Play's Not a Thing
COMES FROM A FAMILY
things have stood in the way of a proper understanding of the play. One of these obstacles is the failure to realize
that the theatre is not a homogeneous entity. Given that realization, it is easy to see how it will be idle to
look for the essence of the theatre in the guise of a set of properties
which being common will bind all varieties of it and being peculiar
will distinguish it from other activities that resembles the theatre. Not that one shouldn’t look for binding properties-only they will
be no more than a network of resemblances between varieties. And not that one shouldn’t look for the properties
peculiar to varieties of the theatre that enables us to see
what the theatre is not.
Let us begin this inquiry, then, with a listing of the varieties
of the theatre that need to be taken into account:
- Poetry theatre—as distinct from poetry;
- Prose theatre—as distinct from prose literature;
- Spectacle theatre (pantomine, puppetry, shadow play,
vaudeville, revue, musical comedy, tableauvivant or the
like)—as distinct form spectacle arts (acrobatics, animal show,
magic show, peep show, slide show, son et lumière
or the like);
4. Dance theatre (Russian ballet, Indian classical
dance and song theatre, or the like)—as distinct from obstract dance
(non-representational varieties like the classical Indian nṛtya,
a good deal of modern dance and folk dance);
- Music theatre (the Italian opera, or the like)—as distinct
from verbal music (song in the broadest sense) and non-verbal
music (both purely instrumental music and pure vocal exercises
like the classical Hindustani tarānā).
theatre (also called poetic drama) and prose theatre (we might also
call it prose drama) are sometimes grouped together as literary
theatre (also simply called drama) and thus set off from the other
three non-dramatic varieties of theatre.
A play is a piece of drama.
In classical Sanskrit a rūpaka
is any theatre piece whether a dramatic piece (or nāṭaka)
or one of the other nine varieties of theatre.
these five varieties of the theatre stand distinguished (as we have
noticed) from other kinds of art activity such as poetry, prose,
literature, spectacle arts and so on.
This makes sense in that the varieties of the theatre are
all art forms. (From now on we shall use the word ‘art’ in the sense of the fine
arts in the broadest sense including of course the fine arts in
the earlier narrower sense, namely, graphic art, sculpture, and
activity is art activity. Non-artistic
activities like drills, sales talk (from the sing song hawker’s
cry to the elaborate advertisement film), sacred rites, games, sports,
spectacles (from the royal procession to public hanging), even slinging
matches (as between fishwives) may come to resemble art and take
on artistic qualities; but they are not art.
En renvanche, artistic activities may take on non-artistic
functions, as when a song becomes a national anthem, Elizabeth Browning’s
poems became love letters, the Russian ballet or Shakespeare’s theatre
have become national heritages, a piece of sculpture may become
a misguided missile in angry hands, and so forth; but they all remain
art (unless we succumb to the functional fallacy). Again, artistic activities may have non-artistic
origins; thus, a folk dance form may be seen to spring from agricultural
operations, or the play Oedipus Rex by sophocles may come to be
seen (thanks to the Cambridge scholars like Fraser and Murray) to
be isomorphous with a sacrificial ritual, and so forth; but they
all remain art (unless we succumb to the genetic fallacy).
As Archbishop Richard Whately has reminded us, everything
is what it is and not another thing.
of art, or art forms, constitute a larger network within which one
can discern a smaller network of varieties of the theatre, or theatre
forms. The larger network will include not only theatre
forms and the adjoining art forms like poetry and prose literature
as noticed earlier but also the following art forms:
non-verbal cinema (silent cinema, animation film, slide
show, the picture strip);
verbal cinema (speaking film, comic strip with speech
abstract graphic art;
representational graphic art;
abstract photography and phonography;
representational photography and phonography;
representational sculpture; and
design arts (such as architecture, landscaping, calligraphy,
interior design, product design).
If we have not said anything about radio and television
so far, there is a reason for it, as should become clear later on.
look for the crisscrossing resemblances and differences that underlie
the whole network of art forms with a special focus on theatre forms. An art form can differ from another art form
along a variety of axes:
A piece of art has a vehicle and
a content. Thus, a representative
painting may have pigments, oil, canvas for its vehicle and still
life, flora and fauna, the human figure for its content—in such
a manner that its vehicle and content are nearly evenly balanced. In an abstract painting on the other hand its
vehicle dominates its content.
Finally in functional design arts (as in most product designs
or in a Bauhaus interior) content dominates vehicle.
A piece of art may be seen as a spell
of activity or an object or both. (No wonder that art pieces are variously called performances, works,
objects). A painting is
clearly an object—the brush movements or the eye movements may be
felt, but they always terminate in the awareness of the art object.
Equally clearly a musical piece is a spell of activity, it
cannot collapse into an object—musical time cannot be spatialized
into clock time or even metromonic time.
A piece of art is received by the
recipient through its vehicle.
The channel of reception may be purely sensory, visual or
audial or audio-visual as the case may be, or it may be verbal or
ideational as well. The
reception may be structured over space or time or space-time.
Thus, poetry is audible-intelligible over time or ( as with
concrete poetry or graphic poetry like
Chinese poetry) visible-audible-intelligible over time (its
audible/visible input merely conveying the intelligible text without
becoming an integral part and parcel of the work of art as such).
So art forms stands distinguished from each other by
virtue of their vehicle-content balance, of their activity-object
status, and of the channel and structuring of their reception (among
other things, of course).
the five theatre forms in the light of these distinctions made along
the three axes:
Poetry theatre has even vehicle-content
balance, more activity than object status, and more verbal than
audial or audio-visual reception structured over time or space-time.
prose theatre has the same character
as poetry theatre except that the verbal input is prose rather than
Spectacle theatre has even vehicle-content
balance, more activity than object status, and more visual than
audial (and verbal) reception structured over space-time (the verbal
input may be totally absent).
Dance theatre has even vehicle-content
balance, spectacular-object and activities status, and more visual
than audial (and intelligible) reception structured over space-time
(the verbal input may be totally absent).
Music theatre has even vehicle-content
balance, activity status, and more audial than intelligible or visual
reception structured more over time than over space.
To sum up,
the play whether it is a piece of poetic drama or prose drama is
a work of art belonging to a family of theatre forms which in turn
belongs to a larger family of art forms.
In using the word ‘family’ we are suggesting that these forms
present criss-crossing resemblances and differences rather than
neat divisions and subdivisions in a classificatory tree.
mean then that theatre or drama is a mixed art?
THE PLAY IS NOT A MIXTURE OF THINGS
see why the cliché that the theatre or drama is a mixed art has
come into currency, but one can’t see how this cliché can be justified. There is no such thing as a mixed art form,
for a work of art cannot be a mixture of things. Before we can pursue this point further, we have to ask ourselves
a simple but basic question—how does a work of art exist at all? What is it made of? As the philosophers say, what is the locus,
or situs, of its existence?
A work of
art exists at two levels—at the level of material and at the level
of medium. (This distinction
is prefigured in Kant). Thus,
a painting can be thought of as pigments mixed with oil smeared
onto a stretched piece of canvas; it is at this level that is can
be said to have been produced and be brought or insured against
fire or theft. Clearly,
not every paint-daubed canvas-piece is a painting. That is why nobody would call paint and canvas the medium of painting—at
best they constitute the vehicle material of painting. I speak of vehicle material in order to distinguish
it from another kind of material.
A painting can also be thought of as made out of its content
material or experiential material.
If it is a representational, or figurative, painting, then
it is relatively easy to say what its content is, what it is about.
But even if it is an abstract, or non-representational, painting,
one could still meaningfully ask the question—what is the painting
about? Again, however, the painting has eluded us.
Not every painted figure that is about something is painting—otherwise
every painted map will be a painting.
The painting as such exists at the level of medium—at that
level the painting presents line and shape, colour, light and shade
as they operate within painting space. These constitute the medium of painting. It is at this level that the painting has been
created, not merely produced; interpreted, not merely figured out;
appraised, not merely priced. A
work of art, then, is open to the following discriminations as one
looks for the locus of its existence:
is what imparts form to the vehicle material as well as to the content
material, imposes a pattern or shape on the material, and indeed
serves to blur the line between vehicle and content.
The vehicle does not convey the content, the vehicle embodies
the content—at least in art at its best.
It is the medium, again, that brings the material home to
the recipient. It is at the level of medium that one assigns
a work of art to a certain art form—it is at that level that it
is received as painting or sculpture or music or poetry or whatever.
no such thing as a mixed art form.
One art can enter into another art as material as when music
enters into dance as vehicle material or when dance enters into
painting (as in some of Degas’ work) as content material.
It can do so even at the level of medium, as when cinema
enters into a prose literary work (such as Sartre’s novel Les Jeux
Sont Faits, The Chips are Down), which then has a cinematic quality
about it. But there is never
any doubt as to whether to respond to a given work as a poem or
a prose work, a mobile sculpture or a dance piece, and so on. So dance theatre is really theatre dance; music
theatre is really theatre music; but spectacle theatre (pantomime,
for example) is really theatre art and not spectacle art comparable
to the circus. (The Chinese
opera and the Japanese theatre forms are probably kinds of spectacle
theatre). Our present concern is of course with drama—both
poetry theatre (or poetic drama) and prose theatre (or prose drama). Both of these share certain properties, as
we have already indicated, namely even vehicle-content balance,
more activity than object status, and more verbal than audio-visual
or audial reception structured over time or space-time.
Spectacle theatre shares the first and the second property,
but it has more visual than audial (and verbal) reception structured
over space-time (if the verbal input is present at all).
be useful to pursue further this comparison of drama with spectacle
theatre. As vehicle material drama employs interpreted
gesture, delivered word, and possibly music; on the other hand,
spectacle theatre employs interpreted gesture and possibly delivered
word and music. As content
material both drama and spectacle theatre represent man’s life among
men, especially in face-to-face interaction (what Brecht calls ‘menschliches
Zusammenleben’, 1949/1964: p. 181, section 7)—drama makes a more
ambitious use of language depth of field as it were (to use the
photographer’s term). At the level of medium, drama presents dramatic
moves (including communicative moves) operating within a dramatic
scene over dramatic time; on the other hand spectacle theatre presents
theatrical moves (including theatrical communicative moves) operating
within a theatrical arena over theatrical time.
(See Table 1 for a quick comparison.
It may be noted in passing that in speaking of the content
material of drama Brecht quite appropriately calls it ‘Stoff’, stuff).
be quickly noticed that the weight of this analysis, which is being
offered here as a resolving of the problem of the situs of the existence
of a dramatic piece, hinges on what we mean by the terms dramatic
move and scene and time on the one hand and theatrical move and
arena and time on the other hand. These two triads also contrast with two more
triads, namely, narrative episode and scene and time and dance move
and arena and time. The
differences from one triad to the others stem from differences between
the dramatic world, the theatrical world, the narrative world, and
the dance world. We are deliberately adopting here a comparative
approach to the characterization (not definition) of these different
but adjoining art forms. (It
may be noted that here we have put theatre dance and abstract dance
together as dance).
1. a. The dramatic
world is an eminently human world in which appearances
motives are being presented in close conjunction.
b. A human
act (including an act of communication) is presented as a
act, a dramatic move.
c. The dramatic
scene is an envelope of outer and inner relationships and
that are being continuously redefined.
time serves to unfold the situation; the present is always
pregnant with future, with tensions being built and resolved.
e. The author of a dramatic piece can make great play in deciding
much of the total scene and action is known to which character
to the audience at any given point in the play.
f. There is selection and intensification, developing and clarifying
compared with the life as ordinarily lived and perceived.
g. The recipient needs to pay undivided and unflagging attention
finds his expectations thwarted or satisfied.
1. The ordinary use of the word ‘dramatic’ is congruent with this—a
dramatic’ event is one of that sudden, unexpected either tension-
building or tension-resolving, and so revelatory
of hidden forces.
2. This account of dramatic time is partially
anticipated in Langer 1953 and
Dawson 1970: p . 12 ff.
2. a. The theatrical world is a human world—a world with man caught
in the web of things, with appearances overlaying hidden
b. A human gesture (including a gesture
of communication) is presented
as an act expressive of a drive, a theatrical
c. The theatrical arena is very much a visible
arena a spectacle arena of
d. Theatrical times serves to uncover the
future breaking in upon the
present and thwarting or satisfying the expectations.
e. The author of a piece of spectacle theatre can make great
deciding how much and with whom the recipient will identify
himself and how much and in what action the recipient will
f. There is manipulation
and exaggeration, sharpening and
intensification as compared with life as ordinarily lived
g. The recipient needs to practice a willing suspension of disbelief
and of personal response.
3. a. The narrative world is an eminently human world. (That goes for
animal fables and fairy tales too).
b. Narrative poetry and prose present appearances
as episodes-- human
acts, motives, and surrounding forces
all fused in complex events of
the narrative world.
narrative scene is a network of shifting relationships leading on
no to a conclusion. A
narrative permits a greater depth of field, if
d. Narrative time is recollected time, either a past gone by
and cut off
from the present (‘once upon a time’) or a past that the
pregnant with (that’s how things have come to be what they
e. The author of a narrative piece can make great play in deciding
narrate what episode, what episode is to be narrated before
episode, what is to be in the foreground and what is to be
f. The presentation can
be schematic or ample, intensified or relaxed,
clarified or diffused in relation to life as ordinarily lived
perceived. (Fiction need not be stranger than truth).
g. In the course of the narrative ‘what is next?’ yields to ‘that’s
has been’. What matters
are not expectations but hind sights.
recipient’s attention can vary from one piece to another,
one episode to
4. a. The dance world is a world that does not let us pause at the
but it is eminently a world of forces behind appearances.
(It will be
seen that this world is closer to the theatrical world than
it is to the
dramatic world or the narrative world).
b. A dance move is a force in action.
c. The dance arena is very much a visible arena, a spectacle
and shifting configuration of forces.
d. Dance time is rhythmically experienced time. It lets us discover the
forces breaking into action. It may thwart or satisfy perceptions which
are neither foresights
nor hind sights but insights into the
manifestations of energy or of power as forces.
e. The dance world can and may draw the recipient so much into
the distinction between
the participant-performer and the
participant-recipient gets lost (as when a visitor joins a
To sum up, it would pay to see drama in comparison with other
art forms rather than simply to fix the gaze on drama alone in resolving
the problem of the class identify of drama.
This comparative approach allows us to see not only the network
of resemblances and differences between drama and some adjoining
art forms, but also how drama, far from being a mixture of arts,
is an integrated whole in which one can find a place for the various
elements that are supposed to go into it.
Other arts, especially spectacle arts, music, and dance,
can and often do enter into drama as vehicle material, as content
material, even as medium; and so can and does drama enter into arts
at different levels.
The integration of drama should degenerate into a muddle in
which each element vies for supremacy only to become a parasite. (As a drastic preventive measure against this
possibility Brecht advocated in his Epic Theatre a ‘Trennung der
Elemente’, a severing of elements: Brecht
(1930/1964: p. 39).
THE PLAY IS A HAPPENING
The play is less a thing, an art object,
than an activity, an art performance.
The play is eminently a happening, a happening of a particular
kind. At the level of material
it is a performance presenting man’s life among men, especially
in face-to-face relationships.
At the level of medium it is a transporting of an audience
to a dramatic world sustaining and being sustained by dramatic moves
against a dramatic scene over dramatic time. All else is secondary.
Radio and television are not artistic media;
they are not media of communication so much as media of transmission.
What is their relationship to drama if any?
Any such relationship will have to do with the production
aspect of drama. A play may be a theatre play, an open-air street
play, a sit-around play-reading, a radio play, or a television play. The form of production admittedly makes a difference
to the possibilities of the medium, but not such a vital difference.
Television plays, television films, and television spectacle
theatre pieces are as different form each other.
The similarities between television plays, radio plays, and
theatre plays are much more vital than the differences.
What are these differences? What happens, for example, to the visual element
in a radio play or a sit-around play-reading or for that matter
a ‘silent’ play-reading? Notice
that one cannot have a radio in a ‘silent’ reading (unless the reader
is a potential producer) than the text of a play would.
The important thing to bear in mind, of course, is that a
play-reading whether silent or loud differs radically from the reading
of a lyric poem or even of a piece of narrative poetry or prose.
The difference has to do with the ‘visualizing’ of the dramatic
scene and the feel of dramatic time.
A play-reading is a play-production, a mental staging in
a sense in which the reading of literature (even narrative literature)
is not a literary production. Once
we recognize this difference, it is easy to see that it is the mental
staging that the play text is crying out for.
Without mental staging the stage production is of no value;
without stage production a mental staging is perhaps difficult but
still possible. (This is reminiscent of the Hindu theological argument: without
inner realization an icon is of no value; without an icon an inner
realization is perhaps difficult to achieve but certainly not impossible). The ‘visualizing’ in a television play is going
to be different from the ‘visualizing’ in a television film. It will have no use for close-ups, for example.
So, though we shall consider here only the theatre play as
a happening, the considerations will also apply mutatis
mutandis to other kinds of play production.
It will also be seen why we earlier recognized (see Table
1 for example) audial reception over time for drama by side of audio-visual
reception over space-time.
Since we are dealing with drama or literary
theatre in which the delivered word is an important input at the
level of the vehicle, we shall take up the text of the play as the
first important input to the play-happening.
The text of the play reveals two layers; the poetry or prose
to be delivered on-stage or even off-stage (the core text) and the
staging directions that accompany the ‘lines’ to be delivered (the
peripheral text). The core
text consists chiefly of:
Overt speeches (dialogues and also monologues,
by the characters to one another; and marginally also of
Convert speeches (soliloquies
and songs) addressed by a character to oneself and addressed to
the recipient (asides, monologues) by characters or meta-characters
(such as a narrator, a stage producer, a Greek chorus, or a ‘prologue’).
The core text may be exclusively poetry or prose
or only predominantly so. The
peripheral text consists of such things as the following:
Indications of the segmenting of the text (say, into acts and
scenes); identification of and assignment of speakers for main and
bit parts (there may of course be silent parts in addition);
Acting directions (concerning exists, entries, stage movements
and positions, stage business, speech delivery and the like); dancing
and music directions;
Setting directions (concerning curtain, scenery, décor and the
like); character descriptions (concerning age, sex, station in life,
kingship or the like—presented at the beginning of the text or in
a dispersed manner); and
(marginally) what could be called mental staging directions (such
as ‘two years later’ or ‘so is visible only to so and so’ or even
‘when the curtain opens so-and-so has just left and the stage is
Some of these elements are probably exemplified in every play
text (such as overt speeches, segmenting, speaker assignment, exists)
while others are found only in some play texts (for example, covert
speeches, character descriptions).
One must bear in mind that the overt status of any input
need not wholly coincide with the functions it actually fulfils.
Thus, a narration or a description may be disguised as overt
dialogue, stage directions may be built into the core text (as with
Shakespeare’s so-called ‘rhetorical’ punctuation for the actor’s
benefit), character descriptions may be read as casting directions
(but need not be—the age or sex of a part need not correspond to
the actual age and sex of the actor playing that part, one actor
may play more than one part or even all the parts, less commonly
one part may be played by more than one actor).
Next come acting and the stage as inputs to the play as a happening.
Acting consists in:
The delivery of the
text with appropriate diction (articulations, transitions,
Pauses, breath control,
tempo, rhythm), intonation (control of pitch and
Loudness and voice quality, use of whisper), and vocal gesture
Sigh, laugh, sob, shriek);
Stage positions (the overall ‘composition’ of the actors at a given point
in the play –it is called the mise en scene) and movements )exist,
entry, crossing, hiding, jumping down etc., freezing, stimulated
moving to another scene, etc.);
Actions (such as
wiping one’s glasses, lifting, drinking from a glass, sitting down,
sitting up), postures (such as lying supine, stopping, hand Akimbo),
and gestures (such as jumping for joy, nodding or waving Assent,
stamping one’s foot, hugging)—all these involving limb and
trunk joints, and the simulation of actions and speech;
casting (for age,
sex, voice quality, presence, etc.), bearing (mode of movement,
action, posture, gesture—stiff, easy-going, ‘feminine’, etc.), facial
play (eyes and eye-contact, face direction, brows, nose, mouth,
jaws), and simulation of body states (blindness, lameness,
drunkenness, shiver, fainting, pain, fatigue, old age, weeping,
It is possible that a given item may function different contexts—thus,
lighting a match (or its simulation) may be an action that makes
some difference or may simply be an idle gesture.
When e speak of the stage, we are simply referring to the basic
lay-out (size, shape, level, etc.) of the on-stage area, the off-stage
area, the with-stage area (for instrumentalists, for example), and
the back-stage area (for prompters, lighting men, etc.) and their
relation to the audience area ( in full view, hidden, marginal,
raised, with free access, within hearing distance, etc.) and to
the surrounding space (open to a daytime sky, walled in, etc.).
The well-known stage types such as the proscenium stage,
the apron stage, intimate theatre, garden, fairground, street, arena
theatre illustrate the possibilities of the lay-out.
Literary theatre is of course distinct from spectacle theatre,
dance theatre, and music theatre.
A play text or even a play production may be quite devoid
of spectacle, dance, or music.
But it is also possible that a play incorporate one or more
of these elements as vehicle element.
In other words spectacle, dance, and music, are optional
elements. Music may be on-stage
or off-stage or with-stage, spectacle and dace are naturally always
on-stage. Spectacle in drama
Acrobatics swordsmanship, or the like, and coordinated
group movements (not amounting to dance); costume (including on-stage
disguise and masquerade as typically found in comic or farcical
pieces), jewellery, make-up (including masks, wigs), and costume
properties (such as a lady’s fan, a sword, eye-glasses, a smoking-pipe)—note
that all these elements may be used for stimulation of age, sex,
hand properties (such as a lap dog, a child’s ram, a portable light,
a dinner set);
scenery, drapery, and scene properties (curtains, backdrops, ‘flats’,
chairs, tables, wall clocks, and the like, their simulations—together
constituting the scene or set or stage setting, scene shifts);
simulation of material (glycerin tears, dye blood, rain, snow), light
effects (simulation of early morning, spot-lighting, or the like),
sound effects (the report of a gun, the blowing of wind, the hum
of a busy street, or the like), and simulation of a crowd, a procession,
a ghost, etc.
Music in a drama may
Vocal or Instrumental;
Abstract or verbal;
in association with the core text) or off-stage;
(such a music for recreating
an atmosphere, creating a mood, indicating segments, etc.).
Dance in drama may be:
Abstract or Representational;
in a major way or not;
In close or loose association
with the core text.
Dance of course may incorporate its own spectacular and musical
elements. Music in drama
is perhaps more widespread than dance in drama.
Finally, we have to consider reception as an input to the play
as a happening. It is commonly
recognized (and rightly so) that a play is not a play without the
involvement of the recipient. It
is true that in a sense such is the case with any work of art.
But the degree and mode of this involvement differ according
as the work of art is more an object on view (such as a painting
or a sculpture) or more an object in use (such as an embroidered
wrap or a streamlined car body or even a ‘lived-in’ house or temple)
or more an activity (such as a theatre play or a harvest dance).
In this last case the involvement will make a significant
difference to the work of art—the recipient’s response may feed
back into and affect the performance, it may even become a part
of the work of art. (We
shall return to this point later on).
The recipient’s response may consist in:
Sensory response (listening,
(comprehension of language, literary, dance, dramatic, and music
Other covert responses
(responding to the presence of the actors, of co-present recipients,
Overt responses (such
as smile, laughing, weeping, handclap, encore).
The overt response need
not figure in every play-happening.
The absence of
An overt response may
itself constitute a response of a sort.
To sum up, a theatre play is a happening in which there were
three main bodies of input:
The literary input (the
play text, especially the core text);
The staging input (acting
and the stage; also spectacle, music, or dance,); and
The reception input
(covert and overt responses).
This description, with due modifications, (see Table 2) can
be applied to other varieties of play production—the street play,
the television play, the radio play, the sit-around play-reading,
or even a silent play-reading.
THE PLAY IS A BECOMING
If we now consider the scheduling of this happening as well
as the decision-making set-up behind it, we come to realize that
the play only progressively defines itself.
The play is quite truly a becoming.
It is a becoming in the obvious sense that it is not complete
and fully defined till the performance comes to an end, but then
the same is the case with the work of art whose reception is structured
over time. (One could almost
say jokingly—Call no play successful till you’ve obvious but equally
the end!). The play is becoming
also in a less obvious but equally pertinent sense. The text is no template, die, or journey of
the play from the composition of the text through its production
to the final reception is not simply a matter of its transmission
from the author of the text to the recipient but rather its progressive
creation for and in the end even by the recipient.
One could understand this progressive creation
in terms of the following phases:
I. The composition of the text of the play,
II. The preparation of the staging script of the
III. The staging of the play,
IV. The mental staging of the play.
Each play-happening has to pass through
these phases. The play defines
its identity, becomes what is as it passes through the four phases, In actuality the text or (even more likely)
the staging script need not be reduced to writing at all—it may
simply be handed down through oral tradition.
The undertaking of a production may have a characteristic
social and cultural ambience such as hereditary, amateur, or professional,
patronage or business or community solidarity.
The staging may have a characteristic social and cultural
ambience such as being associated with a festival or with a royal
court. The end product at
the conclusion of each of the first three phases need not have a
determinate shape—there may be a feedback from a subsequent phase.
Thus, the text or (even more likely) the staging script may
be perfected in a sit-around play-reading or a staging rehearsal;
the staging proper or even the staging script may benefit from the
audience response. The end
product at the conclusion of each of the last three phases need
not be pre-determinate in shape—there may be improvisation on points
that the preceding phases have left undefined or open or there may
even be departures from points that have already been defined.
As a result of this lack of fixity, different mental staging
or even different stagings or even different staging scripts originating
from the same text constitute at best a family of play-happenings
rather than happenings of the same play.
Recognizing this seem to be the only reasonable way of resolving
the problem of self-identity of a dramatic piece.
(For an ‘idealized’ format for a staging script see Table
It is easy to see now how the passing from
one phase to the next is neither wholly recapitulative nor wholly
additive or instrumental. There
is a spiral progression as it were—the four phases variously perform
While the creation-production of the play on the part of the
author and associated artists proceeds from germination through
infolding and projection to rendition, the reception-recreation
of the play on the part of the recipient and his associates proceeds
in the reverse direction from recognition through introjection and
unfolding to rumination. The sequence in either case is chiefly logical
and only roughly chronological with a fair amount of overlap and
is the conception and germination of the seed action pr the seed
idea or the seed image. Infolding
is a sort of packing in of the feeder actions, ideas, or images—characters,
actions, scenes, relationships, turns and counterturns, and so forth. Projection is putting these across or rather embodying these in
ways that make for the following qualities:
of representation: verisimilitute, clarity of intention
of presentation: presence, mutuality of report between
the actors and the recipient.
2. Delectability: unity, perfection, richness, openness (i.e. inviting
Sufficiently ensures that the recipient will enter the dramatic
world and delectability that he will never quite wholly leave it
behind. (These two qualities
corresponding to pratibhāsa and ujjvalatā
of the ancient Indian thinkers on art.).
Recognizability without respondability is simple mimicry. Respondability without recognizability is simple
allure. Full sufficiency
is both. Rendition, in addition
to the rendering of what has been infolded, brings into play devices
for framing and segmenting the work of art and differentiating it
sufficiently from the practical world into which the happening is
We have so far considered the scheduling of the happening of
a play. Now we shall consider
the decision-making set-up behind this happening.
This can best be understood in terms of successive roles. Unlike certain other art forms for which one
can think of only two rôles, the creator-producer and
the recipient-re creator, the dramatic art forms call for the splitting
of the rôle of the creative-productive artist into three.
So there is a total of four successive rôles.
a. The author who composes the text,
b. The director who prepares the staging script,
c. The player who performs the staging ,
d. The recipient who performs the mental staging.
The two ‘middlemen’, the director and the player, have an ambiguous
status in that they are at once producers (if not creators) like
the author and interpreters (if not re-creators) like the recipient. As might be expected there is a fair amount
of variations in the social distribution of four rôles. Thus, the author may also be the director;
the director may also be the player; the rôle of the
author may be filled by a single person, a chain of two (original
author and adaptor or translator), or a team holding a theatre workshop;
the director’s rôle
may be filled by a single person or a chain of three (the producer,
the director proper, and the stage-manager); the author and the
director may have helpers such as the song-writer, the music director,
the dance director, and the set and costume designer; the player’s
rôle is normally
filled by a troupe of on-stage actors (although single-actor staging
is not unknown) and off-stage or with-stage or back-stage assistants
(that look after prompting, make-up, lighting, sound, properties,
and so on) ; the recipient’s rôle is normally filled by an assembly
of recipients with a characteristic social and cultural profile;
and so forth. The social
relations between the various rôles may vary a god deal in terms
of who pays whom, who has what rights against and obligations towards
whom, who defers to whose judgement, who is jealous of whom, and
so forth. Interesting and practically operative as these
complication are, the need not detain us further since they do not
make a difference to the overall theoretical frame work which constitutes
our present concern. We
are concerned with the content and the scheduling of the artistic
decisions and not with their ‘natural history’ so to say.
It is obvious that not all decisions concern the happening of
a plain make the same amount of difference to the becoming of a
play—that is, to the interpretative identity and the aesthetic quality
of the play. The various decisions thus differ in the degree of their creativity. Accordingly, on may recognize four degrees
of creative participation in the happening of a play, namely;
Again there is a fair amount of variation in the distribution of
creative participation among the four rôles noted
earlier. Thus, in a ‘writer’s
theatre’ the author makes most of the decisions in respect of the
germination, infolding, projection, and rendition and gives us a
very full, rich text; in a ‘director’s theatre’ the director is
the co-creator of the play, in extreme cases he may even be the
creator and the author may be relegated to the co-creator’s status;
in an ‘actor’s theatre’ the actor may gain the co-creator’s status;
the degree of initiative left to the recipient may also vary over
Perhaps in view of these variations in the distribution of the
creative participation, it may be helpful for our understanding
of the becoming of a play to postulate a ‘normal’ schedule as it
were. This schedule will be normal not in the sense
that it will be ‘aesthetically ideal’ or ‘socio-culturally ideal’
or ‘ commonly prevailing’ but rather in the sense that it will be
such as would permit an economical statement of variations in the
schedule. This normal schedule will provide for a normal
distribution of a creativity. (See
Table 4 for the normal schedule).
Actual schedules can then be conveniently described either as
‘normal’ or as departures from the normal in certain ways to certain
degrees. When a recipient
re-creates the play entirely through reading he may be said to ‘ausurp’
of the director and the player—thus in imaging the character in
the theatre of the mind he should be capable of carrying out mentally
the jobs of casting, costume designing, make-up, and so on.
Such capability will presuppose some prior exposure to actual
stagings of some actual plays.
Richard Burton says that the theatre is always ‘writer’s
theatre’ and directors are “no more than jumped-up stage managers”
(Richard Burton 1970: p. 21). Where this is indeed the situation one will
have to credit the director with no more than co-creation in respect
of infolding and projection—this may indeed happen in actuality
either because the author’s text is almost a staging script (we
could in that event call it a proto-staging script) or because the
players are to be credited with co-creation in respect of infolding
no less than projection. The director may impose an possibilities.
(for example, an attempt to stage Hamlet in modern dress
and mode of staging is intended to bring its ‘modern’ elements).
And so on and so forth.
It is only sober common sense of realize that the conceptual
apparatus presented here has been partially anticipated by our predecessors
in both Indian and Western drama lore on whose shoulders we stand. Thus classical Sanskrit offers dramaturgical
terminology such as the following:
I. Kavikarma, Pāṭhya-nirmāna,
II – III Prayoga (production)
IV āsvādana (reception, delectation)
i. (in I) Mānasīkriya (germination)
ii – iv. (in I) alaṅkaraṇakalpa
ii – iv (in II – III) pragoyālaṇkara
iii (in III) Kṣepaṇa
i (in IV) Čarvaṇa
ii (in IV) Samārādhanā (unfolding)
iii (in IV) Samarpana (introjection)
iv (in IV) Anukīrtana (recognition)
A. Nāṭya-kavi (author)
C. Naṭavrnda (player-team).
a. Kārayitrī-pratibhā -vyāpāra
b. Bhāvayitī-pratibhā-vyāpāra (re-creation).
The present analysis has important implications for the evaluative
activity of the critic in relation to drama. (This drama critic may be hidden in the author
, the director, the player, and the recipient and make a difference
to their participation in the happening of a play). When one is said to be evaluating a dramatic text in purely literary
terms, one is paying attention only to the rôles
of the author and the recipient.
If the critic is doing his job properly, he will be evaluating
the text as a script for mental staging.
The text will demand to be mentally staged rather than be
simply read as literature, and therefore demand to be evaluated
for its dramatic possibilities. When one evaluates a text for its theatrical
possibilities, one is assessing it as if it is a staging script—one
would, for example, deem it to be ‘good theatre’.
When one evaluates the production of a given text by a given
director-player team one evaluating their staging script as such. When one evaluates the actual staging, one
is evaluating not only the staging but also the audience participation—their
mental staging. Just as
a staging may fall short of a text, an audience may fail a staging. Indeed one cannot overlook the possibility that a text may fall
short of a director-player team (that may succeed in ‘rescuing’
the text ) or that a director-player team may fall short of the
To sum up, a play only become a play as it worked over by persons
playing varyingly creative roles in performing the function of taking
it from generation to rendition
and then back from recognition to rumination and thus make taking
it through the different phases from text composition to mental
staging. Our evaluation of drama requires a clearer
recognition of this becoming of a play through its different phases.
THE PLAY IS NOT A THEATRE FORM
We have already recognized
two theatre forms under drama—poetic drama (or poetry theatre) and
prose drama (or prose theatre).
These terms are not entirely satisfactory.
But the distinction that they hint at is an important one. (We have underplayed the distinction so far just because we were
keen on first describing drama or literary theatre as such). The distinction between the two theatre forms
runs through the whole process of the becoming of a play in all
its phases. They are not
merely two genres within drama but two art forms.
Quite a few of the confusions in drama theory proceed from
an illegitimate extrapolation from poetry theatre to prose theatre
or from prose theatre to poetry theatre at the risk of ignoring
the important differences between the two.
Let’s begin by taking
up the dramatic possibilities of the text of the play. The text of poetic drama is likely to be exclusively
or predominantly in verse, though it could be wholly or predominantly
in prose. (Ibsen’s The Wild
Duck is a poetic drama in prose).
The text of prose drama is likely go be exclusively or predominantly
in prose, though it could be wholly or predominantly in verse.
(Molière’s Le Misanthrope is a prose drama in verse). The crucial differences between the two theatre
forms at the level of the text clearly lies elsewhere than in the
choice of verse and prose. The
difference lies in the differing uses of language for which, for
want of readily available terms, let’s coin the terms mythocentric
and logocentric. Poetic
drama texts (in common with texts of myths, sacred rites, magical
spells, some prose, and most poetry) make a mythocentric use of
language, while prose drama texts (in common with everyday conversation,
discursive dialogues, some poetry, and most prose literature) make
a logocentric use of language. (The distinction will be seen to be not quite the same as that between
poetry and prose). The difference
between these two uses of language is threefold:
1. the degree and kind of stylization: mythocentric
language is speech no doubt but it is heightened speech; logocentric
language captures everyday conversation at its liveliest and at
its most perceptive;
2. the degree and mode of symbolism: mythocentric language goes all
out for symbols whether explicit implicit or tacit; logocentric
language is more subdued in its symbolism—more sparing and less
overt (Kelkar 1987);
3. The linguistic handling
of what we have called the germination-rumination function: mythocentric
language emphasizes the mystery, the transcendent quality, of the
deeper meanings of the text; logocentric language emphasizes the
discussibility, the immanent quality of the deeper meanings of the
Secondly, we come to the production of the staging script and
the directorial decisions and interpretations underlying the staging
script. (Whether the staging
script is a written script or a rich text being used like a staging
script or only some marginal scribblings in the director’s copy
of the text or a portion of traditionally handed down lore or quite
simply a bunch of more or less organized thoughts in the director’s
head is of course irrelevant to our present concern).
Bharata’s Nāṭyašāstra (ch. 16.73, 74, 81) makes
a useful distinction between nāṭyadharmin
elements (those that one would today call stylized, innovative,
or decorative elements) and lokadharmin elements (those that one
would call illusionistic, traditionally familiar, or local-color
elements) and argues that a staging (prayoga) to be satisfactory is need of
both kinds. The fact remains,
however, that poetic drama goes better with nāṭyadharmin
elements and with music, dance, and natyadharmin spectacle, and
hat prose drama goes better with lokadharmin elements and with lokadharmin
spectacles. (Brecht’s so-called Epic Theatre was peculiar
in that it sought to use more of natyadharmin elements in what was
essentially a prose theatre. The
fact, on the other hand, that dance theatre, music theatre, poetry,
and myth are much closer to poetry theatre than to prose theatre
is nothing peculiar. For similar reasons the novel and cinema are
closer to the prose theatre).
Thirdly, we come to the staging itself and the contribution
of the players (both actors and off-stage assistants) to the staging. The acting and the supporting elements of costume,
stage settings, and the stage lay-out (the position of the various
areas) in poetic drama will be such that the staging will promote
distance from the audience, heightening of speech, saying rather
than showing (Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet poetizing about their
love or about the sunrise), mystification, and involvement without
identification. (For example, simulation of speech or of stage
business is welcome). In
prose drama these elements will be such that the staging will promote
intimacy with the audience, liveliness of speech, showing rather
than saying (‘Betraying’ emotions in speech and its delivery with
appropriate postures, gestures, casting, bearing, and simulation
of body states), demystifiaction, and identification (even complicity)
without involvement. (For example, the whole Stanislavsky ‘method’ of acting.) The correlation of the staging modes in poetic
and prose drama with the stage lay-out needs closer study: over
the years poetic drama has made effective use of the arena stage,
the proscenium stage, the apron stage, as well as the fair ground,
and prose drama has made effective use of the fourth-wall proscenium
stage (Europe, circa 1880-1920), the intimate theatre, as well as
the street theatre. Another correlation that deserves study is the one with the two
modes of acting; in one mode the actor lets the ‘lines’ come through
himself and his delivery and in the other mode the actor ‘uses’
the ‘lines’ in order to put himself across through them (Dawson
1970: p . 4).
(Recall the discussion
of the sufficiency in projection earlier).
Finally, we come to the mental staging and the audience response
crucial point there is the degree and mode of audience participation
that is called for and encouraged in the two theatre forms. The ancient Indian thinkers on art spoke both
the tādātmya (identification), tallinatā
(involvement), prathibhāna (illusion) on the one hand
and avadhana (awarness), tāṭasthya (detachment).
sāksibhāva (in looker status) on the part
of the recipient, and emphasize the need for combining the two ingredient
in the recipient’s response. Being less illusionistic and more stylized,
demanding, involvement rather than identification and a willingness
to be mystified, poetic drama will call fourth one kind of imaginative
effort on the part of the assemble of the recipient’s, being more
intent on showing rather than saying, demanding identification rather
than involvement, and aiming at demystification, prose drama will
call fourth another kind of imaginative effort on the part of the
assembly of the recipients. (How many children had Lady Macbeth? Would have been a more relevant
question if Macbeth had
been a prose drama).
Traditionally certain kinds of content material have been associated
with poetic drama and certain other kinds with prose drama. (This
observation applies to Bharatha’s Nāṭyašhāstra also to the extent that
we could correlate is term rūpaka appear to belong to prose
theatre and perhaps to spectacle theatre.
Shūdraka’s play Mṛcchakaṭikam
breaks this scheme in that is a uniquely extent nāṭaka
that is a prose drama in a classical Sanskrit).
Poetic drama is associated with what Aristotle calls (in poetics
, ch.2) characters that are ‘better than in real life’, with royal
and aristocratic characters, with mythology and romance, with the
heroic an erotic motives, with celebration and ritual, with tragedy,
with a religious attitude. Prose
drama is associated with what Aristotle calls (in poetics, ch.2)
characters that are ‘worse (that in real life), or as they are’,
with plebeian or bourgeois characters, with comedy or farce, with
satire and problem plays, with discussion and public awareness.
Perhaps we can say that poetic drama, like religion , ‘enable[s]
man to endure existing’ and to live with contradictory insights
and that prose drama, like philosophy, ‘offer[s] man the prospect
of comprehending existence’ and resolving painful contradictions.
(Cf. Watts 1955: sec.4; when Watts speaks of ‘drama’ he’s
really speaking of only ‘poetic drama’ ).
However these traditional associations shouldn’t be pressed
too far. Shakespeare’s Measure
for Measure is a poetic problem play and Chekhov’s prose theatre
embeds certain content element that we normally associate with poetry
There are other problems. Where
does melodrama fit in? It
seeks to elicit both identification with the characters and involvements
with the action . Are there
folk and popular versions of poetry theatre and of prose theatre? Or are folk and popular theatre by and large relatively more verbalized
version of spectacle theatre and thus neither poetry theatre nor
prose theatre? Does this
last observation apply to melodrama also?
But then it is only sober common sense to realize that what
an analysis of the present sort claims to accomplish is not so much
the answering of all the questions as the posing of newer or better
To sum up, the play (or literary theatre ) is not a single theatre
form but two. Poetry drama
and prose drama differ significantly and vitally from each other
in all phases of the becoming of a play and probably also at the
level of content material.
THE PLAY IS NOT A SIMPLE THING
It should have become abundantly clear
by now that the play is not by any means a simple thing. The elephant is just far too big and so we
should not cavil over much at the apparently chaotic state and highly
fragmentary or opinionated character of the larger part of the body
of writing about drama and theatre .
One hopes that the conceptual frame work presented here will
not only help us to make better sense of these opinions and controversies
than it has been possible before but also to rephrase more adequately
some of the central issues and points of the dispute concerning
drama and theatre and to resolve satisfactorily some of the minor
puzzles concerning drama and theatre. Some examples follow before we conclude.
First lets us take up the agenda of some
of the central questions concerning theatre in general and literary
theatre (or drama) in particular.
(We have sought to exclude questions that concern all art
or many art forms including theatre forms).
drama be considered as a way of telling a story? As a mode of narration? Now
stories can be either factive-realise (documentary, history) or
factive-irrealise (myth, allegory) or fictive-realis (realistic
fiction) or fictive-irrealis (romance).
(These two divisions, facitve/Fictive or Realis/irrealis
have of course been borrowed from students of folklore).
What kind of stories is drama best at telling?
Aristotle prefers (poetics ch. 24) ‘probable impossibilities’
to ‘improbable possibilities’ in a plot. To what kind of drama does this apply? Which has priority—recognizability or delectability?
is the relationship between story, plot and action? Between these and character?
Between plot and character on the one hand and theme and
ideas on the other? Between these various elements and the recipient’s response? Identification? Involvement? Detachment?
Why choose the drama from rather than any of the other art
forms? Whose medium is it any way?
The authors, the director’s, or the Player’s?
What is the recipient’s role?
- How is the dramatic world created? Once created, is everything within the
play significant? Is anything
that is not within the play without significance? Is anything that is not fully determinate within a character
or the story or the theme
What is the meaning of a play considered as a happening or
even as a becoming? Is it a celebration of a constants of human life? or a therapy for the trials and travails of
life? Or a patterned action—a
choreography of character and event?
Or a dispelling of illusion? Or an insightful sounding of
life? Aristotle’s idea of catharsis in tragedy and the later notion of comic catharsis
could be regarded as kinds of therapy. Brecht’s idea of the function of a theatre has both an element of therapy (dispelling inaction)
and an element of education (dispelling of illusion).
7. In what way can drama and the dramatic quality
enter into other forms such as the so-called ‘closet play’ (as Milton’s
Samson Agonistes, Shelley’s Pometheus Unbound ), lyric poetry, cinema,
The Socratic dialogue , even painting (as with El Greco or Amrita
8. In adopting
a novel to the stage what is gained and what is lost? Why is adopting
a play into a novel for less common?
(Similar Questions could be raised about drama and cinema).
Can there be a good play that is not good theatre?
If so, how come? And good theatre that is not a good play? If so how comes?
Finally, a rapid survey of some minor puzzles
concerning theatre and drama:
1. A play text is a text of the kind that demands
performance. A play unacted
remains somehow incomplete: just how?
And yet a given performance may fail to make the play text
complete: when does it fail?
2. Does the director-player
team ‘interpret’ the play in the same sense in which the playgoer
watching the staging does or in which the reader mentally staging
the play directly from the text does?
Can reader accomplish this feat without any prior exposure
to the theatre?
3. What is the relationship
of the director to the team of actors and assistants—especially
the actors? Is he the demanding
guru expecting discipline in return for security and squeezing
the performance out of them? Or
is he the friendly team captain offering freedom in return for a
measure of responsibility and releasing the potentialities in the
4. Should the
member’s of the player’s team operate like professional specialists
or like versatile amateurs?
5. In what way and for what reasons do acting
and directing in cinema differ from those in drama? (And who is chiefly responsible for ‘projection’
in cinema- the director-photographer/sound -recordist-film editor/sound-editor
chain or the actor?).
6. When a literary critic responding to the
text of a play sees significance in the minutiae of the casual sequence
(as in a detective novel) or the verbal imagery (as in poetry) ,
could we object that such suggestions will hardly be noticed in
the performance(unless the recipient already knows the play well)?
Or could we defend their relevance on the ground that the
playgoer will respond to them without being aware of them?
(Cf. Dawson 1970:
7. Is the arousal of feelings in the recipient
more pronounced with a play than with a piece of narrative prose
or poetry? Why? How does this affect questions of obscenity or public arousal and
There is no question about it—the play
is not only complicated but also complex, especially because it
is not a thing but a complicated happening. An a complex becoming. (See Table 5 for a conspectus of the being of a play—Tables 1—5
BRECHT, BERTOLT 1964. Brecht on theatre: The Development
of an Aesthetic. Ed.,transl.
Willett, John. London: Methuen. Includes: ‘Notes on the Opera’,
1930, ‘Kleines Organon fur das Theatre’, 1949.
RICHARD 1970. ‘Richard Burton with Kenneth Tynan’.
In: Burton, Hall, ed. Acting in the Sixties. London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1970.pp. 13-29.
S.W. 1970. Drama and the Dramatic.
The Critical Idiom series,
ASHOK R. 1987. ‘Tacit Symbols: Visual and Verbal.
In : Trivedi, Kirti, ed. Indian Symbology : Proceedings of
the Seminar …1985. Bombay:
Industrial Design Centre, Indian Institute of Technology, 1987.
SUSSANE K. 1953. Feeling
and Form : A Theory of Art. NewYork : Charles Scribner’s Sons: London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
HAROLD H. 1955 ‘Myth and Drama’.
a. Vehicle i.
vehicle content balance
activity than object status
verbal than audio-visual or audial reception over space-time
interpreted gesture, delivered word as poetry, and possibly
life among men, especially in face-to-face interaction, possibly
in greater breadth and penetration
vehicle content balance
activity than object status
verbal than audio-visual or audial reception over space-time
of interpreted gesture, delivered word as prose, and possibly
Man’s life among men, especially in face-to
face interaction, possibly in greater breadth and penetration
vehicle content balance
activity than object status
visual than audio-verbal or audial reception over space-time
of interpreted gesture, and possibly delivered word as poetry
or prose, music, etc.
life among men, especially in face-to face interaction, possibly
in greater breadth and penetration
moves including dramatic communication moves
within dramatic sense over dramatic time and
and sustained by a dramatic world
moves including dramatic communication moves
within dramatic sense over dramatic time and
and sustained by a dramatic world
moves including dramatic communication moves
within dramatic sense over dramatic time and
and sustained by a dramatic world
Inputs to the Play as a Happening
Literary Input (the Text of the Play)
Core Text (the word, poetry
or prose, to be delivered or-stage or off-stage)
speeches (to one another)
Indications for segmenting and speaker assignment
for dancing, music, setting
* Character descriptions
* Directions for mental
The Staging Input (Implementing of the Text)
delivery of the text with appropriate diction, intonation, vocal
gesture Stage positions and movements
postures, gestures, and simulation of action and speech
bearing, facial play, and simulation of body stages: prompting
* Spectacle, Music, and Dance
The Reception Input
Items not found universally are marked with an asterisk.
‘Idealized’ Format for a Staging Script
The script will have a
number of columns with the matter in each column to be read across
in synchronized rows.
column headings will be:
Estimated Real Time (Beginning With the Zero Hour)
Segmenting into Larger and Smaller Units
Lines to be Delivered (Languages Text)
With assignment to the
major parts and the bit parts, indication of on-stage/off-stage
Music and Dance Directions
Personal Directions: voice, bearing, casting, costume,
jewellery, make-up directions; costume props; facial play
Mime Directions: movements, positions, mise scene
actions, posture, gestures; hand props
1. The general directions under Decor
(descriptions and pictorial representations of one or more
stage and the scene props) may be brought in at the beginning or
at the end.
The directions at each point will be from the author’s text with
the director’s editing and elaboration and the lines will be from
the author’s text with the director’s editing
I Composition of the
II Preparation of the staging script
IV Mental staging
Note : The degrees of creative
participation are (in a descending order): a creation,
b co-operation, c sub-creation. Their distribution represents the normal schedule
Being of a Play (a Dramatic Piece)
The Problem of Self-identity
The play is a becoming. Different mental stagings, different staging,
different staging scripts originating from the same literary input
(the next) at best constitute a family of play happenings of the
The Problem of Class-identity
The play is one of a family of
theatre forms. It is
recognized and responded to as either a poetic drama or a prose
drama by virtue of its medium-it creates a dramatic world sustaining
and being sustained by dramatic moves against a dramatic scene
in dramatic time.
The Problem of Situs-existence
play is not an object, a thing, so much as a spell of activity,
a happening. It is a happening to whose existence at the level of
material the literary input, the staging input, and the reception
input contribute both vehicle and content.
Problem of the Meaning of a Play
The play exists primarily at the level of the
medium. As a work of art
it is embedded in man’s life.
In the context of man’s life it may be variously seen as
a celebration, a therapy, a patterned action, a dispelling of
illusion, or an insightful sounding of life.
This was published in Sangeet Natak
no.84:5-34, April-June 1987.