "invisible." Since their function could be accomplished by less obvious means, it is clearly a convention of style rather than of necessity. Other common conventions of today's theatre are the dimming of lights to indicate the passage of time, and the aside: the practice of actors turning toward the audience to make comments while other actors on stage are oblivious to them. This last convention even appears in some films such as Matthew Broderick's mugging and comments to the camera in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Time Limitations : How long can a play be? The simple answer is: as long as it is physically possible for an audience to remain seated. The length of plays has varied widely over the centuries. In ancient Greece the audience would spend the better part of each day for several days watching tragedies. But today's audience has been conditioned to a shortened attention span by television's 30 to 60-minute time slots interrupted frequently by commercial breaks. The theatre also has a "short form" known as the one-act play, but several of these are usually performed together to make up a full evening's entertainment. Today producers are offering more and more 90-minute plays, such as comedian Steve Martin's successful Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Most plays or films today fall into the one-and-a-half to three hour range, but there are exceptions. There have been some notable play marathons in recent years. Nicholas Nickleby, based on the Charles Dickens novel, and The Kentucky Cycle each took about six hours to perform. Such marathons are usually offered either in two segments with a dinner break between, or on successive nights. A skillful filmmaker who can strongly engage the attention and emotions of an audience can also push the time limit envelope--not too many people walked out of Schindler's List because they found its three and a quarter hours excessively lengthy. As a general rule, the longest stage plays tend to be either classics or musicals. Classics, because they were written for an age when people were prepared to listen intently for long periods, and musicals because they augment dialogue with music, dance, and scenic spectacle for added interest.
Another facet of time limitation is the length of time that is depicted within the story. Again, the simple answer would seem to be that as much time can be portrayed as is necessary to tell the story. However, the answer has not always been that simple. In the seventeenth century, critics believed that one of their most important jobs was the establishment of rules for good playwriting. They looked for inspiration to great playwrights of the ancient past who, like Sophocles, often carried out their plots within one day. Playwrights struggled against the resulting "twenty-four hour rule" for centuries.
Space Limitations : Films are not limited by space the way a stage play is. The film director need only transport the camera to whatever location is required for each scene. To perform a similar function in the theatre, the entire stage space itself must be transformed. It is also true that no stage production, no matter how detailed the scenery, can ever do more than suggest reality when compared to a film shot on location. The degree of surface realism is one of the true distinctions between stage and film. On the other hand, one of the real pleasures of watching a big production musical like The Lion King, is to see how director Julie Taymor has brilliantly used imaginative staging and rather simple materials to suggest the scope and majesty of Africa and all its creatures despite the space limits of a stage. However, the economic constraints of today's theatre being what they are, there is pressure on playwrights to write plays that require only a single setting in order to save on production costs. Yet, most any play can be performed with a few simple pieces of furniture in front of black draperies--most films could not. This is possible because the content of plays is essentially verbal while that of films essentially visual. The modes of dramatic art reflect their heritage: theatre as a branch of literature, and film as an extension of photography.
It is tempting to add Text Limitations to our list. The convention of theatre is that only dialogue may be used. Narrative description is to be kept to a bare minimum. The screen is much more accomodating of narration to accompany its primarily pictorial content." [ http://homepage.mac.com/roberthuber/school/1delec15b.html ]
Film-North * Anatoly Antohin.