Text as used in theatre

Text took on a special meaning for me last fall when I read the script of a play I was about to see. I read the play twice and thought it was really well constructed with surprising elements and interesting dialogue. Then I saw the play. The script came to life in all sorts of unexpected ways. Had the playwright used different words, the effect would have been different – perhaps more or less intense, or with a different emotional focus.
For fun, read the three pieces below, which essentially deliver the same message, but are for different characters. What kind of person is speaking? What is the setting? What was discovered? And… are the characters necessarily human?

My dearest Sophie, I have made a fascinating discovery and it would be of my utmost pleasure to share this wondrous moment with you.

Sophie! I found something! Come quick! And don’t trip in the mud or Mom’ll get mad!

Sophie girl! Y’ever seen somethin’ like that? Golly! Sure wish I had muh camera right ‘bout now!

I’m going to take a bit of a tangent from the discussion of what a text is. The experience of reading, then seeing a play made me appreciate the work of the playwright who not only has to come up with dialogue and scene direction, but also has to imagine how the words will be delivered. The playwright has to select words that are used for all kinds of real or apparent purposes, and he has to work within the limitations of his medium: number of actors, length of the play, production budget, type and size of stage… The dialogue has to be developed and reworked until it makes sense, is entertaining and conveys specific emotions. The playwright is thus a word craftsman and may be the one person who embodies the link between text and technology. For more about the word “playwright” see “Etymology” on the following Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playwright

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