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Particular story

Reading Ronald Hayman’s How to Read a Play opened my eyes to the different ways of experiencing and appreciating theater. The author makes a very good point of saying that a play is meant to be performed and not just read, and when we look at it this way then we can begin to look into the script as an art in itself. Of course, the performed play will be richer in the sense that it will fully capture the intricacies that acting can lend to the words written in the script, but the script itself provides a rich source of learning.

Hayman mentions that as we read a play we should visualize what is happening on the stage – imagine the characters moving about and not just read the stage directions. I think more than anything, a theater play provides a very tight text, in that every word written is essential. Unlike in other forms of texts like fiction novels and poetry, the play is intended to be performed and takes into account how its words will translate into a clear sensory experience. More than just an image, it concerns itself with the sounds and emotions of its characters – taking note of every detail that is necessary in putting forward the message of the play.

Also, another dimension that I think we should look for in reading a play is its attempt to depict life’s realism. Hayman also mentions that unlike other literature, plays are more often ripe with irony and subtleties, and that is because of its nature – in real life, nobody reveals outright their intentions and motivations, and the play reflects that. Unlike a fiction novel or poem, a play cannot just reveal its characters’ thoughts and emotions just by mentioning it in the script – it has to be said in a dialogue, and then it has to be woven artistically into the story.

Although Hayman gave a lot of fundamentals to help understand theatrical works, I still think that the language plays an important part in enjoying reading a play. For example, plays written in Old English or in lyric form are more difficult to understand than plain modern English. I agree though that reading the play out loud can help – for a number of things. For one, it helps me imagine how to deliver the lines, and in the process of doing so I gain insight about the characters. I try to read back and see where this particular character is coming from, what is he feeling at this scene, how will he be delivering these lines.

If I were watching a play, I would not be making as much effort into understanding the characters because it will be given to me visually and with dialogues already. However, reading the lines out loud and closely reading the script not only gives insight about the characters but also on what goes on behind the stage’s curtains. I can imagine the character, and then I also imagine the actor playing the character and how he is preparing for his role. Also, reading plays closely brings a new understanding of writing style as well.

Hayman mentions that a lot of details go into describing sounds, setting, and objects on the stage and it will do good to imagine all these as we read a play, but more than that I am also amazed with how the playwright imagined it all in his head and figured out which ones to plant on the stage and which ones to go. So, I think that more than just imagining a performance as vividly as you can, it will also be more fulfilling to look into the artistry of how the words were chosen and woven together to bring about a script that takes into account the images, sounds, and emotions of a particular story.

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