Greg Allen’s 25 Rules for Creating Good Theater

While surfing the net to write the post below about the Neo-Futurists (having just seen Rough & Tumble’s version of their play 43 Plays For 43 Presidents), I stumbled across an article by their founder: Greg Allen’s 25 Rules for Creating Good Theater. I’m especially taken with:

Rule #11: Create true theater. A show should never fail to answer the question “Why is this theater?” Theater is live performers in front of a live audience. Never forget this. If your show can be put on television or turned into a movie without losing something, you have failed.

Rule #12: Do not suspend your audience’s disbelief. Involve the audience. Make sure you remind them that they are watching live theater. Q: Why do people go to the theater? A: To have a visceral connection with live performers. Take that ball and run with it. If you want to suspend the audience’s disbelief, make a movie. Movies accomplish this much more successfully.

This article happened to find me at the exact right moment in my writing of my current full-length. I’m experimenting with trying a play that takes place all in one night and one location. For me, that’s a huge departure: I’m usually flipping from location to location, jumping around time, sometimes going nonlinear, who knows. Right when I was starting to feel constrained, figuring out how to get people on and off stage in “realistic” ways and feeling like I was writing something for a 1940’s audience, I read this article and reminded myself I can still get crazy theatrical. The last couple days of writing have been much more fun.

It’s funny: when I’m reviewing plays for the Magic Theatre Lit Committee, my main complaint is always that “this feels like it could be a TV show. There’s nothing theatrical about it.” I’m glad I stumbled across this article to remind me to take my own advice.

2 Replies to “Greg Allen’s 25 Rules for Creating Good Theater”

  1. Hi, this is a good article. I am in NYC, but originally from the Bay Area and I know the Magic (and Marc) and ACT well. I worked in the lit office at ACT in 2003; and my play REPORTER GIRL was read at Diva Fest in 2006. I sometimes have interesting stuff about playwrights on my blog so you should check it out. Yesterday’s post was all about playwrights in NYC, as I went to see Craig Wright’s new play at the Rattlestick. Love your list of theaters. Great resource.

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