Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for November 21st, 2014

How to write a popular play

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George Bernard Shaw

The formula for the well-made play is so easy that I give it for the benefit of any reader who feels tempted to try his hand at making the fortune that awaits all manufacturers in this line. First, you “have an idea” for a dramatic situation. If it strikes you as a splendidly original idea, whilst it is in fact as old as the hills, so much the better. For instance, the situation of an innocent person convicted by circumstances of a crime may always be depended on. If the person is a woman, she must be convicted of adultery. If a young officer, he must be convicted of selling information to the enemy, though it is really a fascinating female spy who has ensnared him and stolen the incriminating document. If the innocent wife, banished from her home, suffers agonies through her separation from her children, and, when one of them is dying (of any disease the dramatist chooses to inflict), disguises herself as a nurse and attends it through its dying convulsion until the doctor, who should be a serio-comic character, and if possible a faithful old admirer of the lady’s, simultaneously announces the recovery of the child and the discovery of the wife’s innocence, the success of the play may be regarded as assured if the writer has any sort of knack for his work.

Comedy is more difficult, because it requires a sense of humor and a good deal of vivacity; but the process is essentially the same: it is the manufacture of a misunderstanding. Having manufactured it, you place its culmination at the end of the last act but one, which is the point at which the manufacture of the play begins. Then you make your first act out of the necessary introduction of the characters to the audience, after elaborate explanations, mostly conducted by servants, solicitors, and other low life personages (the principals must all be dukes and colonels and millionaires), of how the misunderstanding is going to come about. Your last act consists, of course, of clearing up the misunderstanding, and generally getting the audience out of the theatre as best you can.

George Bernard Shaw

Written by nevalalee

November 21, 2014 at 9:29 am

Quote of the Day

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Claudia Cardinale and Federico Fellini on the set of 8 1/2

It’s absolutely impossible to improvise. Making a movie is a mathematical operation. It is like sending a missile to the moon. It isn’t improvised. It is too defined to be called improvisational, too mechanical. Art is a scientific operation, so I can say that what we usually call improvisation is in my case just having an ear and eye for things that sometimes occur during the time we are making the picture.

Federico Fellini

Written by nevalalee

November 21, 2014 at 7:30 am

Posted in Movies, Quote of the Day

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