Archive for the ‘Arthur Miller’ Category

Biding Time — News of the Inner World

November 11th, 2007 No comments

What have I been doing? (besides sleeping, it seems)
I haven’t posted in a few days and it may be a few more before I start talking about anything meaningful.

I’m in that happy down state after a play has been pushed from conception/inception to, well, in this case, about as far as it will go for now without a full run. I’ve got some real ‘pull-up-your-sleeves’ rewriting to do, but I’m going to let it sit for a while. I did tape the reading, so I can watch it at a later date and see all the painful points again.

For my NEOMFA class I have to write a paper on my “art” and why it’s important or what is relevant about it. That is something I haven’t really thought about, so I find the question quite intriguing and if there’s anyone else out there reading this blog and who is a playwright I would put the question to you as well. Why is the theatre important? What does it do for people? What does it do for you?

Shadows of the Gods

Now, I’m re-reading an article by Arthur Miller entitled The Shadows of the Gods: A Critical View of the American Theater; Harper’s Magazine, 1958 Aug; 217: 35-43. It is a speech he delivered, to whom I don’t know, but has some very interesting points in it.

I’m not going to address the question now, as I’m writing a paper that will. When I’m done, I’ll choke up the blogosphere with the results. In the mean time, I’ll mention a few points that Miller discusses that I find interesting, and then link to a blog entry by someone who has a completely different take on Miller. But, as I’m using this article in my paper and I’m only half way through a serious re-read, I’ll not be considering it too much either.

  1. Miller mentions, in passing, that ‘professionalism develops only as a result of having repeated the same theme in different plays’; p35
  2. He was ‘shaped’ as a person by the Great Depression and says that the time period gave him “a sense of an invisible world” and that “The hidden laws of fate lurked not only in the characters of people, but equally if not more imperiously in the world beyond the family parlor…” and this led him to a profound interest in process–“How things connected” p36
  3. For him playwriting and art became a way of addressing or answering “the practical problem of what to believe in order to proceed with life.” p36
  4. “‘The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.’ The hidden will be unveiled; the inner laws of reality will announce themselves.” p37
  5. “There is a hidden order in the world. There is only one reason to live. It is to discover its nature. The good are those who do this. The evil say that there is nothing beyond the face of the world, the surface reality. Man will only find peace when he learns to live humanly in conformity to those laws which decree his human nature.” (This is what Miller says that Dostoevski’s The Brother’s Karamazov said to him). p37
  6. “I connected with Ibsen…because he was illuminating process. Nothing in his plays exists for itself, not a smart line, not a gesture that can be isolated.” p37
  7. Finally, one that answers the question I asked above, to some degree: “One had the right to write because other people needed news of the inner world, and if they went too long without such news they would go mad with the chaos of their lives. With the greatest of presumption I conceived that the great writer was the destroyer of chaos, a man privy to the councils of the hidden gods…”

But this is enough for now. The article goes on another six pages and for those interested I highly recommend getting it. If you can’t find it, email me and I’ll run it through the handy-dandy Side Kick scanner I have access to and shoot you a copy of it–marked up as it is. If you’re really nice to me, I’ll make you a fresh copy.

Screenplay time…

I’ve also started reading STORY (imperious) by Robert McKee again. I am going to (finally) go head on at a screen play idea that I have. I’ll talk about it later as I get beyond the “step outline” process I’m doing now. For a screenplay I find that I’m totally throwing aside the process that I advocated for playwriting earlier. For some reason I think that, for my first screenplay at least, structure and control are important. I’ve already got 22 index cards with an ordered listing of scenes. I just need to flesh it out and add more scenes and really get the whole step outline finished an in place. In the mean time, the messy side of me is generating piles of content about the characters, the world (it is futuristic a la Ray Kurzweil), and the events that control their destinies.

I’m having fun with this and so look forward to the process. I know soon enough, like a play I’m writing, this thing will take over my waking mind completely and the fun will morph into a mania that will only expire when I’ve done with the thing–seen it through to its completion and several re-writes and, hopefully, the silver screen.

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