Teaching Drama

Embracing Constraints

The running joke around here is that most of our plays could be performed with a couple of cubes, and if you really had to, you could probably cut one of the cubes.

This is on purpose.

When I read a script, I always picture it being performed on my high school’s stage. If I can picture the show on that stage then it gets my “Easy to stage” stamp of approval.

When I refer to my school’s “stage” I’m referring to a noisy wooden platform in a cold dark room in an isolated area of the school. Our “lighting” consisted of four pot lights hung above the “stage” controlled by dimmers. Not a dimming board, but dimmers, the very same kind you use to control the light above your dining room table.

We didn’t really think too much of it at the time. If our scene took place on a space ship then we had to figure out how to represent a space ship on that stage.

When we’re at conferences I always hear stories about Such-n-such school doing Such-n-such show. They spent gagillions of dollars renting top of the line costumes from Such-n-such and Such-n-such built the set for three gagillion dollars. They had eighteen dozen followspots, a top-of-the-line sound board and lighting board. This type of theatre has its place, I suppose, but my fear is that people are confusing better budgets with better theatre. The two are mutually exclusive. I’ve seen every combination of theatre ranging from cheap to expensive, from wonderful to terrible, and I promise that there’s no connection between budget and theatrical impact.

“The sky’s the limit” isn’t the best way to learn creativity. The best way to learn creativity is by embracing constraints.

Here’s what the band Ok Go managed to make on a $5 budget (the cost of the videotape!)

About the author

Craig Mason