I often hear from friends about a new work of fiction, non-fiction, mystery they recommend me reading, but very seldom about a drama or play. Regarding plays, I think it safe to say many folks enjoy going to the theater to see a play performed, but not many choose to read one. Why this is I don't know. Playwrights choose interesting themes to write about, provide dialogue and plot to captivate one's attention.
Although I've never written a play, I would like to, and have found drama an interesting genre from the time I was a freshman at Bell High School and enrolled in Drama class. I still have a few books of Plays on my shelf today, Sixteen Famous American Plays, Twenty-Five Best Plays of the Modern American Theater, and the Complete Plays of Lillian Hellman, that include plays I like very much - Life With Father, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and The Women. My favorite among them is Thornton Wilder's Our Town.
Perhaps one reason Wilder's Our Town ranks high with me is because from the time I was a little girl I remember my darling Grandmother Cooney talking about my dad having a major part in his high school production of Our Town, playing the role of stage manger. Maybe it's because it sounds so much like the small town of Council Bluffs, Iowa where my mother and dad grew up . Or maybe, my own small town of Bell, California where neighbors knew each other well. Each day very much the same, just as it was in Wilder's fictitious Grover's Corner, but every day precious ... only in later years do those living there realize how precious those simple moments were, and how they helped to shape who they were, and form the memories they share.
Thinking back on studies, I am reminded the playwright often gives only a skeletal description of a a character ; A key to reading and understanding a play is to use the stage directions and the dialogue to help 'see' the play in your mind. You might ask youself :
*How does this scene look ?
*What might this character look like?
*How might this character dress , walk, talk and gesture?
Be sure to listen, question, connect:; Whom does this character remind me of? When did something similar happen to me? How would I respond?
And respond: How does this make me feel ? What's interesting about this? I like this character because...
The play Our Town stresses the ties that bind and importance of relationships - the meaning of routine and every day living - small happenings, and ordinary events. It's easy for me to relate to those sweet years of my youth, but also the routine my husband and family now share. And to those no longer here..
Just like a novel, plays provide setting, plot and dialogue. While books are divided into chapters, plays are divided into acts and scenes, which indicate a change in location or the passage of time.
*Note - some reference from Glencoe Literature The Reader's Choice copyright 2002