Preface to Drama: An Introduction to Dramatic Literature and Theater Art

By Charles W. Cooper | Go to book overview

IV. THE PLAY
Re-creation by Spectator or Reader

True enjoyment of the theatre . . . comes to playgoers who are active, not passive; whose eyes and ears are open, not shut; who are curious not only about the thing done but also about the manner of its doing; who can be susceptible to subject matter at the same time they are alert to treatment . . . who, even while they are surrendering to the illusion of the stage, do not forget the theatre is make-believe raised to the point of art. . . .

-- JOHN MASON BROWN, The Art of Playgoing

THE PLAY THAT REALLY COUNTS is neither the playbook nor the stageplay but the play in the mind of the spectator or reader. This is the play in its ultimate synthesis.

We have used the term "a play" in the preceding three essays as a loose synonym for a playscript, playbook, stageplay, or drama, and it is widely so used. The word is as ambiguous as "drama" itself. There are books on writing plays, on designing plays, on directing plays, on producing plays--there are also anthologies of plays.

Let us now, however, specialize our use of the term "a play" in this fourth essay to mean the story (sixfold in its scene, characters, action, plot, dialogue, and theme) as it is realized in the mind. The play, then, in this special sense exists first in the mind of the playwright. A slightly different play comes to life in the minds of the director, each actor, and others as they interpret the playscript. And ultimately, in the mind of each playgoer and each playreader, the play is evoked as a unique synthesis in response to seeing the stageplay or reading the playbook.


§ 1. CREATION, RE-CREATION, AND RECREATION

The dramatist creates the play as he writes the playscript. The actors and others in the theater re-create the play on the stage. The spectators and readers re-create the play in their minds for their

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