The Right Way to Write a Play – There is None
By Casey Bell
As a playwright I have seen seminars, webinars, classes, workshops, and summits on the right way to write a play. I never registered because I always knew there was never a right or wrong way to create art (just as long as it is legal). If you take the time to research plays documented on stone, papyrus, or paper, you will notice the way they have been written has changed over time.
The other thing you will notice is as time moved on, playwrights decided to experiment with theater and created new forms of the art. Operas, fringe, immersive, melodrama, tragedy, absurd, experimental, realism, comedy, farce, historical, poetic, satirical, and so many more. Looking at the history of theater, there are so many forms of playwrighting. Had any one of the creators of these forms believed there was only one way to write a play, these forms would have never been created.
As professionals it is not our job to decide which is the right or wrong way to scribe art. No art form can live without paying patrons. So, as art professionals we should never decide what is and isn’t art.
Did we forget there was a time when abstract visual art was considered taboo?
Even photography at one point in time was considered “not art.” Now, both photography and abstract are very much accepted in the world of art. So, who are we to decide what can and cannot be proper playwright? Without doing it the “wrong way” we can never discover new art. Every writer should have the freedom to express him/herself freely, without literary boundaries.
“Playwrightdemic.” During these times, now more than ever we need the wrong way to do things. We cannot continue to do things as normal. The 2020 pandemic has crippled theater and the only way to be healed is to think differently. To create new ways of writing and producing theater.
We should never, as artists, segregate ourselves into the ‘right way” to do anything. No one should be having classes on the right way to write a play, because at any moment (as we have already seen) the “right way” could be the old way.
As artists, we should allow writers to freely write as they please and experiment. Yes, some times what they create may not work, but we will never be able to create the innovative art piece forcing everyone to write the same way. Many people criticized Tyler Perry and his plays, but he had a mega audience who loved how he created theater. It may have not been the way the professionals liked it, but the professionals weren’t selling out the theaters, his audience was.
The audience is the only thing that matters in theater. Even if the way a writer creates is not fondly accepted by the long-time professionals, we must remember creating art is not for the professionals, but for the audience.
Hamilton is the perfect example. One of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time and there is no tap dancing, happy love songs, and no ever-after ending. Lin-Manuel Miranda infused hip-hop and urban culture into his creations. And he never restricted himself to writing the “right way.”
If we never had the idea that there is a wrong way to do theater, how many more kinds of plays could have been created? How many new concepts could have graced the stages? How many innovative plays could have been livestreamed by now? We should never force a certain way of writing on any creator. Even the wrong way can be received well by an audience and create another way of doing.
As artist, the only rule there should be is to leave a message that will cause change in the audience who come to enjoy the show. The message should be the only focus. Not the way it is given, written, or created. We can only prohibit art, when we instruct there is only one way to create. Art is not supposed to be enjoyed by all, but empower those who enjoy it. Empower them to create change in their lives that will make their home a better place to live, their neighborhood, community, nation, their world a better place.
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