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Chapter 3: The Playwright.


Chapter 3: The Playwright. The nature of playwriting, the qualities that make a fine play, and the process and career of playwriting. Playwriting credits Suzan-Lori ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Chapter 3: The Playwright.

Chapter 3 The Playwright.
  • The nature of playwriting, the qualities that
    make a fine play, and the process and career of

What does a playwright do?
  • The playwright provides the point of origin for
    nearly every play production...the script.
  • More and more today, the role of the playwright
    is to write the play and then to disappear
  • Todays playwright is considered an independent
    artist whose work is executed primarily in

Some notable playwrights
Sophocles 497-406 BCE
William Shakespeare 1564-1616
Notable American playwrights
Notable European playwrights
21st Century Americans
Tony Kushner Neil La Bute
Sarah Ruhl
Suzi Lori Parks
We are all playwrights
  • As dreamers, we are all beginning playwrights

Aspects of playwriting
  • Drama is a form of literature and as such many
    consider it to be a literary activity
  • Although the words write and wright are homonyms,
    their meanings differ
  • A playwright makes plays as a wheelwright makes
    wheels or a cartwright makes carts
  • So, although a literary art, playwriting is much
    more than an arrangement of words, rather it is a
    blueprint for a play

Examples of the playwrights craft
  • Oh! Oh! Oh! (Shakespeares OTHELLO)
  • Howl, howl, howl, howl! (KING LEAR)
  • The above are more than text, they are pretexts
    for great acting...
  • Playwrights use formal literary values that are
    fully integrated into the whole of the theatrical

Playwriting as event writing
  • The core of the play is action...the ordering of
    observable events that can be dramatized
  • A series of events forms a PLOT which are
    expressed using the playwrights tools
  • Fundamentally, the playwright works with two
  • Dialogue
  • Physical action

Events of a play are linked
  • Chronologically (cause and effect) as in
    realistic theatre. Such plays are CONTINUOUS in
    structure and LINEAR in chronology
  • Many plays are discontinuous and nonlinear as
    were many of our classic plays which were
    character-driven and episodic
  • Shakespeares plays shift, time, place and action
  • Modern and postmodern audiences accept whatever
    structure the play requires

Qualities of a fine play
Credibility and intrigue
Death of a Salesman
Peter Pan
  • CREDIBILITY is the audience imposed demand that
    the plays actions and characters flow logically
    and believably
  • INTRIGUE is that quality of a play that makes us
    curious to know what will happen next

  • A line of dialogue should be written so that it
    achieve its maximum impact when in
    this example from Shaws MAJOR BARBARA
  • UNDERSHAFT hugely tickled You don't say so!
    What! no capacity for business, no knowledge of
    law, no sympathy with art, no pretension to
    philosophy only a simple knowledge of the secret
    that has puzzled all the philosophers, baffled
    all the lawyers, muddled all the men of business,
    and ruined most of the artists the secret of
    right and wrong. Why, man, you're a genius,
    master of masters, a god! At twenty-four, too!

  • A STAGEABLE script is one which staging and stage
    business are not adornments but essentials

  • A play that continuously says something to the
    audience and is not constantly interrupted by
    changes of scenery, shifts in time, or too many
    act breaks (intermissions)

  • Depth, subtlety, fineness, quality, wholeness and
    inevitability. Here is an example from Margaret
    Edsons Pulitzer-Prize winning play WIT
  • VIVIAN. I dont mean to complain, but I am
    becoming very sick. Very, very sick. Ultimately
    sick, as it were. In everything I have done, I
    have been steadfast, resolutesome would say to
    the extreme. Now, as you can see, I am
    distinguishing myself in illness....What we have
    come to think of as me is, in fact, just the
    specimen jar, just the dust jacket, just the
    white piece of paper that bears the little black
  • Richness is not an easy quality to develop in

A scene from WIT
Depth of Characterization
Anthony Sher as Richard III
Phylicia Rashad as Big Mamain Cat on a Hot, Tin
Laurence Olivier as Hamlet
  • A plays theme must be important...

You just cant look at it like that. You got to
look at the whole thing. Now, you take a fellow
go out there, grab hold to a woman and think he
got something cause she sweet and soft to the
touch. Its in the world like everything else.
Touchings nice. It feels good. But you can lay
your hand upside a horse or a cat, and that feels
good tool Whats the difference? When you grab
hold to a woman, you got something there....
Roger Robinson as Bynum
Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 1)
  • HAMLET To be, or not to be--that is the
    question Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to
    suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous
    fortune Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
    And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep-- No
    more--and by a sleep to say we end The heartache,
    and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is
    heir to. 'Tis a consummation Devoutly to be
    wished. To die, to sleep-- To sleep--perchance to
    dream ay, there's the rub, For in that sleep of
    death what dreams may come When we have shuffled
    off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. There's
    the respect That makes calamity of so long

  • The play needs to be relevant to its time.
    Arthur Miller wrote THE CRUCIBLE in the 1950s
    during the McCarthy hearings to mirror the
    witch-hunting frenzy in 1692 New England...

Other qualities
  • COMPRESSION refers to the playwrights skill in
    condensing a story
  • ECONOMY relates to an authors skill in
    eliminating or consolidating characters, events,
    locales and words
  • INTENSITY is the result of the playwrights
    success in compression and economy AND can take
    many forms...harsh, abrasive, explosive, calm,
    physical, etc.

  • Finally, a play celebrates life...relishing the
    human experience in all its forms

Playwrights Process
  • DIALOGUE should sound fresh and authentic as if
    the words spoken really happened
  • CONFLICT is at the core of drama, but if forced
    can come across as ineffective. Events such as
    discovery, victory, rejection, revelation,
    separation, or death are climactic scenes in a
    play and define structure.
  • STRUCTURE connects the various parts of the play
    together in a whole...some playwrights work from
    outlines, others from inspiration, still others
    from transcripts. But wherever the structure
    comes from, it needs to work.

Playwrights rewards
The rewards are tangible and intangible. At
its best, playwriting is more than a profession
and more than just a component of theatre. It is
a creative political act that enlarges human
experience and enriches our lives...
The Pulitzer Prize
Edward Albee withthe TONY Award
Current American Playwrights
  • David Mamet (born 1947)

Race NYC, 2010
Tony Kushner
Born 1956
David Henry Hwang
...was awarded the 1988 Tony, Drama Desk, Outer
Critics, and John Gassner Awards for his Broadway
debut, M. Butterfly, which was also a finalist
for the Pulitzer Prize. For his play Golden
Child, he received a 1998 Tony nomination and a
1997 OBIE Award. His new book for Rodgers
Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song earned him his
third Tony nomination in 2003. He was the book
writer of Disney's Tarzan, with score by Phil
Collins, and also co-authored the book for Elton
John and Tim Rice's Aida, which ran almost five
years on Broadway and won four Tony Awards.
Born 1957
M. Butterfly
Neil LaBute (Born 1963)
Playwriting credits
  • Filthy Talk For Troubled Times (1989)
  • In the Company of Men (1992)
  • Bash Latter-Day Plays (1999)
  • The Shape of Things (2001)
  • The Distance From Here (2002)
  • The Mercy Seat (2002)
  • Autobahn (2003)
  • Fat Pig (2004)
  • This Is How It Goes (2005)
  • Some Girl(s) (2005)
  • Wrecks (2005)
  • In A Dark Dark House (2007)
  • reasons to be pretty (2008)
  • Helter Skelter Land of the Dead (2008)
  • The Break of Noon (2010)
  • The New Testament Helter Skelter (2009)
  • Some White Chick (2009)
  • The Furies (2009)

Suzan-Lori Parks
Born 1964
Lynn Nottage
Ruined (2009 Pulitzer Prize) Intimate Apparel
(2003) Mother Courage (adaptation)(1998) Crumb
s from the Table of Joy (1995)
Born 1964
Up close Arthur Miller
  • Arthur Miller was one of the major dramatists of
    the twentieth century. In the years before his
    death he often was called the greatest living
    American playwright.
  • BORN October 17, 1925
  • DIED February 10, 2005
  • SOURCE Marino, Stephen. "Arthur Miller". The
    Literary Encyclopedia. First published 16 May
    trueUID3116, accessed September 2010.

  • He earned this reputation during a career of more
    than seventy years, from his first plays as an
    undergraduate at the University of Michigan in
    the 1930s to his achieved critical success in the
    1940s with All My Sons (1947) and Death of a
    Salesman (1949). In the 1950s he wrote The
    Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge
    (1955), refused to name names at his appearance
    before the House Un-American Activities
    Committee (HUAC), and had a celebrated marriage
    to the film actress Marilyn Monroe.

  • He produced a critically acclaimed autobiography,
    Timebends (1987), and premiered new plays on
    Broadway and in London in the 1990s. In the new
    millennium, Miller remained as active as at the
    beginning of his career, publishing a collection
    of essays, Echoes Down the Corridor (2000), and
    completing two new plays, Resurrection Blues
    (2002) and Finishing the Picture (2004), which
    premiered a few months before his death.

  • Recipient of the New York Drama Critics Circle
    Award for All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and A
    View From the Bridge...

ALL MY SONS on Broadway with John Lithgow, Dianne
Wiest, Josh Lucas and Katie Holmes (2008).
(No Transcript)
Death of a Salesman
  • ...the Pulitzer Prize for Death of a Salesman,
    the Tony Award for All My Sons, Death of a
    Salesman, The Crucible, and Lifetime Achievement
    and the Olivier Award for Broken Glass...

  • ...Miller clearly ranks with the other truly
    great figures of American drama Eugene ONeill,
    Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee and the
    pantheon of great world dramatists, such as
    Chekov, Strindberg, Shaw and Beckett. 

Broadway revival of A VIEWFROM THE BRIDGE,
  • Arthur Miller was not only a literary giant, but
    also one of the more significant political,
    cultural, and social figures of his time,
    well-known as a man of conviction, with
    rock-solid integrity, who frequently took popular
    and unpopular stands on many issues. At his
    death, the front page headline of The New York
    Times called him the moral voice of the American
    stage. In the great themes of his work guilt
    and betrayal, family and society, individual and
    social conscience, private and public
    responsibility he confronted the ethical issues
    of his time.

In his own words...
  • Plays by Arthur Miller
  • The Golden Years
  • The Man Who Had All the Luck
  • All My Sons
  • Death of a Salesman
  • An Enemy of the People
  • The Crucible
  • A View from the Bridge
  • After the Fall
  • A Memory of Two Mondays
  • Incident at Vichy
  • The Price
  • The Creation of the World and Other Business
  • The Archbishops Ceiling
  • The American Clock
  • Playing for Time
  • The Ride Down Mt. Morgan
  • Broken Glass

  • One-Act Plays
  • A View from the Bridge (one-act version)
  • A Memory of Two Mondays
  • Fame   /    The Reason Why   
  • Two Way Mirror      Elegy for a Lady     Some
    Kind of Love Story
  • Danger Memory!      I Cant Remember Anything 
  • The Last Yankee  
  • Screenplays
  • The Misfits
  • Everybody Wins
  • The Crucible
  • Autobiography
  • Timebends