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The Playwright

A playwright is someone who writes plays and other forms of dramatic art. Playwrights are vital components of the creation process of a dramatic performance. The duty of a playwright is to create a template for which the framework of the dramatic performance will revolve around. The director, producer, visual and scenic design crew, choreographer, light and sound technicians, as well as dozens of other workers develop a performance in conjunction to the script which the playwright provides. The playwright is a master of the human condition and emotion and can thereby create a believable world, plot and characters which do not undermine the willing suspension of disbelief in the performance. Playwright is the combination of the words play, the actual dramatic performance and wright (it is not misspelled), which was a term for a craftsperson or artisan. History The earliest playwrights with recorded works come from Ancient Greece where their works were performed for annual Athenian competitions between playwrights as well as for recreation. Greek playwrights included; Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, their works have maintained significance over the course of time and still remain relevant today. These playwrights focused on the interaction between humans and the divine, most works revolved around nobility and the tragic hero was a staple archetype in Greek plays. Contemporary playwrights continue to look back at these ancient masters of the performing arts and create works which use similar elements. Aristotle wrote the first manual for playwrights in the 5th century BCE, this comprehensive guide outlines the universal elements expressed in plays. Furthermore, the guide referenced the importance of human emotion, the writer (ethos), the audience (pathos), the logic and flow (logos), performance, music and character. Aristotle also wrote about the importance of choice and how character development would revolve around the choices made by the characters during the progression of the play. Aristotle also recognised the shared concepts of Greek tragedies of the time and defined the protagonists as having a tragic flaw which leads them to their demise. Aristotles manual became a staple resource for playwrights and aspiring novelists and writers and still remains relevant today. Types of Plays/Play Format There are a variety of different formats playwrights utilize when writing a play. The format used is determined by the length of the play, as well as the genre and level of character development. Full Length: Two-three acts containing an intermission. Full length plays contain a variety of different scenes. Examples include; Shakespearian plays, Chekovs plays. Episodic plays: Full-length plays that contain a heavy amount of scene changes, these types of plays prevent the degradation of willing suspension and continuity by closely monitoring each and every

aspect of the scene changes, even a minute logical fallacy between scenes can end up ruining the performance. Episodic plays also tend to introduce the conflict and action early on (early point of attack) Classical Structure: Full-length plays that contain a more lax approach to scene change, scene changes are more dependant on the unity of time, space and conflict to create and maintain willing suspension and continuity. Classical plays introduce the conflict at a later point in the story, this structure allows playwrights to add character development before the main parts of the story unfold. Short plays are, in essence, full-length plays which have been reduced in time and lacking an intermission. Short plays generally fit into the timeframe of an hour. Examples include; Death of a Salesman. One-Act Play: A play which contains only one act. This format has been identified mostly with theatre of the absurd and contains much less character development than its counterparts. One act plays are generally shorter than Short plays. 10-Minute Play: Literally a play which lasts ten minutes. Ten minute plays involve the most character development out of other forms of play writing as a large amount of detail is required to be expressed in the plays length. 10-minute plays are more humanistic in nature and revolve around realism when expressing the flaws and shortcomings in human nature. Examples include; Charlie Chaplin Shorts, monologues, soliloquies, many plays performed in class. William Shakespeare William Shakespeare was a 15th century English playwright often regarded as the greatest English writer of all time. His works have been translated into every major language and his works are taught in English classes throughout the world. Shakespeares earlier works were mostly comedies, containing a lighter tone than his later, more renowned plays. In 1608, he began to write tragedies which would last throughout the ages. During this phase he wrote Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth, three of his most famous works. Nearing the end of his life, Shakespeare began to write tragicomedies, tragic comedies or comedic tragedies, his most famous tragicomedy (and arguably his most famous play) is Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeares plays also revolved around human nature, his tragedies followed the framework of his Greek predecessors with a tragic hero (of noble descent) and tragic flaw. Shakespeare even wrote about the relationship between humans and the divine on occasion. Although Shakespeare is now regarded as one of the greatest English writers in history, he had never achieved a high level of notoriety in his lifetime. Shakespeare dies in 1616, a father of three and married to Anne Hathaway. Shakespeares works have influenced the birth of the contemporary playwright as well as the regard for the human condition seen universally throughout all literature. Universal Topics Universal topics which playwrights tend to work with include; the human condition/humanism, naturalism, cause and effect, conflict as self-improvement, excitation of all senses and the influence of the audience.

Young Audiences Playwrights for younger audiences tend to tone down heavily on the explicitness and depth of many of the tropes and idioms which are seen in other forms of drama. Childrens plays revolve around the moral upbringing of children in a positive and calming way. Tragedies and all aspects involving negative consequences are thrown out in favour of brighter, morally sound and happier plays. Characters in such plays are generally much more expressive in their emotions and feelings at any particular time as younger audiences typically cannot comprehend subtext. Furthermore, plot in childrens theatre is linear and basic without any subplot or loose ends by the end. Mature themes and plot elements are almost non-existent (except for the occasional parental bonus quip) and the plot usually revolves around a character that is easy to relate to for children. All elements of childrens theatre are utilized to prevent a loss of interest from the children - audience participation is explicitly used for this reason. In conclusion, Theatre for young audiences are starkly different to the type of theatre aimed at adults, children are unable to comprehend mature themes and cannot look deeply into the internal emotions and implications common in adult theatre, theatre for children must be simple, highly emotive and positive in order for children to fully enjoy the art. Works Cited

1. Jonson, Ben, The Works of Ben Jonson, Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Co., 1853.
2. Alexis Soloski, "The Plays What They Wrote: The Best Scripts Not Yet Mounted on a New York Stage", The Village Voice, May 21 - 27, 2003

3. Baer, Daniel (2007), The Unquenchable Fire, Xulon Press


4. "How to Write a 10-Minute Play." 10-Minute Plays. 2006. Web.