Friday, February 13, 2009

Quote of the Day

Christopher Frizelle in the Stranger:

To cap off the preshow dread, the ushers whispered as people were entering, "There will be two intermissions," which are the five least fortunate words in the history of live performance.


Personally, I don't mind two intermissions, or long shows. In fact, I sometimes wish there would be another intermission in some three hour shows.

Tony Kushner got it just about right. Each night of Angels in America runs close to 3 hours, but you physically don't feel like it is that long because there is an intermission about every 45 minutes to an hour.

The standard for longer plays seems to have become something like this: "ACT I will run 90 Minutes Long, ACT II will run 75 Minutes Long."

I know this sometimes has to do with Union regulations with regard to ending times, but sometimes I think two intermissions has become such a taboo that playwrights don't even consider it when thinking about the structure of their plays.

It is a very tricky thing to navigate. I read somewhere that Margaret Edson's W;t , originally had an intermission; the break was placed right after the professor's dissertation on the sonnet. Apparently, they were getting a lot of walkouts, so they decided to axe the intermission.

2 comments:

Scott Walters said...

The number of intermissions is a reflection of the play's structure, not an arbitrary decision. Most American plays through the 1960s were 3-act plays, and they NEEDED two intermissions. They were WRITTEN with curtain lines.

The fear of two intermissions, even from a critic, is the fear of being in pain longer than necessary. It is a sign of the lowered expectations of the theatre, the sense that we want it to be over as quickly as possible.

Perhaps this should be a clue that something is wrong?

Ian Thal said...

Maybe I'm missing something here. When I see a five-act play, the intermission is generally placed between acts III and IV. When I see a three-act play, the intermission is between acts II and III.

What really needs to be changed structurally to switch between one or two intermissions?