The Modern Dramatic Fallacy

November 21, 2017

What I call the modern dramatic fallacy occurs when a writer of drama convinces himself he is writing about “life.” Life as an objective fact (though entirely based on his own personal life experience, often word for word conversations!).

The actor then buys into it, taking the modern approach by searching within himself for similar “emotional resonances,” which redoubles the conviction of the writer.

The modern American audience takes the fallacy as fact, which audience always, and curiously to my mind, seems to be asking the question, “Have I ever seen this in my life and can thus accept it?” rather than, “Do I believe within the confines of the stage that an imaginative world has been persuasively created for my pleasure (or edification)?”

Instead, my perspective is this: the writer (I speak here only of dramatic works) puts forth ideas, which float around in his own consciousness, into the world through a contrivance of scene, character, dialog and action. The work is understood to be entirely imaginative and purposefully written as a falsehood (but, and this is essential, whose purpose is to uncover Truth through story).

The actor searches the script for clues to meaning, blowing into the limp balloon his own hot air — his imagination, the quality of which is demonstrated in the use of language and body, surprise and exaggeration, entirely “unreal,” and founded upon the text itself.

The audience, knowing of the intentional falsehood, accepts for the brief time they (the writer’s ideas) are enacted in front of it, the persuasively demonstrated ideas as true ** within the confines of the stage. ** Or film or whatever medium.

The former approach is an intentional and hidden deception that perpetually pretends to truth, but only tells you of a subjective and narrow life; the latter an intentional and open secret shared by all of imaginative story, known to be story, that, while clearly false, demonstrates objective truth. That, the latter, is the true kingdom of Theater.

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Wyntner Woody