To see a synopsis of each play including play summary, casting and running time, please click the title of the play you are interested in.
The stars on each play indicate the number of times it has been previously produced.
When using any music during the dramatization of a song, the rights for that piece must be acquired from the music publisher before usage. Please follow the guidelines for music rights usage as outlined by The Dramatists' Guild of America.
April 24, 2019
in Living and Faith Today
While chemotherapy was infusing into a vein in John's right arm, he frowned. Who wouldn't? To encourage him, the nurses urged him to be happy as to improve the chances he would get better. Taking their advice seriously, the next day after he recovered from his treatment John sought out books on happiness at a Barnes and Noble as well as happiness apps on his phone. To his amazement he found a treasure-trove of books promoting happiness at the book store as well as a thousand happiness apps on his phone. John was in luck!
As he started to read these resources, John quickly discovered the advice given was for activating what was inside, not what's outside. The resources urged self-discovery, producing emotional independence, not interdependence on anyone or anything else--spending more time with one's self, not engaging with the outside world. Since John was estranged from his wife and children and on the road for his business, John was alone most of the time. “I can't believe being alone even more can be the answer—I'm already alone ninety percent of the time, and I'm not happy,” John pined. John was out of luck!
Though there is great emphasis on solitude and introspection in our current cultural scene, research has shown that we really need the opposite—we need relationships. Extroverts as well as introverts in multiple studies concur that what makes them happy is other people. These results are irrespective of race, gender, age, income, and social status. Social interaction is the best indicator of a happy life, and as the nurses suggested, is also good for your health. Loneliness provides a big risk of premature death, greater than smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, and twice as risky as obesity. Bottom line: The most significant thing we can do for our well-being is to develop relationships and friendships.
Because of his family situation and travel, this would not easy for John. However John is not alone in his life situation nor is his situation unique, but others have solved this problem. What is the solution? In the Bible I found a character who overcame some of the same problems as John and could provide a solution for John. Soon after the days of Jesus, the apostle Paul made three extraordinary missionary trips to spread Christianity. He was either unmarried or a widow and alone for long periods of time as he travelled throughout Asia Minor and Europe. How did Paul feel about his situation? In the city of Troas (in modern day Turkey) Paul lamented: “I had no peace of mind because I did not find my [friend and fellow missionary] Titus there” (2 Corinthians 1:13). Therefore he travelled to Philippi (in modern day Greece) to seek out Titus. In Philippi Paul found relief when he located Titus: “In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you” (2 Corinthians 7:13). Paul was happy for two reasons: He was reunited with his friend Titus, and because Titus had been generously welcomed and accepted by the people in Greece. Paul consciously sought out his friend.
John needs to reach out to his neighbors where he lived, to acquaintances in his church, and professional colleagues on his travels. “I'm not going to sit in a pew by myself anymore,” John quipped. It is not easy to establish or maintain a friendship or relationship. It takes effort and not always smooth sailing like for Paul in the first century. Yet John admitted, “I've had trouble with my relationships—I know that, but I do feel better with other people rather than being alone.”
Despite the difficulties of social interaction, happiness is other people. Work at relationships. They are worth it and can save your life! And of course, make you happy.
Friends are good for your health
March 19, 2019
in Living and Faith Today
Jack came to my office with his brother. As his brother was walking toward the treatment room for his chemotherapy, Jack took me aside. “I'm usually too busy to come, but I know my brother is doing real bad, “Jack said, “I want to know if I'll do better than him if I get cancer. I mean, he drinks, smokes, is overweight, and probably eats potato chips for breakfast. I do none of that. I'll be okay, right?”
With a little prodding I discovered that Jack did not have much time for anything except work. “It cost me my marriage, but you can't have everything,” Jack continued. Friends, I asked? Jack shrugged. Then I said something that really shocked Jack: Recent research has shown that people with poor habits live longer if they have friends than people with good habits who did not have friends. People without friends are three times more likely to die compared with those with strong friendships over a nine year period in one study. Jack was dumbfounded. “You mean being alone is worse for you than smoking?”
Having friends or social connectedness has profound physical and emotional effects upon a person's health. Numerous studies have shown lower stress, lower blood pressure, increased blood flow to the brain and other vital organs, along with fewer cardiac diseases in individuals with friends. Additionally, measured inflammation levels are lower, immunologic function is maintained even with aging, and wound healing is better. At the gene level, those with friends have diminished genes that turn on inflammation. In terms of mental health, those with friends have less depression, more self-esteem, more compassion, are more trustworthy, and cooperate better with others.
How can friendship have such profound effects? The Bible states that “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17: 17). How does friendship that embodies love look? One of the great examples of friendship in the Bible is that of David and Jonathan. Though taking place 3000 years ago, this example of friendship is still relevant to us today. King Saul of Israel, Jonathan's father, had become jealous of David's exploits and victories as commander of Saul's army and obsessed in wanting to kill David. Jonathan realized David was innocent of any wrongdoing and a faithful follower of the king. As a result of his friendship with David, Jonathan spoke well of David, putting his own safety and standing in the family at risk: “Let not the king to wrong to his servant David; has not not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistines. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?” (1 Samuel 19: 4-5) Jonathan continued to support David even when David went into exile as the king continued to threaten his life. Such was the friendship so close between David and Jonathan that David spoke at Jonathan's funeral after Jonathan had died in battle: “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very close to me. Your love for me was wonderful” (2 Samuel 1: 26). Jonathan's life was cut short by death on the battlefield, but certainly David's life was greatly impacted and prolonged by Jonathan's actions.
Research has shown that the attitude and action of love produces beneficial effects upon the individual as that individual reaches out to others. On a biochemical level, love releases chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine and oxytocin, that cause calmness, pleasure, and happiness. As Paul in the Book of Acts recalls the words of Jesus: “'It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) with the word “blessed” having the same root as the word “happy.” With all these effects, no wonder friendship has such profound and powerful effects upon a person, even overcoming detrimental habits and life styles.
Jack had a number of laudable habits that contribute to long life, but was missing the vital component of social connectedness (friendship) that in itself has profound benefits to health. Is Jack an isolated case? Recent research has shown that more than twenty-five percent of Americans had no one to confide in, no close friend.
Finding meaning in retirement
February 19, 2019
in Living and Faith Today
Oscar was in the office for his regular check-up. Fortunately he had a form of chronic leukemia that required no treatment for now. His challenge was his recent retirement: “I'm finished at the accounting firm I established. I don't know what to do. I'm ready for anything--at least I think I am.”
Retirement can be years of potential: extending what we have already done or redirecting us into new possibilities. We may not have the vigor of our earlier years but we can compensate in many ways to be productive and creative. The renowned pianist Arthur Rubinstein said he adjusted for age-induced declines in his skills by selecting a more limited repertoire, optimizing his performance by extra practice, and altering the tempo somewhat. Others need or want to change to something new such as Martha Graham the great dancer who became a choreographer when she could not dance any longer.
Because of Oscar's familiarity with the Old Testament, I offered him as encouragement an example of someone who made a substantial life change in his latter years. Abram, who lived 4000 years ago, was a wealthy businessman living in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans in present day Iraq. Located on the crossroad of the major trade route of the ancient world, Ur was a busy business hub with a vast library and extensive schools. Abram, secure and comfortable at age seventy-five “with “possessions he had accumulated and people he had acquired” (Genesis 11:5), received a call from God: “Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you (Genesis 12:1).” What? Abram was asked to give up a thriving and stimulating urban environment for Canaan, a desolate, primitive hardscrabble land 800 miles to the west, without any cities or culture. He would have to travel by camels and live in tents—possibly for the rest of his life. He would leave his extended family and even change his name to Abraham!
Yet Abram set out for Canaan and embarked on three new areas of activities when he arrived. He became a successful livestock owner and seller of tents, a military leader, and a believer who served the Lord Almighty. Abram stepped out in faith in his senior years leaving his former life and embraced these new changes. God showed him he was to make Abram into a great nation: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12: 2-3).”
Just as Abram had abilities and aptitudes that could be channeled into new areas, so does Oscar with managerial and entrepreneurial skills that could be reset in his senior years in different fields. “My son-in-law has bought some land locally and has been talking about building an affordable housing development. I could help him with the management side of the project. I'd also like to give something back to the community, providing home ownership for people with limited means.”
We may not be able to pursue the roles and passions of our earlier years and our physical and mental health may limit us in time, but we can pursue something new that can be exciting and rewarding in our senior years. As Oscar was leaving the office he quipped: “Keep me going, doc. You've convinced me I've still got a lot I can do.”
“Get On With It!” Really?
August 13, 2018
in Living and Faith Today
In a community our size, it is not surprising I occasionally meet a patient or a family member in Shaw's or Skillin's. So It was not unusual that I encountered Amy that day in Shaw's five years after her husband had died of leukemia. I had seen her several times from afar and she would sheepishly wave, but that day she came right up to me and exclaimed, “I can't believe he's gone. I've never gotten over it.” And then she cried.
How long does it take to recover after the death of a spouse? Psychologists have traditionally concluded that after a brief period of sometimes intense bereavement, the vast majority of spouses adjust well, returning to their previous work, daily routines, and prior state of contentment within a few months to a year. But that assessment is now being seriously challenged.
Recent research has found that most survivors have considerable difficulty with their quality of life after the death of a spouse, feeling trapped in a restricted, joyless existence. This research notes significant declines in both physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Over 400 individuals who
had lost a spouse were subjects in a recent study. These individuals were followed yearly for thirteen years with face-to-face and telephone interviews and self-completed questionnaires. To positivev questions about having a full life, feeling calm and peaceful, and having a lot of energy, only 26%vclaimed they had bounced back to a life similar to when their spouses were alive. To negative questions such as like being nervous, feeling so depressed nothing could help, or being worn out, 80% continued to feel that way. To questions of physical activities, 63% had no recovery to their baseline level. Overall only 10% of individuals had recovered to all levels of physical and emotional health present before their spouses had died. This recent scientific work shows profound differences from what was generally believed about how resilient people are after the loss of a spouse.
Amy told me she thought she had done the right things to assuage her grief. In her synagogue she had a weeklong period of mourning with relative and friends expressing condolences and relatingvmemories of her husband, and a yearlong period of daily prayers. After that she thought she could govit alone. She could not. “It still hurts—just asvbad. When will it end?” Amy lamented that day in the supermarket.
The Bible relates stories of people having prolonged periods of grief after the death of a spouse. In one notable example occurring in the land of Canaan 3000 thousand years ago, Naomi left the town of Bethlehem with her sons because of famine in the land. In the land of her new home her husband died as well as her sons. Ten years later she was still grieving. As Naomi was preparing with two daughters-in-laws to return to Bethlehem that was recovering from the famine and facing a better future, still lamented her physical and emotional condition: “Don't call me Naomi. Call me Mara [bitter], because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1: 20-21).
New research has concluded there are three factors that help people recover from their loss: having someone to confide in or lean on for support; social connectedness such as religious vorganizations; and maintaining daily activities. But how long do people need support? From the recent research, a year is too short. Most people will need help for longer periods of time than one year or any other arbitrary time period. The death of a spouse is a crushing blow to most people.
As Amy walked away from me in Shaw's that day, I realized the wisdom in the Bible of three millenia ago set there as an example for us as well as the recent experience of Amy. We should be alert to how much and how deep is the loss after the death of a spouse, and be willing to help family and friends for an extended period of time. The impact of the loss of a spouse can have long-lasting effects on physical and emotional health. Few can “get on with it.”
What Can You Do When You Become Disabled?
July 04, 2018
in Living and Faith Today
John looked depressed as he was wheeled into my office. He had every right to be. Though in remission from lymphoma and likely cured, his disease began in a critical area of his spine, leaving his legs paralyzed despite effective radiotherapy and chemotherapy. “Why did God do this to me—I'm only thirty-five? I'll never accomplish anything again,” John lamented, “I just want to be left in my room alone.” I tried to encourage him, but he responded, “I'd rather die.” Was there any hope for John?
I offered John the recent story of a famous Broadway director. At twenty-eight, Jack Hofsiss was the youngest director to win a Tony Award for his work in the 1979 production of “The Elephant Man.” This success opened additional opportunities in the theater and Hollywood, but six years later Jack Hofsiss became permanently paralyzed from the neck down after a diving accident in a swimming pool. He too did not feel he had any future and was greatly depressed. His care-giver was afraid to leave him alone in his room, fearing he would harm himself. Jack also asked “Why,” but received no answer. This man of faith eventually realized “I had to give up asking.”
Fortunately a producer offered Jack a directing job at a summer theatre. “God bless Josie Ababy,” Jack said of his friend who provided this opportunity to work at the Berkshire Theater Festival. Though he could not direct in the same fashion as when he could walk--hopping on and off the stage and brandishing his arms at the actors, he could articulate clearly his ideas and instructions to the actors, a skill “I learned from the Jesuits at Georgetown University.” After this first successful opportunity, Jack Hofsiss returned to New York and went on to have an illustrious career directing many notable productions and teaching directing and acting at two distinguished drama programs before he died at age 65.
There was also encouragement for John in the Bible with stories about productive people with disabilities. One example is Jacob, a Hebrew patriarch who lived 4000 years ago. He made his fortune by tricking his brother out of his birthright. Though successful Jacob had to flee ancient Canaan fearing the revenge of his brother. When Jacob returned years later wealthy with a large retinue of animals and big family, he had to face God at the brook Jabbok. Was it because of his prior life-style of manipulating and conniving? There Jacob's hip was wrenched out of socket in the struggle, and he could no longer walk without a limp. This experience changed his life. He began worshiping God and restored his relationship with his brother. He was very successful for many years with greater riches and land, and a large family. Even his name was changed to Israel: “Because you have struggled with God” (Genesis 32: 28). A thousand years later the pivotal Kind David came from the line of his son Judah. Ultimately through David's line came Jesus. Jacob's effect upon his family and mankind extends to this day, four millennia later.
Both from ancient accounts and recent examples, there were many ways John could be encouraged about what he could do in the future despite his disability. While there might have been an answer to “Why?” for Jacob in the Bible based upon his prior manipulative actions toward his brother, for John, the director Jack Hofsiss, and many others, there is no answer—it's beyond our understanding. Like most, we must move on from the question “Why did it happen?” to “What do I do now?”
John might not be able to walk, but he has many resources to help him. Additionally he has capabilities and abilities that can allow him to achieve much more in the future. John's wife and three girls have been very supportive. John works in an office with his success dependent upon the agile use of a computer and phone—both he has utilized very effectively in the past and can continue to use in the future.
John's attitude did not change right away, but the discussion had started. After a few visits, he started to see what the future could bring, but it took time.
Does a 17th Century Poem about “Community” Have Relevance Now?
June 18, 2018
in Living and Faith Today
Having seen the scans and laboratory reports, Phyllis was not surprised what I told her that day in the hospital. With a sigh she responded, “So I'm dying. Nobody will know and nobody will care.” Her sad words were unfortunately not unique to her nor to our era. Phyllis' lament reminded me of King David's words three millennia ago recorded in the Bible during a time David felt abandoned and betrayed: “No one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life” (Psalm 142:4).
Many years ago in Portland church bells would peel when someone died. This custom was revived after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shootings. Church bells around the country including at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke's on State Street were rung once for each victim as a sign of remembrance. In the case of the Las Vegas shootings, it was a reminder of the deaths of so many in our greater community. The early practice of church bell ringing, now gone from most cities and communities, is a relic of the days of communal life in a village or hamlet, where the joys and sorrows of the individual were commonly shared and the parish church was the center of all activities.
The ringing of church bells when someone died was called “tolling” from the old English word “telling”--telling the community that one of theirs had died. This tolling of bells was immortalized in a poem by the famous writer John Donne in 1624: “No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thine own or of thine friend's were, each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee” (“Devotions''--Meditation 17).
Modern life, tending to separateness, has done much to destroy this feeling of kinship and many old customs have been lost in consequence. Today a tolling bell would likely go unheeded in the bellowing din of busy urban life, with few likely stopping for a moment at work or play to consider with a kindly thought a soul passing into eternity.
Should we be touched by the passing of an individual in our community? When asked what were the greatest commandments, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40). Those words spoken 2000 years ago in the present tense were meant not only for long ago but also for today. Because all people are included as neighbors as described by Jesus, we are bound to demonstrate love to them.
Spending the winter in Florida with an older population, I hear the siren of an EMT vehicle responding to someone who has died or is dying several times a week, even waking me up at night. While driving around, I often have to pull over as an EMT vehicle approaches with siren wailing. Is this experience a petty annoyance of daily life or a wake-up call to be engaged to what is happening to others around us?
The siren cry of the EMT vehicle may be the tolling bell of today, alerting us that someone in our community is in distress or has died. If you hear today's “tolling bell” of an EMT vehicle in the next several months, it could be that the EMT vehicle has been summoned to the home of my patient whose prognosis is grave. Would you please remember Phyllis when you hear the siren? Can I tell her someone will know and someone will care?
Reflections: Bible said it, research confirms it: Happy spouse, happy, healthy life
May 28, 2018
(originally posted in the P0rtland Press Herald May 5, 2018)
“Your wife is always smiling,” I said to Jack as he was leaving an examining room in my office. “It must be a good thing,” Jack replied. “She’s never sick, and she makes me feel good, too.”
Jack was right on both accounts. We have long known that mental well-being is closely linked to good physical health in an individual, but a recent published study has demonstrated that physical health is also linked to the happiness of one’s husband or wife. Researchers have used data from almost 2,000 couples in a nationwide sample assessed periodically over 25 years. The results show that a person’s good health was independently associated with the happiness of one’s spouse. Consistently people with an unhappy partner had more physical impairments, engaged in less exercise, and rated their own health worse than those who had happy partners.
These results led the researchers to conclude that a happy spouse provided social support, and encouraged the other to eat a healthy diet and exercise more that contributed to good health. This research confirms the power of close relationships. We know when we surround ourselves with happy people, we are happier. Now we know we are healthier as well.
What is the basis of this happiness that can affect another’s health? It cannot be a simple, superficial smile or giggle related to fortuitous circumstances. To actually impact others’ well-being, there must be a deeper form of happiness related to one’s character independent of circumstances. This form of happiness is described as joy.
An example of how a happy (joyful) spouse affects her husband is tucked away at the end of the book of Proverbs. Many of the proverbs in the early chapters of the book were written by King Solomon around 900 B.C., while other sages were the authors of the proverbs in the later chapters. The last chapter of Proverbs written by King Lemuel contains an epilogue entitled “A Wife of Noble Character.”
In this chapter of the book, a wife is described as active in the home (”She gets up while it is still dark; she provides for her family” (Proverbs 31:15) and outside the home (”She considers a field and buys it” (Proverbs 31:16). She is also involved in the social issues of her community: “She opens her arms to the poor” (Proverbs 31: 20). While engaged with these activities that impact her family and community positively, she does them all with verve: “She can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31: 25). This joyful spirit, independent of everyday highs and lows, is related to her character: “She speaks with wisdom” (Proverbs 31: 26). The wife’s actions extend to how she treats her husband: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of his life” (Proverbs 31: 11). Ultimately her actions and attitude affect her husband’s life and success in the community: “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31: 23).
How do we know the family in the Bible appreciates what the woman in Proverbs does? “Her husband has full confidence in her” (Proverbs 31:31) and “Her children arise and call her blessed” (Proverbs 31: 28). In the Proverb the woman’s husband also gives his personal testimonial quoted in the text for all to remember and consider: “‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all'” (Proverbs 31: 29).
I related to Jack the results of this study about how a spouse’s happiness can affect the other’s physical health. He remarked, “I believe it. Her happiness must be working. My health’s not perfect – hey, I have cancer – but I’m doing fine with treatment because I know my wife is with me. She’ll never let me down, and that means everything to me.”
Production of St Columba from January 2017
January 30, 2017
YOU KNOW ABOUT SAINT PATRICK. DO YOU KNOW ABOUT SAINT COLUMBA? Yes, Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. Did you know that Saint Columba, 100 years after Patrick, brought Christianity to Scotland? My play SAINT COLUMBA: MISSIONARY TO SCOTLAND was produced during the church services on January 29, 2017 at the First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs, Florida. Starring expertly in the two roles were Greg Gerstler and Charley Nevaril. My play dramatizes how Columba was summoned to speak before the king of Scotland because Columba’s preaching AND singing offended the pagan priests. Your congregation will learn much of Church history if you produce my play. SAINT COLUMBA: MISSIONARY TO SCOTLAND is available here: http://www.delvyncasejr.com/downloads/saint-columba-missionary-to-scotland/ , and is ready for you to produce. The play is only 6 minutes long and easy to fit into your church service. The video of the production will be posted soon on youtube for your viewing.
[gallery link="file" ids="1966,1967,1968"]
YOU KNOW ABOUT SAINT PATRICK. DO YOU KNOW ABOUT SAINT COLUMBA? Yes, Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. Did you know that Saint Columba, 100 years after Patrick, brought Christianity to Scotland? My play SAINT COLUMBA: MISSIONARY TO SCOTLAND was produced during the church services on January 29, 2017 at the First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs, Florida. Starring expertly in the two roles were Greg Gerstler and Charley Nevaril. My play dramatizes how Columba was summoned to speak before the king of Scotland because Columba’s preaching AND singing offended the pagan priests. Your congregation will learn much of Church history if you produce my play. SAINT COLUMBA: MISSIONARY TO SCOTLAND is available here: http://www.delvyncasejr.com/downloads/saint-columba-missionary-to-scotland/ , and is ready for you to produce. The play is only 6 minutes long and easy to fit into your church service. The video of the production will be posted soon on youtube for your viewing.[gallery link="file" ids="1966,1967,1968"]
Characters, Motivations and Consequences
October 24, 2016
in Play Writing
In reviewing my assignment to list some favorite characters and the results of their motivation for their actions, I realized that their consequences were directly related to their CHARACTER. And who had a lot to say about that in 500 B.C.? Heraclitus of Ephesus, a famous Greek philosopher of that time who denied blind fate determined destiny.
I've looked at my list of Favorite Characters, their Motivations, and Consequences. Interesting results I thought! Then I considered what Heraclitus would say about the outcomes of their actions: CHARACTER CONTROLS DESTINY. Not bad for 500 B.C. that we can relate to carefully crafted characters over the last 400 years and what happens to them.
Character Motivation Consequences
Hamlet Revenge Successful (but he dies)
King Lear Retire well Failure
Antonio Validate his Anti-Semitism Failure
Richard III Become king Temporary success
C. Mayon ("The Play…") A place in the community Failure
Willy Loman Success in business Failure
A. Solieri Beat Mozart in music Failure
Salome Seduce John the Baptist Failure
George Gibbs("Our…') Find love Success
Albert ("Warhorse") Find his horse Success
"Our Town" was the big role for me as a teenager and demonstrated to me the power of Theatre. I returned to "Our Town" as an example of great writing as I began to write.
WHO SHOULD WE IDENTIFY WITH AS THE AUDIENCE IN A PLAY? A take on THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD.
October 24, 2016
in Play Writing
My response to audience identification was part of my University of Oxford Drama course.
WHO SHOULD WE IDENTIFY WITH AS THE AUDIENCE IN A PLAY? Here is my take in the famous early 20th century play THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD.
In "The Playboy of the Western World" the audience is meant to identify with the country people who frequent the public house. At first I was APPALLED. The country people are shallow, feckless, vacuous, and fickle! Then I realized we are just like them! At first the country people are friendly to the stranger Christopher. By the time he boldly states he has killed his father, they are not shocked at their new friend but call him "a daring fellow." They banter about what weapon he used and where his father was buried. The public house becomes his home. The owner offers him a job, and Christopher is pleased he will be safe there. The owner's daughter and a widow flirt with him.
After the truth is known that Christopher has not killed his father, the country people call Christopher "a liar" and "a good-for-nothing." The crowd wants to hang him!
I see myself in the mirror as these people from a far away land and a hundred years ago. I also see these people as those that greeted Jesus Christ on Palm Sunday cheering him as he came into Jerusalem and then yelling "crucify him" by Friday. Is it any wonder that the stranger's name is Christopher?
Synge has done a masterful job in depicting people in a specific place and specific time, but with universal characteristics that are sad but true.
From The Oxford University Writing Course Forums 2016
October 17, 2016
in Play Writing
How I Write:
My writing more likely fits the statement: "Playwriting is an activity subject to the constraints of reason." First I start with an idea (especially from my journal). If the idea appears dramatic and fit for the stage, I will "write" a draft in my head. Then I will put down a rough draft on paper. If the draft looks promising, I will develop the idea as I put the draft on the computer. At that point I have something! Then begins the process of shaping the idea into a play. That process takes many revisions to make it interesting and sensible for an audience. The play may look quite different from the original idea, but the original idea is what drives the whole process and is the essence of it.
My Favorite Thing:
I LOVE Shakespeare. I LOVE Shakespeare because he puts humanity on stage. He knows people so well he lets the created characters speak and act for themselves, even those of different backgrounds and cultures. The characters are not mouthpieces for the author. What happens to the characters in Shakespeare's plays occur because what THEY say and do, not what the author believes. This is very liberating for me in my writing. With proper research (through travel, reading, and direct contact with people of other cultures), I can write plays about peoples of other backgrounds and cultures: I can let them speak, I can let them believe, and I can let act with outcomes based upon who they are.
Giving the audience what they want but...
Characters in a play should be complex like life, not unidimensional or conform to a type. Characters should have the capacity to change as well as act in unexpected or unpredictable ways. However they should change and act in ways that are compatible with the character that has been presented. There must be some logic in what is happening to the character so the audience can relate to the changes and be engaged with the character and the play.
Changing the rules: Are plays about language?
In (classwork), there are the following statements: "…the theatre is about language…" and "…writing for the theatre and radio may be primarily about using language…" Is this really true?
I find plays that are about people only talking very BORING and TEDIOUS. Take LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (very long) and THE ICEMAN COMETH (until he comes). Plays are about language AND action. Shakespeare's plays give us action after action--it is nonstop. Though the available texts have few stage directions, there is movement all the time that is brought out from the text by capable directors.
In my own writing I do write heightened stage language with attention to rhythm with iambic beats (blank verse), but I write plays (even 5 or 10 minute church plays) with ACTION. It is interesting that the least successful type of production of my plays is a Table Reading where all the stage directions are read. In that setting the reading of the stage directions takes away from the thrust of the play. With a Staged Reading, it is better because the actors are doing more of the action. With a Full Production the audience SEES what theactors do and there is seamless connection of the action to the play.
Doesn't Drama mean "to do" and Theater mean "to see"?
The Iceberg Principle:
In writing drama how do we build a world on the iceberg principle in which only 30% of all the research is actually used but with the confidence that is is grounded in the 70% that the audience never sees? We build characters and actions who speak and act in ways that are consistent with the research without directly articulating these facts in exposition.
Giving the audience what they want but...Characters in a play should be complex like life, not unidimensional or conform to a type. Characters should have the capacity to change as well as act in unexpected or unpredictable ways. However they should change and act in ways that are compatible with the character that has been presented. There must be some logic in what is happening to the character so the audience can relate to the changes and be engaged with the character and the play. Changing the rules: Are plays about language? In (classwork), there are the following statements: "…the theatre is about language…" and "…writing for the theatre and radio may be primarily about using language…" Is this really true? I find plays that are about people only talking very BORING and TEDIOUS. Take LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (very long) and THE ICEMAN COMETH (until he comes). Plays are about language AND action. Shakespeare's plays give us action after action--it is nonstop. Though the available texts have few stage directions, there is movement all the time that is brought out from the text by capable directors. In my own writing I do write heightened stage language with attention to rhythm with iambic beats (blank verse), but I write plays (even 5 or 10 minute church plays) with ACTION. It is interesting that the least successful type of production of my plays is a Table Reading where all the stage directions are read. In that setting the reading of the stage directions takes away from the thrust of the play. With a Staged Reading, it is better because the actors are doing more of the action. With a Full Production the audience SEES what theactors do and there is seamless connection of the action to the play. Doesn't Drama mean "to do" and Theater mean "to see"? The Iceberg Principle: In writing drama how do we build a world on the iceberg principle in which only 30% of all the research is actually used but with the confidence that is is grounded in the 70% that the audience never sees? We build characters and actions who speak and act in ways that are consistent with the research without directly articulating these facts in exposition.