Magazine article American Theatre

Reynolds Price: On Writing for Performance

Magazine article American Theatre

Reynolds Price: On Writing for Performance

Article excerpt

TCG has just published Full Moon and Other Plays, the second collection of plays by award-winning novelist Reynolds Price. Like his dramatic trilogy, New Music (published by TCG in 1990), this new collection is graced with Price's undisputed talents for compassionate characterization and lyrical prose. Spanning his professional playwriting career, the collection includes Full Moon (1992), Private Contentment (1982) and Early Dark (1977). All three plays are delicate examinations of love, faith, family and race, written in the eloquent and witty vernacular of North Carolina. In this essay, written in the summer of 1990, Price explores why he writes for the stage and screen.

The first sizable piece I wrote was a play--a Christmas play in December 1946 when I was in the eighth grade--and I wrote it on my own time, without a school assignment and with no hope of a stage production. I can't remember why, beyond the fact that I'd grown up as an avid consumer of the lively films of the '30s and '40s and that a touring troupe had visited our small-town school only a few months before. (I saw them play both Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew and was deeply excited.) Even more crucially, I'd grown up in two extended families of excellent and epic conversationalists; so my taste for good talk was keen. And by the time I was into adolescence, I understood what serious talking skills were now required of me--economy, interest, drama and wit. Apparently I'd also seen that similar skills could lead me from home and family to adult work and lasting rewards.

But for years I was slack. Early in high school I wrote a screenplay about St. Bernadette of Lourdes for a planned neighborhood home movie production that failed for lack of funds. Then my courting of a stage or screen audience cooled for a long time, to revive only when I was commissioned in 1964 to adapt my first novel, A Long and Happy Life, for a film. …

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