Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Do You Like to Read Plays?

Winedale Shakespeare Festival
Flickr Credit: AJ LEON
As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Harry Potter fandom is aflurry with emotion after the release of The Cursed Child. I haven’t read the play yet (although I’ve read all the spoilers and am not impressed), but listening to the way people talk about it makes me curious.

Do you often read plays? What’s more, do you like reading them?

I’ve always thought plays are normal things to read. I had to read some in high school, I’ve read and will read some in college, and I’m interested in finding them on my own. I made a point of picking up a couple of plays by women during my summer reading challenge, and I’d do the same again. I like plays. They’re great to read and even better to see in person.

Is this an unusual opinion to have?

I don’t really know what it is that’s nagging at me. I’m well aware of how people favor novels. Especially among my peers, there aren’t many who would curl up on a rainy day with Shakespeare. They probably don’t search among the recipients of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama when they can’t find anything to read. And, to be fair, I don’t either.

Perhaps my concern is that people are making a big deal out of it. This is a piece of the Harry Potter “canon” (yeah… I’m personally not accepting it, but, you know, whatever), a part of a series that spoke to an entire generation worldwide. And it’s a children’s series. Why is that? Is this the only performance literature to be found that speaks to children and young adults? Is this the only performance literature that’s supposed to speak to children and young adults?

To be fair, I haven’t researched this. I have no statistics. If there is a kidlit movement among the performance literature crowd, I’m not trying to join them. I’m just responding to the things I see and hear on the internet and in my life. And what I’m seeing and hearing is that Cursed Child is something unusual to a lot of people. Maybe that’s not a good thing.

I’m here to ask whether or not you read plays, not to write a dissertation on what plays look like in our decade. Still, I think it’s worth wondering how we define literature. What volumes do we encourage our youth to read so it might make a difference? Who are our diverse playwrights? How do we support them? And do we recognize the connection between diverse playwrights and diverse casting?

It’s fantastic that Hermione and Rose are being portrayed by black actresses in London. I love that, I support that. But also, this is a text written by two white guys, as planned by a white woman. And in the words of Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr in Hamilton), “you know what's better than color-blind casting? Roles that are actually written about you. Roles that are actually written about your experience.” Stuff that is written by and for a diverse population.

If we aren’t experiencing plays in the first place, though, it seems like plays about experience might have a harder time of it.

All that to say, do you like to read or go see plays?


10 comments :

  1. I do enjoy reading plays--my favorite is probably Twelfth Night, but I also like The Crucible and Mary-Rose. It's a completely different experience from reading a novel, or even seeing the same play acted out, and it did take me a while to get used to. (I've read all the spoilers for The Cursed Child, too, and yeah--not impressed.)

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    1. The Crucible was pretty good, although I didn't appreciate it when I was in 10th grade, lol. It's a different way to read for sure.

      (Glad I'm not the only one who thinks so.)

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  2. I really am not a shakespeare fan, but I want to read more plays. I've read ones that I've acted/am acting (which is a grand total of two, fyi), but last year I read Arcadia, yes, written by a white guy, but I loved it a lot (I had a great time discussing it in english class and it was freakin' genius). I've been meaning to read The Importance of Being Ernest for a while now. (this might motivate me). I also read The Glass Menagerie earlier this year, but I was a) confused and b)yeah, doing it for class (though to be fair, it was a choice)

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    1. Fortunately, Shakespeare is not the only playwright in history. :) I don't mean to trash plays by white guys, it's just that like... they're sort of all by white guys, as far as patterns go. YOU SHOULD TOTALLY READ EARNEST THOUGH IT IS GREAT. And I haven't read TGM. It sounds famous though. Gotta remember that one.

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  3. I have read some Shakespeare but the only play I've read volantarily was The Importance of Being Earnest, which was amazing, and definitely worth it, oh and I read 12th Night for fun. I agree-- My problem with Hamilton is that despite the diverse cast, it's still history about white people. There is lots of equally interesting history about non-white people- like, imagine a play about Ibn Battuta. I love watching plays, in fact I watched a two hour one about the Mughals yesterday (but it was in Urdu which is hard for me to understand) My problem with plays is that I don't hear about them unless they're being made into a movie or something, and I don't know how to find out what to read.

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    1. EARNEST IS VERY GOOD. You should throw the book at your sister's face so she has to read it too. But yes, I've been reading many criticisms of Hamilton and one is about how it really is about white people still. Plays and musicals with more diverse backgrounds would go a long way. That sounds like you went to an interesting event, though!

      Yeah, plays don't get out as much as musicals or movies... It's tough. *sighs*

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  4. I did drama in high school so I read a LOT of plays - mostly absurdist plays because I adored them. I definitely miss that part of school because we got to see some amazing Australian plays as well. But yep, everyone's just like "plays are not meant to be read" - except they DO get read because not everyone has the opportunity to see them performed live. And I really enjoy reading them.

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    1. Oooh, that sounds like a lot of fun! Especially getting to read and even go see locally written and produced plays would be a special treat. :) Reading them is great, I agree! Let's bring reading plays back.

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  5. I've never really read a play of my own free will. I've only ever read Shakespeare for school, and we had to analyse it and take exams on it and stuff so that kind of ruined the reading of plays for me. In my opinion, plays are meant to be performed, not read, and hence it makes it difficult for me to read them because they're not in the intended format. (That's why (in my opinion, anyways) so many books are better than the movie adaptation, because the book was written in book format then smushed into a movie format.) However, this is coming from someone who doesn't like reading plays and hasn't read many, so I could be 1000% wrong. *shrugs*

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    1. Aw, that's too bad. I've always felt that reading Shakespeare in a school setting was super helpful, since I'd never really get it had I read it on my own. It is true that performing plays is important, so I appreciate what my high school teachers did by making Shakespeare an in-class reading where we listened to it performed. That really helped! It's too bad you don't like reading plays, but perhaps you'll enjoy seeing them performed. :)

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