Friday, May 26, 2006

Cinematic vs. Theatrical

So I'm in full-on playwright mode. My next play is "Sonny" and it's about girl and a boy ... and the boy's parents. I'm playing around with what tools theatre offers in terms of narrative. What makes theatre a "purple cow"? In other words, how do we create Immediate Theatre?

In college, I flirted briefly with the wonders of "cinematic" staging: Plays, mostly musicals, that attempt to produce the illusion of cinematic space and time through the heavy usage of mechanical lighting (Vari-lights and the like) and automated scene changes. Although stunning and effective when done right (I'll never forget seeing that helicopter land, pick up a wailing Chris, and take off leaving dozens of Vietnamese clawing at chainlink) before long it bothered me that such an ephemeral and vibrant artform as theatre was losing itself in the attempt to match what movies do better.

When you're talking about a simple stage play, attempting cinematic realism is terribly additive to the experience, and ultimately detracts from the play itself. (Shakespeare made do with much less than even dimmer packs and flying drapes! And some in his audience would stand through five acts absolutely chockablock with prose and verse! Of course, his theatre served ale ...)

Sonny will be much more "theatrical" than Torrid Affaire. It's a challenge to write, and it will be a challenge to produce. But hey, what's the point in doing it if it's easy, right?

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