Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Posts Tagged ‘The Art of Play Production

Notes on polishing the play

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The Art of Play Production

So many elements need attention in the polishing of a play that anything like a complete discussion of them all is out of the question. A few practical hints in condensed form may, however, be useful, and I offer them as a sort of appendix to this chapter:

  • Direct the polishing rehearsals from the auditorium, not from the stage. Move farther and farther back…
  • Remember the principle of grace—that is, economy of effort. Try to eliminate unnecessary effort, or the suggestion thereof. Check grace of plan from the balcony or gallery.
  • Watch for detrimental empathies of any sort, and eliminate them. Rehearse carefully all scenes in which actors carry heavy weights. Teach those who are carried to relax. Watch all moving of furniture, and all such actions as sitting, kneeling, or rising, to see that there is no unnecessary suggestion of effort…
  • Seek out and remove all distractions. Watch especially the actors who are not speaking. Eliminate fidgeting. When there is too much movement or business, select and reject, but retain that which is relevant rather than that which is clever. Check up constantly on the principle: “No movement without a purpose.” Challenge any new movement or business introduced by the actors, and accept it only when the purpose is sound.
  • Aim constantly to simplify. Work for strength rather than elaboration…
  • When the play seems “talky,” introduce one or two significant bits of action at critical points rather than many unimportant ones…
  • Nurse the rhythms—at least in so far as they express the moods correctly—and make the most of them…
  • Check the tempo constantly. Guard against the tendency of the actors to slip back to the wrong tempo, especially the tendency of each actor to take the tempo of his line from that of the actor who speaks before him…

In other words, be omniscient and omnipotent; let nothing escape you, and perfect every detail. Outside of that there is very little to do.

—John Dolman Jr., The Art of Play Production

Written by nevalalee

September 27, 2014 at 9:00 am

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