Playwriting

The Final Project: What Makes Good Theatre

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I have an outline of the play I am going to write for the final project and I decided to divide it into 5 scenes. I am very scared and I feel like I am not good enough – but I guess that’s part of the process. But what do I need to write a good play? It will be very short, first of all, which is good to help us  focus on the quality rather than on the quantity.  The first suggestion that we were given was to be open minded and curious. In class, we have talked about getting inspired from different things. Professor Musgrave told us that walking is a great source for the writer. Walking, observing and listening to people means to let the world talk to you. If we want to be good writers, we have to be in a state of  opening our mind.

Of course, it is very difficult to say what makes us good theatre writers, also because it is very difficult to say what good theatre is and what makes good theatre. One of the first things to keep in mind when writing plays is that the audience does not have a priviledged access to characters’ minds as instead can happen in novels. The audience only knows what the reader can see, which is, what characters do and say. Therefore, a character needs to express a lot through actions and words rather than thoughts.

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The audience needs to be fully committed to the story and to what happen and to suspend its disbelief:  theatre only exists in a bubble of space where a group of people are acting a story in a room. Bertold Brecht was a naturalist and said that theatre should imitate reality. Therefore, the limitations of theatre, that “bubble of space”, must be considered as freedom to the writer. T.S. Eliot set  Murder in the Cathedral in the famous Cathedral of Canterbury… which I think a good example that shows how everything is possible in theatre. But what else does theatre need to be good?

I find classes about being inspired by walking, reading and observing objects very useful, but of course inspiration is not the only thing that a writer needs. Also because sometimes you can’t just write when you want and as you want. The good playwright needs a deep knowledge of the space of stage and, of course, needs to write a great script. He or she may also need a good audience and of course good actors. Actors can involve the audience in the play, and the audience had a great role also in the past. In Othello, for example, the audience wanted to prevent Desdemona to die. The audience is an amazing tool. People share emotions. Comment on what’s happening.

The playwright needs to face the structural problems of a play, the composition and the representation of the elements of drama. This is called dramaturgy, and if a play is said to be dramaturgically incoherent, then it means that it is structurally incoherent. This is something else that I need to consider in the writing of my project. It feels like hard work.

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