Theatre and Ideas

The theatre especially exemplifies the democratic free market in that interactions between playgoer and presenter, between consumer and purveyor, are immediate, unfettered, not subject to regulation, – interactions do not require verification by third parties, – the seller need not explain why he has presented this particular good, – the buyer why he has chosen or rejected it.

In great drama we recognize that freedom may lie beyond and is achieved through the painful questioning of what was before supposed unquestionable. In the great drama we follow a supposedly understood first principle to its astounding and unexpected conclusion: We are pleased to find ourselves able to revise our understanding.

David Mamet
On Politically Correct
from Theatre

The job of the dramatist is to get, and that of the actors and directors to keep, the asses in the seats. Period. That is what pays the rent. Whatever an individual may have to say, it will not be heard unless the audience is (a) there, and (b) paying attention. And no one pays attention to anything that bores them. Why should they? You won’t. I won’t.

No one born ever listened gladly to a boring lecture. A play must not be a lecture. Just as the subject matter must be other than a lesson, the dramatic poetry, the text, must be entertaining. It must move quickly. Why linger on a point already made? And possess all the fluidity, rhythmic forces, and tonal beauty of which the author is capable. This is to say, it would be good if the playwright could actually write. Judged by these standards, it might be revealed that Eugene O’Neill’s works are not the masterpieces some have held them to be. Unless masterpiece is understood as museum piece, and culture as other than the way we like to do things around here.

What are our culture’s masterpieces of poetry? They were written by Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, Gus Kahn, Randy Newman, Carole King, Sam Cooke, and Leadbelly. These song lyrics are the highest poetry, and we remember them and sing them all our lives. They are the sound track of our lives and seem naturally occurring, – as does any real art.

David Mamet
On Great American Plays and Great American Poetry
from Theatre

Why Theatre

“We feel through the connection. We experience how others feel through our connection with them, – with their character. We experience how we feel through our connection with ourselves, – with our character. Sometimes we feel the same. Sometimes our feelings are different. It doesn’t matter. It is through our connection that we break the fourth wall. It is through our connection that we come to know our similarities and our differences, – and how our audiences come to know us, – and know themselves.”

Roger Chilton
from Why Theatre