Sunday, July 20, 2008

Look Over There at the Blogger

Last night I watched the latter part of Alan Ayckborn's House and Garden. It's a charming play about the complicated lives of country brits, but there's one thing that bothered me about Mr. Ayckborn's play. He did nothing wrong. Mr. Ayckborn is an excellent playwright. Rather, it was a certain technique that bothered me: characters referencing offstage action.

This is an older technique that allows the playwright to expand the world of his play. In Garden characters reference to an offstage band, a dog playing, and even guests. Now, this is different from a Godot. We never see Godot in Beckett's Waiting for Godot, but his existence affects the dramatic action. In Garden, Mr. Ayckborn gives the audience more salt and pepper to his world. It doesn't detract from the dramatic action, but it doesn't add either.

Yes, as an audience member, I can use my imagination. But why should I? 1) Film doesn't require me to use my imagination. 2) Other plays don't require me to use my imagination. Am I against imagination? No, novels are wonderful for my imagination. So I'm seriously questioning the need for this technique.

If you don't include the action on-stage, you better have a damn good reason. Film has made people want to see everything. The audience has been changed by film, and we're just now realizing this. Don't shrink your world, but be careful with this technique.

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