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.