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March 29, 2007


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Joshua James

Writing is also, I've noticed, something that quite a few non-writers consider themselves an authority on . . . which is interesting, when you think about it . . . how many non-directors consider themselves authorities on directing, or how many non-lighting designers consider themselves authorities on lighting design?

Yet writing is the one area where almost everyone assumes they know more about the piece being written than the actual writer does (I'm generalizing, but if you've ever had a script submitted, you know what I mean . . . actually, if you've ever been to a talkback after a reading . . .)

Not that non-writers can't have a view, or even contribute . . . far from it . . . it's the idea, however, that the writer doesn't know what he or she is doing or has done . . . I seem to witness and / or have a lot of these kind of conversations about written work, and it astounds me.


i think that people who are involved in theater focus on the weaknesses and strengths of writing.

i think for people who only participate by going to see theater do put the most weight on the actors -- when i eavesdrop on the audience as they exit the first thing i generally hear is either "she was very good" or "he didn't do anything for me." i think people look to the actors to make or break their experience of watching the play and they don't give so much thought to the craft of the writing or directing.

also, actors are the ones who, night after night, get the most intimate and concrete knowledge of whether or not the audience liked or disliked the show -- that's making yourself pretty vulnerable.

malachy walsh

I wouldn't want to get into a pissing match with actors about who's more exposed/vulnerable or whatever, but your post totally nails something that's been happening for quite a while when it comes to theatre, movies, even television.

Which maybe is another way of saying that fewer and fewer audiences behave in some way I imagined audiences behaved in days of yore. (If anything, I think they were tougher in the past - I mean from what I understand Shakespeare's Groundlings really let the company have it when they hated something.)

With respect to scripts, I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Or if, as some have argued about theatre audiences, it's a result of including audiences in talkbacks and panels and other participatory "artistic" programs.

But it's a certainly a mistake to ignore it. Which is one reason I feel it's important to make curtain speeches, use programs, marketing (yes, marketing), advertising (yes, advertising), ushers, pre-show music and lighting, etc - whatever it takes - to reshape the mental frame through which an audience sees a play when they show up at the theatre.

To get anyone to see with a new mind, you have to get them to forget the old one.

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