Taking the Curtain Call: The Life and Letters of Henry Arthur Jones

By Doris Arthur Jones | Go to book overview

APPENDIX C DRAMATIC TECHNIQUE REVEALED BY DRAMATISTS

REPLY TO PROFESSOR ARCHIBALD HENDERSON'S QUESTIONNAIRE*
1. What mental process occurs when you write a play?

It is very difficult to give a succinct answer to this question. With me, the primary mental process is spontaneous and automatic, like dreaming awake, And this process often goes on while I am busy with other things--in a separate compartment of consciousness. Of course I keep a measure of control and selection over the waking dream, and, as it takes a more definite shape, this power of control and selection increases, and other mental processes are brought into play--the construction of a concrete piece of action gradually unfolding itself; attempts to realise each of the personages as a living man or woman I know, and who speaks and acts throughout the play with his own voice and purpose, and not with mine; the gathering together of all the threads of interest and action and weaving the various characters into them, as weft into warp, until they form a continuous correlative whole.

2. Do you always first draw up a scenario?

When the nucleus of the play has formed itself, and the characters have taken on flesh and blood, I begin to make notes of whatever may serve as a reminder or direction to me in writing the play. I jot down the various incidents in various sequences till I get the right and final one. I mark the keynotes of character, the necessity of emphasising this point or that. I write out scraps of dialogue on which the action depends, or which denote the relations of one character to another--anything that may serve to illuminate the story and make it easy for the spectator to follow on the stage. I throw into this heap of memoranda all the shifting and variable raw material of the play as it comes into my head. I do not make out a straight, clear scenario, for the reason that the main scheme of the play, as it evolves, is always vividly in my mind, and I do not need to put it on paper. At the end, my scenario consists of hundreds and hundreds of disconnected notes, signposts, and suggestions, the greater part of them jotted down after I have divided the play into acts, but with no order or plan that would be intelligible to a reader who had not first seen or read the play. I take great care always to be thoroughly acquainted with all my chief characters, and to study the milieu they have lived in, so that if I am challenged I could credibly sketch their entire history.

3. Does a specific incident constitute the starting-point of a drama?

Sometimes a single striking incident or situation may start the train of a play and gather to it an auxiliary series of incidents and situations. Sometimes a succession of incidents may dart simultaneously into the brain. The whole of the third act of The Liars, with its numerous developments, came to me, not as a sequence of situations, but at one

____________________
*
See Chapter XVII., p. 292.

-385-

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Taking the Curtain Call: The Life and Letters of Henry Arthur Jones
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • A Letter vii
  • Introduction xi
  • Contents xv
  • List of Illustrations xix
  • Part I- Early Life 1851-1882 1
  • Chapter I 3
  • Chapter II 8
  • Chapter III 18
  • Chapter IV 26
  • Part II- Success 1882-1902 35
  • Chapter V 37
  • Chapter VI 51
  • Chapter VII 73
  • Chapter VIII 96
  • Chapter IX 132
  • Chapter X 150
  • Chapter XI 165
  • Part III- Later Years 1902-1929 181
  • Chapter XII 183
  • Chapter XIII 194
  • Chapter XIV 213
  • Chapter XVI 261
  • Chapter XVII 292
  • Chapter XVIII 320
  • Chapter XIX 337
  • Chapter XX 353
  • Appendix A- The Plays of Henry Arthur Jones 363
  • Appendix B- Writings and Speeches of Henry Arthur Jones 377
  • Appendix C Dramatic Technique Revealed by Dramatists 385
  • Index 391
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