It is not always easy to distinguish between drama as literature and drama as theatre. My view has always been that good drama is based on good literature, but having said that, we all know that there are moments in the theatre when the action moves far beyond the printed page and its stage directions. Those are the moments when we realize that drama is theatre.
This meditation is a result of my having just seen a wild adaptation of Molière’s A Doctor in Spite of Himself directed and adapted by Christopher Bayes, whose roots are in the Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Bayes tossed out the standard text and built a commedia dell’arte version on the comic bones that Molière had provided beneath the dialogue.
The result was dynamic, wildly comic, and enthralling to the audience. And while the slapstick, the ham acting, the sometimes lewd jokes, the inappropriate, but funny, music, and all the screaming, shouting, dancing and romping was over, we realized that the story line that Molière concocted as a way of ridiculing the current medical profession was in a bizarre way, still intact.
What I realized–and what delighted me–is that no printed version of this adaptation could ever have done justice to it. And that goes for any version on YouTube or even the iPad or laptop–because much of the fun of seeing the play was in sharing the pleasure with a living audience.
In teaching I think it is important to try to talk about the aspects of the play that go beyond the printed page, but at the same time to make sure that the literary values are clear and that they remain the bones on which the production must be animated.
How do you teach students the difference between drama as theatre and drama as literature? What plays and/or performances have illuminated this difference for you and for your students?
[[This post originally appeared on LitBits on December 21, 2011.]]