What is a play? THEATRE, Brief Version By Robert Cohen Chapter 2
Definition A play is, essentially, what happens in theatre. It is not a thing but an event. The play is the theatre’s dran (something done). A play, unlike a drama, is ACTION, not words in a book.
Classifying plays Plays have a beginning, a middle and an end and can be classified... By duration OR By type
Duration Full-length plays are between 2 and three hours Shakespeare refers to “the three hours traffic of our stage” But in our own time plays can be almost any length Beckett’s Breathcan be performed in one minute Many popular one-act plays are ten-minute plays Stoppard’sCoast of Utopia ran 9 hours Green Day’s American Idiot runs 90 minutes According to Arthur Miller, the length of any given play is as long as it should be.
GENRE Another word for kind Genre is also the root for our word “gender” Another word meaning genre is type Characteristics of GENRE are not absolute, but it is a useful means of classifying plays
Tragedy and comedy A tragedy is a serious play with a topic of universal human import as its theme. The central character or PROTAGONIST is a person of high-rank or stature. During the play this character goes through a decline in fortune which leads to suffering or death. Identified by Aristotle in his POETICS The two most ancient forms of plays
Notable tragedies Oedipus Rex and Antigone are examples of classical Greek Tragedy Hamlet and King Lear are examples of Shakespeare tragedies Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is a modern tragedy
2012 - Revival starring Andrew Garfield and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Comedy Aristotle wrote that comedy evolved from improvised entertainments and bawdy sketches
Aristophanes wrote the first well-known comedies including the anti-war comedy LYSISTRATA
Other comic playwrights Moliere George Bernard Shaw Alan Ayckbourn Neil Simon
Many notable comedy genres Anti-play Grim comedy Tragic farce Grand guignol Satire Vaudeville
Medieval genres Interludes (secular comedies) Mystery plays (Bible stories) Morality plays (allegories)
The History Play Some say that Shakespeare invented another GENRE expemplified by such works as HENRY V
Tragicomedy Another classical form, tragicomedy is a form that bridges tragedy and comedy. Some call it a tragedy that ends happily. Examples include the Amphytrion of Plautus (Roman) or even Shakespeare’s The Tempest and All’s Well That Ends Well
Dark comedy A comic or disturbing play that ends darkly or ironically, like many Coen Brother films...
Melodrama Outwardly serious but embellished with spectacle, flamboyant dialogue, suspence and contrivance Originally accompanied by music
Modern melodrama encompasses horror and soap opera Clear delineation between good and evil and a clear resolution are shared attributes...
Farce A pure creation of the theatre where we expect the find wildly hilarious treatment of a trivial theme—mistaken identity, illicit infatuation, monetary scheming—using stock characters, stock situations, repitition, quick changes, etc.
Other forms or genres The DOCUMENTARY is exemplified by Moises Kauffman’s THE LARAMIE PROJECT Musicals will be discussed at length later
THE CONSTRUCTION OF DRAMA AND DRAMATIC PERFORMANCE In a Play, action is patterned as it is crafted in well-understood compositional patterns. We call these patterns dramaturgy.
Aristotle devised a method of describing the elements of the play… Plot is the structure of actions Characters are the agents of the plot Theme is its meaning Diction is its use of language Music Spectacle
Conventions Use of asides and soliloquys Passage of time in light or action Actors “freeze” to denote specific behavior Each era develops its own conventions
Drama’s timeline Preplay refers to the procession of the ancient Greek theatre and the gathering of the audience in the modern theatre
Exposition The background information the audience must have in order to understand what is going on in the action of the play...
Conflict Conflict and confrontation are the mechanism by which a situation becomes dramatic. Conflict is set up between characters, within them or outside of them as in melodrama.
Denouement All are punished...
Also called a RESOLUTION ...the final action or speech or even a single word or gesture indicates that the passions aroused by the entire play are now stilled...
Postplay Company bow or curtain call
Dramatic criticism... What did we think about what we just saw?
Non-Aristotelian events Focus on Theatricalism ...Not plot Old comedy Epic theatre Theatre of cruelty Happenings Clowning Postmodernism Anti-play Circus Comedy
Dramatic structure It was not invented by Aristotle, he was simply the first to describe it
Aristotelian and non-Aristotelian theatre can be valid, surprising, entertaining and more…