Experiencing Drama

drama sign

Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow that I’ll say good night until tonight becomes tomorrow.

Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2

Drama imitates. Poetry animates. Short stories fixate.

While these three forms of literature share common elements, they often use them differently, or for a different end. Short stories focus on a small slice of life. You could even say they exaggerate a moment or highlight a defining moment, but leave you to work out what it all means. Poetry brings things to life. Like the kids game of Twenty Questions, poetry looks at the characteristics and qualities of an object that is animal (living), vegetable (growing) or mineral (inanimate), (basically anything). A poem beautifully, lyrically and often rhythmically describes something in such detail that it becomes real for the reader. Drama, again, is a different animal.

Drama imitates life by displaying it in front of your eyes. The audience sees and experiences the interaction (i.e. movement, dialogue), emotions, and background for scenes of life. At the same time, much is left to the imagination. Since the entirety of a play is acted out upon a stage, in front of an audience who can hear stagehands moving props, it cannot provide the same rich detail that is found in a film. The audience fills in the gaps as they watch the action and listen to dialogue and music. This often happens on a subconscious level. As participants in life, we have our own drama – our comedies and tragedies – which makes the watching of plays a partially unique experience for each of us.

It is because of the employment of our imagination, beliefs, and experiences that plays seem so real even though they are really just an imitation of life. Without the projection of our life on the play, it would be lacking, hollow, a fake.

I saw my first professional production of a play during my sophomore year of high school. With our teacher, we took the commuter train to San Francisco, ate lunch and went to the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) to watch Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. We had already read the play and knew what to expect, but to see it acted out right in front of our eyes was mesmerizing in a way films often are not. It is a shared, participatory experience that actively involves your senses, emotions and intellect. The energy and emotions of the audience influences the players upon the stage. Popular movies, while evocative, lack the reciprocity of emotion that is an essential part of a play.

A good analogy for seeing a play versus watching a movie is listening to music. Even if you’ve never been to a play, I’m sure you’ve had the opportunity to listen to live music. It moves you in more ways than listening to the same tune on an MP3 player or on the radio. Drama, like music, is best experienced live. Give yourself the gift of watching a play today.

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