Theory and technique of playwriting - PDF by John Howard Lawson

Theory and technique of playwriting 

Theory and technique of playwriting



This study of dramatic theory and technique was first published in 1936, in the midst of the social and theatrical upheaval that Harold Clurman calls "The Fervent Years." Today, the arts display less fervour and far less interest in "social significance." The transition is dramatic thought from Waiting for Lefty to Waiting for Godot is almost as sweeping as the changes that have taken place among the world's peoples and powers. 

There are those who regard the culture of the thirties as dead and best forgotten. The question need not be debated here — except insofar as this book offers testimony to the contrary. My beliefs have not changed, nor has my fervour abated. I can hope that my understanding has ripened. But I see no need to modify or revise the theory of dramatic art on which this work is based. 

The theory holds that the dramatic process follows certain general laws, derived from the function of drama and its historical evolution. A play is a mimed fable, an acted and spoken story. The tale is presented because it has meaning to its creator. It embodies a vision, poses an ethical or emotional problem, praises heroes, or laughs at fools. 


The playwright may not be conscious of any purpose beyond the telling of a tale. He may be more interested in box-office receipts than in social values. Nonetheless, the events taking place on the stage embody a point of view, a judgment of human relationships. Conceptual understanding is the key to mastery of dramatic techniques.

 The structure of a play, the design of each scene, and the movement of the action to its climax are the means by which the concept is communicated. The theatre is a difficult art form. No labour of thought can give talent to the untalented or sensitivity to the insensitive. The pattern of a play is as subtle and chromatic as the pattern of a symphony. Theatrical concepts are profoundly, and at best magically, theatrical, growing out of the culture of the theatre as part of the culture and history of mankind. Therefore, dramatic craftsmanship encompasses the past from which it has evolved. The artist is not bound by traditional styles.

Some contents:

PART 1
HISTORY OF DRAMATIC THOUGHT
I. Aristotle 3
II. The Renaissance 10
III. The Eighteenth Century 21
IV. The Nineteenth Century 31
V. Ibsen 63
PART 2
THE THEATRE TODAY
I. Conscious Will and Social Necessity 87
II. Dualism of Modern Thought 98
III. George Bernard Shaw 107
IV. Critical and Technical Trends 1 14
V. Eugene O'Neill 129
VI. The Technique of the Modern Play 142
PART 3
DRAMATIC STRUCTURE
I. The Law of Conflict 163
II. Dramatic Action 168
III. Unity in Terms of Climax 174
IV. The Process of Selection 187
V. The Social Framework 200



the book details :
  • Author: John Howard Lawson
  • Publication date:1960
  • Company: New York,: Hill and Wang

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