Thursday, September 6, 2007

World Rules Refined

A couple of comments on this post inspired me to refine the concept of Rules of the World (ROTW).

I think there is a distinction between rules that define how world of the play would function if it were reality, and rules that define the conventions of how the play is presented to the audience.

The question "What is the role of women in the 'world'?" and my question "Where do the bodies end up?" fall into the former category. Pookie's observation about time and Erik's thoughts on language fall into the latter category.

I tend to think first about the reality of the world I want to write about, and then what conventions I'm going to use to convey those to the audience.

I recall a day in workshop at Ohio University. I had written a play with a ghost. (Really, its better than it sounds.) The workshop accepted the ROTW that ghosts were real. But Charles Smith went on to ask how the ghost manifested on stage: a special light, a sound, did the ghost always appear from one spot, etc. He said in effect: "Fine, ghosts are real in this play. But how are you going to show that to the audience?"

Is this purely an academic distinction? Or is the line between ROTW and stage convention so blurred as to be useless?


Anonymous said...

Personally, I like it when the artist makes a bold choice to show me something and then sticks with it.

I don't might artifice. If you tell me that all actors on stage in white are get to the story.


Erik Ramsey said...

I think maybe your urge to divide ROTW into subcategories is a good one, but I'm not sure yet exactly what you mean by subdividing? Isn't one an extension of the other?

For instance, if a play is written and no contractions are ever used (like "can't" or "don't") it tends to formalize the language and create a different world than the one we live in. This heightened language could well be the language of the dead (who knows why the dead can't use contractions, but stay with me here) and therefore we learn from the language ROTW where the bodies end up.

Are we thinking too hard here? What are more examples of each separate subset of ROTW you're conjuring here?