Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ball's Backwards and Forwards

I recently re-read David Ball's "Technical Manual for Reading Plays" (see link under "Required Reading" to the right.) Great book!

On its face, it is a book about play analysis. In truth, it's a handy guide to what makes good dramatic literature good (not to mention what makes it dramatic.) As such, it is a wonderful source of insight for dramatists, actors, designers . . . anyone who has anything to do with theatre.
"Inspiration without technique -- if it exists at all -- is merely flair."
There is no such thing as "post-production" in theatre. There's no shooting "pick-ups" or saving a play with "creative editing." As a director, once you put a group of actors in front of an audience, all bets are off. They live or die based on the choices you made in the weeks leading up to the debut.

Thus the importance of a director's analysis. On a show like Juana, a sweeping epic that deals with suppressed history and the conspiracy to depose an intelligent, powerful woman, the more I have figured out going into production the better. Ball's approach is action oriented, dealing with what happens in the play rather than what the play means. Meaning evolves from an understanding of action.
"The simultaneous communication of both understanding and emotional experience is the domain of art."
It's a very practical approach to a very practical art form. The bonus for me as a playwright is that re-reading Ball's Backwards and Forwards has helped me crystallize my thoughts on creating dramatic literature.

"If your theater has to take pains to clarify themes for you audience on the lobby walls or the program cover, then you have failed to make the play a working stage piece."
I feel better armed, going into my director's analysis. I really can't recommend this book enough!

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