by Lesley Bown and Ann Gawthorpe
Most of us these days experience drama through watching television, and one of the most common mistakes new playwrights make is to write a theatre play as if it were for television. The two forms of drama are quite different, and the audience experiences them in quite different ways.
Most professional plays have very small casts – six or eight –- and, compared with TV or cinema, very few changes of scene. Scenes in TV tend to be very short and punchy whereas theatre drama can build slowly to a big climax, as long as the audience’s attention is held.
Plot information is also dealt with differently: in TV some of it is given visually, often through flashbacks or cutaways. In the theatre it is generally incorporated through dialogue where it needs to be incorporated subtly.
As a theatre play has to be written for the theatre, not for TV, radio or cinema. The best thing to do is to make a habit of going to the theatre. There are often cheap tickets to be had midweek or for afternoon matinees, and local amdram productions give a good introduction to theatre drama. Before you can write for the theatre, you need to understand it.
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