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January 06, 2009


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Interesting point, sir. And it does come down to the unanswerable question of "What a play is." A play doesn't equal theater.

Do these things function differently? Only because, maybe, we think of them as functioning differently. If we come expecting a story, and we don't get one, we're start to think of what we're watching as "not a play." As if the algebraic equation is A Play is Something on Stage that Tells a Story.

That wouldn't work if you applied to to songs. Some songs tell stories. Others don't. Some painting show real life, others don't. If a play doesn't tell a story, though, it's not a play. We actually call it something entirely different.

I think we're very much still trapped in the idea that plays are more restricted. Some of that comes down to an conversation we all had about two years ago about how thinly defined play "genres" are.


I'm with you both on this. A play doesn't *have* to have a "story" or a "narrative" to be a play or to have meaning. There is enough room in the spectrum for all kinds of expression. But our vocabulary for discussing it is extremely restricted, and certainly our critical language is even more limited. In a weird way, it's on the artist themselves to "define" the work. Someone who writes scripts that are performed by performers, but calls themselves a performance artist and performs in a gallery is treated differently than someone who calls themselves a playwright. In some ways the work is subordinate to the artist, in terms of definition. I come at this as a way for theatre artists to better define themselves and their work. I really like the distinction of "meaning" and "purpose" that Matthew brought up. I think purpose is a more useful way to talk about it. In my opinion, art, no matter the format, *does* something. Calling it purpose makes that a bit more concrete.

We'll have to agree to disagree on the Hold Steady, though. I do admit the main thing I like about them are the lyrics and the stories they tell, and I agree on Craig's...uh...singing. Well, we can't agree on everything, can we?

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