Writing Great Plays

November 02, 2015 by in Play Writing

Arthur Miller would have celebrated his 100th birthday in October 2015 had he not died in 2005.  There was much he could have celebrated—his work remains as popular as ever.  A number of his plays in the West End and Broadway are undergoing revivals.  Several notable actors and directors involved in these revivals in the West End were asked by BBC News on October 15 why his plays remain fresh.  Their responses about his playwriting should help all of us playwrights write great plays.  I gleaned 12 characteristics of his writing from these interviews:

HE WRITES ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING HUMAN

WE RECOGNIZE OURSELVES IN HIS CHARACTERS

HE WRITES CREDIBLE CHARACTERS IN ETERNAL SITUATIONS

HE HOLDS UP A MIRROR TO HOW WE BEHAVE

HE MAINTAINS A WORLD THAT IS REALISTIC

HE MAKES TRAGEDIES OUT OF THE LIVES OF ORDINARY PEOPLE

HIS CHARACTERS CAN EITHER COPE IN CRISES OR BUCKLE UNDER THEM– THAT’S A WORLD WE CAN RECOGNIZE

THE SIMPLICITY OF WHAT HE DOES IS MASKED BY THE INCREDIBLY CAREFUL PLOTTING

HE IS A MASTER  OF STRUCTURE AND STORYTELLING

HIS WORK HAS A STRONG SENSE OF JUSTICE AND HONESTY

ACTORS WANT TO PLAY HIS CHARACTERS BECAUSE THEY ARE GREAT ROLES, FULL OF COMPLEXITY

HE WAS OPEN TO WHAT THE ACTORS FELT THEY WANTED TO BRING OUT IN

THEIR ROLES

These are a dozen elements of writing great plays.  Master even one and you are on your way.

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