"If you want truly to understand something, try to change it."

--Kurt Lewin

Jul 10 2009

Let me get this right out there--I abhor direct address in most plays. It's a cop out employed by far too many playwrights, both established and obscure, in far too many plays. Unless you wrote Our Town or The Glass Menagerie, you will likely be better served by taking a hard, cold, preciousless look that narrator or those speeches directly to the audience and finding a way to accomplish the same thing within the action of the scene. Put this one next to voluminous stage directions for head scratchers of theatrical devices.

That said, I'm becoming fond of a rewriting exercise that can help track forwards in your play, clue you into a structure, and reveal those niggling audience questions that you are forced to answer so the wayward audience mind will silence itself and accept the story unfolding. The idea is to take a pass through a play and insert a narrator along the way, explaining to the audience (And right now that's you, pally) what it needs to know. If Exposition Man the narrator is such a common playwright crutch, it makes a kind of backward sense to concretize what you need to prop your play up, even if only to remove and replace it with a more organic alternative. That's like 9 mixed metaphors right there. You're welcome.

It's so awesome let's try. Here's a passage from an old play of mine that desperately needs such assistance presented by my own personal narrator, Virgil.

Read more: The Retroactive Narrator Exercise

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