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According to Yves Lavandier in his book Writing Drama there is what I call an irony playground.  Places where you’ll find irony having fun. Doing its thing.  And Lavandier explains why we watch knowing things that other characters don’t. (He gives many examples in the book which I’ve just edited down to one example with links to the trailers.)

“Certain kinds of story lend themselves easily to comic treatment and systematically give rise to one or more situations involving dramatic irony. These include:
* stories involving anachronisms, time-travelling, the fourth dimension or other fantastical scientific manipulations (Back to the Future)


* stories involving doubles or twins (The Great Dictator)


* stories involving disguises, transformations, amnesia and exchanges of identity (Tootsie)


* stories involving scheming, plots, frauds and other various forms of lying (Trading Places)

The occasional works in which the writer tells the story by working backwards using an inverse chronology, achieve many of their effects through dramatic irony.”

“It is clear from all these examples that dramatic irony can be extraordinarily effective means of drawing in the audience. It puts the spectator in a privileged position relative to the victim, one that all too often he is unable to enjoy in relation to his own situation. In everyday life, too many of our actions and decisions are shots in the dark. We may attempt to plan our lives, to set ourselves benchmarks and objectives, but in the vast majority of cases, as for characters in drama, things do not work as planned….Imagine therefore the satisfaction the spectator feels when, under his exceptionally lucid gaze, characters less percipient than himself find themselves enmeshed in the toils of the author’s plot. He can look on benignly while they suffer the consequences of the lies thay are told, or fall inevitably into traps set in their path. What a pleasure it is to be invited by the writer to join him in his omniscience and superiority with regard to his characters. The popularity of theatre since the time of the ancient Greeks, and that of cinema over the past century, undoubtedly owe much to pleasures of this kind.”
Yves Lavandier
Writing Drama
Pages 270-271

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What do the plays Ruined and Driving Miss Daisy have in common? They both won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and both happened to have been written by graduates of Brown University (Lynn Nottage ’86 and Alfred Uhry ’59). I’ve been thinking a lot about Ruined after seeing it last Saturday and for some reason it made me think of Driving Miss Daisy today and then I stumbled on this interesting connection between them. (And just for good measure I should point out that another Brown graduate, Nilo Cruz, also won the Pulitzer in 2003 for his play Anna in the Tropics.)  

In 2008 Nottage was asked by Alexis Green “Are you combining Activism and playwriting?”

“They are two passions. I feel it’s my social responsibility to shine a light on areas that don’t get seen. My personal feeling is that it’s an artist’s responsibility to be engaged with the culture. And when the culture is going through turmoil, I think an artist can’t ignore that. I don’t feel that every artist has to be politically engaged, but I can’t imagine that you can be an active participant of this culture and not in some way reflect that in the work you are creating.”
                                                           Lynn Nottage 
                                                           League of Professional Theatre Women

 

To learn more about Nottage visit her website at www.lynnnottage.net.

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