Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A book for anyone interested in theatre

In his commentary on the DVD for WALL-E, director Andrew Stanton shares that the movie's first act was written earlier than the other two. He explained that it is easier for a screenwriter to know the ending of the plot, however, and then build the actions of the script to lead to that final point.

In his book Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays, David Ball suggests that working backward can benefit not only writers, but also actors, directors, designers, audience members – anyone interested in the craft of theatre. They can learn much about a script by starting at the end, then moving backward to see the domino effect of actions that led to the conclusion.

Knowing how the play is structured, a person will gain insight about not only the plot, but other elements as well, including character. Ball shows through an analysis of Hamlet why the titular character isn't depressed and incapable of action, as some theatre practitioners and critics claim. Rather, he is shaken out of his stasis by an unnerving event, works through several actions and scenarios, achieves his goal and returns to stasis. (Rather permanent stasis, thanks to Mr. Shakespeare, but stasis nonetheless.)

At 96 pages, not including a forward by Michael Langham of The Juilliard School, Backwards and Forwards is a quick read that can enhance people's understanding of a script and influence their reactions toward a production, whether they collaborate to create it or are members of the audience. It creates a solid foundation from which people who love theatre can build their knowledge and appreciation for the art form.

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