First a quick bit of LA business: The Lakers Won! The Lakers Won! The Lakers Won!
Okay, moving on. . .
I love movies. That might seem like a strange thing to say in a playwriting blog, but I gotta go there. I love movies.
In fact, I became a playwright because of a movie. When I was twelve, I saw The Right Stuff. I thought Chuck Yeager was the coolest dude since Han Solo. When I found out that the guy who played Chuck Yeager was a playwright whose plays were on the shelf at the local library, I started reading and liking it. However, it was years before I actually considered myself a playwright. I had to go through a Corellian smuggler phase.
I love movies. I’ll watch all kinds of movies. I try not to watch the same movie over and over again, but sometimes I just can’t help it. One movie that I’ve seen more than twice is Gladiator. Yep, Gladiator. I know I’ve just shot my wad of intellectual street cred, but gosh darn it, I like that Gladiator picture.
Now, yes, there are other movies that I think are better. If you want to watch a good Russell Crowe picture, I recommend LA Confidential. If you want to watch a good Ridley Scott picture, I recommend Black Hawk Down. If you want to watch a good sword and sandal picture, Ben-Hur still rules the nest.
But still, there’s something about Gladiator that makes me smile. Maybe it’s the sandals. Maybe it’s the good old fashion revenge plot. Maybe it’s muscles and machismo. Maybe it’s the lone female character who manages to be both smart and look good. Maybe it’s all the golden colors.
Gladiator also has a streak of theatricality running through it for good measure. The gladiators don’t just kill people. They kill in front of the crowd.
Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom. Proximo, the gladiator producer, tells Maximus, the rising young performance artist.
How does one win the crowd? In the Gladiator world, it’s not enough to just kill. There should be some excitement. There should be some flare.
In the film, the excitement comes from quick cutting, great cinematography, some excellent sound editing, and blood, lots of blood.
But how does one generate excitement on a stage? How does one win the crowd as a playwright? How does one give the audience something they’ve never seen before (to quote Maximus)?
Plays happen in front of people. What exactly are they watching? Is it enough for them just to see actors speaking articulately? Is there something else? Something more in the physicality and the visual world of the play that can heighten the experience for the audience?
Should a play always be accessible to the audience? Can a play be hostile to the audience? Can a play be baffling to an audience but still keep them in their seats?
Can a play throw a sword into the balcony seats, pace around an arena, and shout, ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? IS THIS NOT WHY YOU ARE HERE?