PLAYWRITING QUOTES III

quotations about playwriting

Watching first nights, though I've seen quite a few by now, is never any better. It's a nerve-racking experience. It's not a question of whether the play goes well or badly. It's not the audience reaction, it's my reaction. I'm rather hostile toward audiences--I don't much care for large bodies of people collected together. Everyone knows that audiences vary enormously; it's a mistake to care too much about them. The thing one should be concerned with is whether the performance has expressed what one set out to express in writing the play. It sometimes does.

HAROLD PINTER, The Paris Review, fall 1966

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Unless you are terribly, terribly careful, you run the danger--without even knowing it is happening to you--of slipping into the fatal error of reflecting the public taste instead of creating it. Your responsibility is to the public consciousness, not the public view of itself.

EDWARD ALBEE, Stretching My Mind

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One thing, however, we may say with tolerable confidence: whatever may be the germ of a play--whether it be an anecdote, a situation, or what not--the play will be of small account as a work of art unless character, at a very early point, enters into and conditions its development. The story which is independent of character--which can be carried through by a given number of ready-made puppets--is essentially a trivial thing.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Play-making: A Manual of Craftsmanship

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There are three primal urges in human beings: food, sex, and rewriting someone else's play.

ROMULUS LINNEY, Six Plays

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A play should give you something to think about. When I see a play and understand it the first time, then I know it can't be much good.

T. S. ELIOT, New York Post, September 23, 1963

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Playwriting is not done when you finish a draft of your play you're happy with. Plays are meant to be produced--performed by actors for a live audience. Without performance, a play is like a custom-built car that's never taken out of the garage--it may look good, but it hardly serves any good purpose.

ANGELO PARRA, Playwriting for Dummies

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When I was a kid, another of the prime reasons to be a playwright was you would have a poster with your name and the title of your play on it that you could then hang in the living room of your inevitable penthouse.

JOHN GUARE, introduction, Theater Posters of James McMullan

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Playwriting is a physical craft, and it's a thing that requires muscle, intellectual and emotional. People who are afraid of that, people who are afraid of doing damage--those are the people who'll never make it. You have to be willing to be a killer.

MARSHA NORMAN, The Art and Craft of Playwriting

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We keep narrowing the definition of what a play can be. We're losing the opportunity for someone like Samuel Beckett to spring up, because we no longer want our plays messy. But my God, sometimes we need mess. These are messy times and plays can reflect that. Angels In America is a mess -- and I mean that as a compliment. Hamlet is a mess. If someone wrote Hamlet today, first thing you'd hear a director say is, 'that advice to the players bit doesn't advance the story.' Why do we only allow our classics to be messes?

PAULA VOGEL, "Paula Vogel: How She Keeps Driving", Playbill, April 7, 1997

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I can sum up none of my plays. I can describe none of them, except to say: That is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

HAROLD PINTER, Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics, 1948-1998

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I'm back in fashion again for a while now. But I imagine that three or four years from now I'll be out again. And in another fifteen years I'll be back. If you try to write to stay in fashion, if you try to write to be the critics' darling, you become an employee.

EDWARD ALBEE, The Dramatists Guild Quarterly, 1996

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The stage play is a trial not a deed of violence. The soul is opened, like the combination of a safe, by means of a word. You don't require an acetylene torch.

JEAN GIRAUDOUX, Collected Plays of Jean Giradoux

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First you just write a good play, and then you try to get it produced under the best possible circumstances. I never think Broadway is the best possible circumstance for a serious play.

LANFORD WILSON, The Playwright's Art: Conversations with Contemporary American Dramatists

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Because playwriting is by necessity a collaborative process, the playwright's work has to be robust enough to survive the interventions of the rest of the creative team, but supple enough to absorb their input.

FRASER GRACE & CLARE BAYLEY, Playwriting: A Writers' and Artists' Companion

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Actors are all about entrances, but writers are all about exits.

VINCENT H. O'NEILL, Death Troupe

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People often ask me how long it takes me to write a play, and I tell them 'all of my life.' I know that's not the answer they're after -- what they really want is some sense of the time between the first glimmer of the play in my mind, and the writing down, and perhaps the duration of the writing down -- but "all my life" is the truest answer.

EDWARD ALBEE, introduction, Three Tall Women

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As a writer you're holding a dog. You let the dog run about. But you finally can pull him back. Finally, I'm in control. But the great excitement is to see what happens if you let the whole thing go. And the dog or the character really runs about, bites everyone in sight, jumps up trees, falls into lakes, gets wet, and you let that happen. That's the excitement of writing plays--to allow the thing to be free but still hold the final leash.

HAROLD PINTER, The New York Public Library Literature Companion, 2001

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Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in one's own character to himself.

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, stage directions, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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All theories of what a good play is or how good a play should be written, are futile. A good play is a play which when acted upon the boards makes an audience interested and pleased. A play that fails in this is a bad play.

MAURICE BARING, Have You Anything to Declare?

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If you string together a set of speeches expressive of character, and well finished in point of diction and thought, you will not produce the essential tragic effect nearly so well as with a play which, however deficient in these respects, yet has a plot and artistically constructed incidents.

ARISTOTLE, Poetics

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