Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Text?

One of my standard tropes is that the audience isn't going to be watching a play with a script in hand. I mean, yeah, you'll occasionally see some student or weirdo sitting in the house with a book in hand, but even when you do, 3/5 of the time that's their vado me cum they bring along to plays in case they get bored. Sorry, you've bored them. The other 2/5 of the time, you'll see someone following along with the script.

I don't really get why people do this. I'm one of those people that likes having the subtitles available at the opera, but still finds them distracting when they're not done well. I'd rather be watching the show than reading along with it. Especially in the case of any sort of "classic" show, which is almost always going to be cut or otherwise adapted: chances are you don't have the exact same text that the production used as the copy text for its performance edition.

Almost certainly, the audience won't be sitting there with the text in hand. Lets pretend for a minute that they are. Lets pretend that everyone who walks into The Merry Devil gets a copy of the text that was the basis for the production... pause to consider what that even means. Is that the collated copy text, the edited text I gave my cast before the read through, the edited text I gave them a month or so ago, or how about the resulting text that incorporates all changes we make during rehearsals? Any of these texts are inherently incomplete because the performance has co-evolved with the text it used as its basis.

Even that text cannot convey everything the performance does. The performance is ephemeral and the result of a combination of highly variable, non-reproducible factors. For example, pretend an actor got stuck in traffic on the way to the theatre that night, and they're late and running on adrenaline from having to hurry to make sure they arrive close to call time: that might mean they're going to be a little bit ore up-tempo during that performance. Or maybe a lot. Or it could even mean precisely the opposite. No text can convey all of this.

By the time the production is ready for performance, the text does not exist.

No comments:

Post a Comment