Lv 4
lane asked in Arts & HumanitiesTheater & Acting · 1 decade ago

"No rules in playwriting" - how can this be?

Seems ridiculous.


Oh come on. You need characters. Generally, at least an impression of an event taking place, at a conceptual or metaphoric level. There's some kind of communication happening, about something, and it's not ad hoc or in a vaccuum.

I agree that performance, costume, and sets can make a non-event interesting; even that words aren't necessary - but you can't just crap on a page and expect it to be meaningful.

Update 2:

Thanks Alan, for your comprehensive and thoughtful response. I take on board Susan Parks' dictum. I've not studied theatre, and can only count myself an avid theatre goer and absolute beginner to writing. That said, a few points for consideration...

A rocking chair *is* an event, if a small one, and it at least implies the presence of a human being (if not a discrete persona, character, or actor), or human activity - which I suppose amounts to the sense of liveness you mention.

For me, 'people who say lines' needn't be fully developed characters. Even a word implies a characterization process, of a kind - we draw conclusions about entities from much less than that.

In Godot - though 'nothing happens twice', Pozzo and Lucky's arrival presents a sort of interruption in Vladimir and Estragon's waiting. It raises the question of hope, expectation... the anticipated event (whether or not it will come to fruition) is implied. So the notion of event is present, even in its absence.


3 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    This idea comes from a contemporary thought process best articulated by Susan Lori Parks who said in an essay, "Content dictates form." Essentially this means that what you want to write about determines how you write about it.

    Now, there are a variety of different styles of play writing that have evolved over the years. They have similarities and differences, and each do have guidelines. In the Content Dictates Form ideology, it's not about ignoring the past forms, but rather choosing the one that best fits your project. Perhaps even combining ideas. Of course, all innovation needs to come from someone breaking the rules, so that happens as well. A successful creative writer needs to understand the form of the field in order to meaningfully use or deviate from it.

    This has been a debate in theatre since the 19th century (or earlier when you consider that Aristotle's Poetics are a "How to write a good play manual") when people started dictating the elements of the "well-made play." Like everything else in the industrial revolution, people thought playwriting could be boiled down to a formula. This thinking has continued to today in some playwriting schools. However, many of the Avant Garde traditions have specifically rebelled against this idea and sought to dismantle "the well-made play" with something more raw.

    Being a playwright in the contemporary theatre means you need to be aware of all the methods and formulas available to you from the past---Greek Choral Recitation, Shakespearean Verse, Cycle Plays, Rhyming Couplets, Realism, Naturalism, Surrealism, Absurdism... Narrative Structure, Non-Narrative Structure... Aristotelian Elements... Episodism... etc.---and then use them at your disposal in parts or wholes to best serve your content.

    To address your additional details:

    "You need characters" --- Futurism (particularly Neo-Futurism) is largely about the actor playing himself, so in that basis there are no characters only people who say lines. Can you have a play without people? This is debatable. Many scholars define theatre as the interaction between a performer and the audience. Others point to "aura" of liveness on a stage. That liveness could be absent of performers. (i.e. wind, sounds, rocking chairs, light, etc.)

    "impression of an event taking place" --- a lot of the early Avant Garde movements were specifically against action and events. For example, in "Waiting for Godot," nothing happens and this is intentional.

    "there's some kind of communication happening" --- one of the primary tenant of Absurdism is to illustrate the last communication that we have in contemporary society. So, in this form, characters will say nonsensical things in place of logical ones and no one understands anything.

    "expect it to be meaningful" --- there are whole mess of folk, particularly the Absurdists, whose goal is to not be meaningful. Even the Naturalists didn't want to be meaningful, just as real as possible.

    So, if you want to write a play with characters, a plot, and meaning... you've already started thinking about the form that your content dictates, because you just ruled out some.

  • Erika
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Rules aren't made to be damaged, and even bent. Rules are there for safeguard or for steerage. We holiday or bend them at our possess hazard. If within the so doing we get harm, we don't have any one accountable however ourselves. have I ever damaged or bent the principles? Yes. Almost everyday whilst I make a decision to go the avenue at a factor rather than the correct crossing wherein there may be both a Zebra crossing or a mild managed crossing. Drivers have got to give up at crimson lighting fixtures, so why must I escape with jogging in opposition to a crimson gentle. Good query GM that's beneficial of a celebrity.

  • Roger
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    The other seems to me ridiculous--I mean that there are rules in playwriting. Isn't one of the challenges and pleasures of art to push boundaries and thereby do what has not been done before?

    If you will tell me why the fen

    appears impassible, I then

    will tell you why I think that I

    can get across it if I try. --Marianne Moore

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