Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Premise of Playwriting

So for Christmas I got a copy of the 1942 classic The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. It's written in this great modernist style, proposing answers for our questions about how to write using a dialectical method. Brilliant. I resonate with his point that conflict should grow naturally out of the characters, as if they could do nothing else under the given circumstances, because this clearly aligns with the method of acting most artists use.

I struggle however with his idea of "premise" because it seems old-fashioned; like he wants every play to prove a point. X does Y. Ambition breeds disaster. Let me tell you a story that proves it. Being in the post-modern soup, it's much more fun to jump (carrot to potato) from one observation to another, stringing them along on an arc of actions that is then interpreted as story. Mr. Egri would have something to say to me, I'm sure, but I thoroughly enjoyed the lesson.