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What is Dramatic Theory, Part III

December 1, 2016

PART III: What is Dramatic Theory, and why you need it?

What is an audience? Let’s deal with one at a time – an audient.

Stories – ones that are not bold-faced, social propaganda of any ilk, are tales; told in a way that bring a listener, or viewer, to a place where they can abstract the emotional and cultural elements of an experience from a very shortened version. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy is encyclopedic. A reader is someone who has willingly exposed their subconscious mind to a series of visual, tactile and/or auditory ‘images’, for the purpose of being entertained, amused or emotionally informed at some level. In the presentation of filmed drama or comedy, the viewer collects these images, in the order that they are revealed in the writing – building, reconstructing, reformulating – and at last, at the end of the 22, 44, or 90 minutes, a completed image in time and space – called a story – is completed in the mind of the willing participant. And that story is completed in the subconscious mind of each and every single audient.

Dramatic Theory is: we have to know what the effect upon the audience is intended to be so that the thrust of the material and our efforts are unified. We need to know if the writer’s intention is for the audience to have a good, hearty, ironic laugh; or a shock, or a surprise, or a spiritual challenge. Being able to put a name on a scene – even upon a beat – qualifies the purpose of the writing so that we can have it mind as we work.

As an actor we are not the ‘character’ – we cannot pretend we are not in a dramatic or comedic contrivance intended to have a desired emotional effect upon the audience. No, we are much more than that. We are understanding artists, who, when married to the original intent of the writing, are THE integral propelling force in the delivery of the essential aspects of the piece.

Astronaut: Where are we going?

NASA: That’s on a ‘need to know’ basis.

Astronaut: I’m not feeling good about this mission.

For the actor, the ‘mission statement’ is right there on the page in front of you: flight path, fuel levels, intended altitude and range, and every aspect of the intended effect of reaching the destination. It’s all right there, but we have to know how to READ the instructions. This is what Dramatic Theory gives us, the skills to be able to read the instructions and map to the intended destination to the bulls eye of the drama or comedy.

We put appropriate names on things. Why?

Guy: Heard you went out huntin’ today. What’d you git?

Hunter: Oh, you know, one a them runnin’ things.

Guy: What do you mean, ‘one a them runnin’ things?

Hunter: Oh, you know, with the four legs?

Guy: You shot my dog?!

When all of our acting and directing skills are then devoted to the map, the plan, the blueprint – there is a very high likelihood of our arriving there.

This why we learn the rules of reading the map – the script – in our hands: Circumstances, Issues, The Doings, the Rules of Two, Script Evaluation, Objectivity, Actable /Perceivable and all the other Vital Elements that give us a consistent platform upon which to stage the material so that it CAN have the desired effect upon our viewing audience.

This is why good actors want good dramatic theory.


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One Comment
  1. Reride permalink

    In response to this theory. We as actors must take into consideration the director, script what message the writer is asking and scene. And how our delivery of the lines will effect the audience. Hence the need to examine the script in detail. When offered only a few pages for an audition, this can be quite difficult to accomplish. What’s would be your advise on how to get the most information from a mere page or two?

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