Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rebeck - The Plot Quickens

Theresa Rebeck, in the Los Angeles Times, defends structure, story and plot...

I was hosting a session at the Lark, a New York developmental theater that helps playwrights build plays in a workshop setting, and one of the writers presented a beautifully written complete mess of a play. After many people, including myself, praised the grace of the writing, I admitted that I found the play incoherent. The writer nodded and laughed, delighted at my response. "I just wanted to stay away from anything that resembled a plot," she explained.

"Oh, well, plot," I said.

(...)


I think it goes without saying that young would-be playwrights in developmental workshops should be so lucky as to write plays as good as "Waiting for Godot," "Uncle Vanya" or "King Lear," none of which would have existed without a decent plot. Obviously a theatrical masterpiece needs more than a plot; many television shows are nothing but plot, and it is doubtful that they will stand the test of time. But I also don't think that making fun of plot, or acting like we're all somehow "above" structure is such a good idea.

Is this really a problem? Yes. I seem to be constantly confronted by theater professionals who are more or less annoyed by the prospect of structure.

3 comments:

Scott Walters said...

Hear! Hear! My regard for Rebeck just soared.

Art said...

I wish she were more specific though.

She seems to be a almost deliberately vague about exactly the type of plotless plays she is talking about. Perhaps not wanting to call out any particular playwright.

As I mentioned on Isaac's site, I think sometimes people use various, fluid and sometimes interchangeable definitions of plot, structure and story.

Ian Thal said...

I recently had a listserv exchange with another, albeit more experienced, playwright, and he seemed to take offense that I refered to my "five-act play," taking issue with the fact that it indeed had five acts. I never understood what his issue was other than "no one does five-acts anymore" and that "some people are intimidated by the concept of five-acts."

Without reading my work, my interlocuter kept demanding that I rejigger it into a two act or a one act with five scenes and
outrightly refused to accept that the five acts were not a mere affectation, but the structure of the play as it emerged over a course of rewrites.
Does this disdain for structure by some playwrights bleed into an actual hostility?