Is Fictional Storytelling being Diminished in Theatre?

I enjoyed reading THIS opinion piece on fictional storytelling and verbatim theatre. Honestly, I know very little about verbatim theatre and have not had an opportunity to see any verbatim shows up to this point. What is ‘verbatim theatre’ you might ask? It’s theatre which uses the real words of people who have been interviewed. Actors here and use the real words of real people and then act accordingly based on the show’s direction. It’s sounds interesting to me, and I might even like to try it at some point. According to sources I have read, verbatim theatre has moved into the mainstream in the London theatre scene, which is why Ms.Gardner wrote her piece, somewhat lamenting the fact that fictional storytelling seems to be taking a backseat in the theatre, as if real words from real people are more correct in portraying authentic human experience. As Ms. Gardner points out, this is not the case. Fictional storytelling can and does portray human emotions and desires in vivid ways, relate-able to everyone.

While I am no expert about verbatim theatre, I have seen my share of experimental theatre over the years. While I often find the performances interesting, and I’ve even dabbled in different types of performances from time to time, this is nothing like a great story to make great theatre. Modern theatre seems to experiment with everything and anything. Well, hey, I have an idea, let’s experiment with some fictional stories. Some full-length dramas – a full length original musical. Let’s put on a show that has a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Boring, you say? Been done too often, you say?

Not by a long-shot, I reply.

I could be wrong, because I have absolutely no research to back up this statement, but perhaps the general public has pulled away from the dramatic arts because of this very reason – the lack of gripping stories. (Sadly, I’ve run into way too many people who tell me they do not like going to the theatre, but they love watching movies!)

I do have anecdotal evidence. I have heard comments like this from people who occasionally go to the theatre – “that was just weird” – “it was okay, but I didn’t understand it” – “what was the point?”

The fact is, people LOVE stories. People love to be drawn into a character with whom they can relate. They love a plot which twists and turns and keeps them guessing. They love endings which are satisfying. Many people don’t like head-scratchers, and when they see one strange drama too many, they often decide to do other things rather than go to the theatre. And you have to admit, there are an awful lot of entertainment choices out there.

Don’t get me wrong. I love all kinds of dramas – including unique experimental stuff.

But if I ever had a choice, I’d take a gripping, well-written, beautifully plotted out story-line on stage any day of the week.

Here’s hoping that theatre will never forget that we are in the story-telling business.

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