Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Notes on the Introduction to The Coast of Utopia

"Introduction" to The Coast of Utopia

Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia is a trilogy of plays that, like An Experiment with an Air Pump, by Shelagh Stephenson, is a dramaturg's dream. Set in czarist Russia and following the travels of Russian radicals and revolutionaries, through these three plays (Voyage, Shipwreck, and Salvage) Stoppard tells the story of the maturation of philosophy in the rich historical backdrop of 19th century Europe. In the 2007 Grove Press edition, Stoppard also provides an introduction to the trilogy that offers his insights into the process of writing and revising his own work.

The process of writing a play is a transcription of an event before the event actually happens. The event that happens after the fact usually turns out at least slightly different from the one the playwright imagines, whether for artistic or purely logistic (i.e. the play was too long) reasons. The second edition of a play follows when these changes are incorporated back into the original transcription, which itself becomes obsolete (xi).

"Theatre is a pragmatic art form" (xii).

Plays offer the writer the possibility to move text around, and re-create the text anew based on their impressions of a reading. Novels seldom are as fluid, and when the work is complete, there is rarely the chance to change it. While some playwrights will regard their work in the same way, taking advantage of the fluid nature of dramatic writing allows for the potential for a text to evolve to match the transcript of events that actually happen, or that, in retrospect, should have happened (xii - xiii).

Appropriate citation information follows.

Stoppard, Tom. "Introduction." The Coast of Utopia. New York. Grove Press. 2007. xi - xiv.

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