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More thoughts on Playwriting: Thornton Wilder, 1941

July 22, 2013

–-from his essay “Some thoughts on Playwriting” published in “The Intent of the Artist” edited by Augusto Centeno, Princeton University Press 1941–

“III. THE THEATRE IS A WORLD OF PRETENSE. It lives by conventions: A convention is an agreed-upon falsehood, a permitted lie. . . .

“The history of the theatre shows us that in its greatest ages the stage employed the greatest number of convention. The stage is fundamental pretense and it thrives on the acceptance of that fact in the multiplication of additional pretenses. When it tries to assert that the personages in the action ‘really are,’ really inhabit such-and-such rooms, really suffer such-and-such emotions, it loses rather than gains credibility.

“The convention has two functions: (1) It provokes the collaborative activity of the spectator’s imagination, and (2) It raises the action from the specific to the general. This second aspect is of even greater importance than the first. . . .Out of the lie, the pretense, of the theatre proceeds a truth more compelling than the novel can attain, for the novel is constrained to tell of an action that ‘once happened, whereas (III) THE ACTION ON THE STAGE TAKES PLACE IN A PERPETUAL PRESENT TIME.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 23, 2013 8:39 am

    Thorton Wilder? No. I said that, didn’t I………..?

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