In my drama class this week, I emphasized one of the most basic points related to the dramatic arts – plays are meant to be performed.
You may think I’m stating the obvious. But the obvious sometimes gets lost in the well-meaning jungle of academic minutia.
Ask yourself, how many plays did you have to read in an English class at some point in your life?
In college, I had the Riverside Shakespeare – the massive volume of all the bard’s plays and poetic works wrapped with hundreds of pages of commentary. It was overwhelming on both the brain and my muscles. And I went to college in the days before backpacks. At least I don’t remember backpacks. I remember carrying books under my arms with my knuckles dragging on the ground from the weight of Lady Macbeth’s scheming. All of those plays I read by myself in my dorm room. Is it any wonder I had trouble paying attention to them.
This is what I have concluded: Plays. Stage. Perfection.
Plays. Classroom. Less than perfection.
How much better is Shakespeare when seeing it live? How about a bizzilion times!
Case in point. This summer I had the opportunity to see “As You Like It” in a small outdoor park venue. The lively performance used the hillside and trees as part of the stage – a terrific natural setting which added to the imagination of the piece. The actions and language brought the play to life in vivid ways, and hundreds of people sprawling out on lawn chairs and lounging on the natural green grass amphitheater enjoyed a terrific evening of entertainment away from the television or sports or cell phones.
The pages were alive, as they should be.
I’m sure the bard would have approved of the spectacle in Allen Park, though I have to wonder what he would have thought to see his works studied like ancient manuscripts in a static classroom.
Plays are meant to be brought to life. They are meant to be performed. They are meant to be read aloud. The voice, the emphasis, the cadence, the rhythm, the sound of the varied pitches, the laughter, the growls, the crying, the joy, the humanness.
Lets get the plays out of the classrooms and onto the stage.
But if they must be in the classroom, I hope an impromptu stage emerges with students reading and acting out the words on the page which were never meant to stay there.