Will Dunne Dramatic Workshops
Will Dunne Dramatic Workshops
 
Will Dunne Dramatic Workshops
 
 
Will Dunne Dramatic Workshops
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Will Dunne Dramatic Workshops An In-Depth Analysis
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Will Dunne Dramatic Workshops
 
Will Dunne Dramatic Workshops
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THE DRAMATIC WRITER’S COMPANION
AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS
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When The University of Chicago Press asked industry experts to review The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, May-Brit Akerholt, who served as Artistic Director of the Australian National Playwrights Conference for ten years, wrote this detailed report summing up her analysis:
 
I was delighted to read Will Dunne’s The Dramatic Writer’s Companion. It is obvious from the beginning that this book is written by someone who is a both a playwright and a teacher. Will Dunne mixes an artist’s imagination and intuition with a teacher’s knowledge of the craft of dramatic writing. It is an irresistible combination, producing a book which is simultaneously astute and imaginative.
   This book is not concentrating on the idea of story, or how to tell a story, the way most playwriting manuals do. It establishes early that character is “the heart and soul of story.” By focusing on character and action, and the effects of character on action and action on character, the book lays open the many ways a story is built from the complex relationship between character and action.
   Dunne also deals with the use of imagery in the building of a story. His ideas on how to exploit images so they become part of creating a through-line are not only extremely useful, but presents a whole new way of seeing an action, an event, in terms of both image and character.
   I was fascinated by the imaginative, even entertaining way Dunne presents his ideas. For instance, there is a sub-heading called “How Your Characters’ Voices Compare and Contrast,” which deals with the old adage that when you read a play, you should be able to hold your hand over a character’s name and still know who is speaking. However, this book suggests that you “translate” ten generic statements into the voices of two different characters. It forces you actively to explore how characters
  talk, in which ways their voices are unique. As the book points out, it is vital to find the distinctness of each character’s voice as an ongoing part of the character’s development process, and this is a distinctly refreshing way of doing it.
   A similar idea is expressed in the section called “Building Your Story” where Dunne deals with the problems of choosing a protagonist. Using Hamlet as an example, he suggests that making it one character’s story involves the process of creating a voice for that character, thus beautifully linking, even tying together, different parts of the book.
   For me, language is of prime interest: text and subtext, not only what the characters say, but how they say it, and most importantly, what they don’t say. The section “Unspeakable Truths” suggests that this is a critical part of what happens between characters, that what is commonly called “subtext” is a “rich source of dramatic action because they are powerful motivators of what the characters do here and now” [my emphasis]. Dunne suggests how, on a wider level, characters have objectives, and then details ways to explore and deepen these objectives and make them part of characterisation.
   Another chapter extends the argument about objectives by discussing how to understand a character by knowing what he or she wants in each scene. The book suggests how to link what your character wants most in life to what the story itself is about, and to use this in each tiny beat of language
and action.
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   “Over-writing” is one of the most common sins in playwriting. In an extremely useful section, “The Bones of the Lines”, Dunne deals with how to refine, or edit dialogue, how to get rid of the superfluous and create a dialogue that reverberates, hints, tantalises and avoids becoming explanatory. This should become prescribed reading for all playwrights of all levels of experience.
   The book moves from exercises offering a “clear, big-picture view” of the scene you plan to write, to giving your blank page a working context so you can translate a scene onto a visual storyboard, to dealing with minute details such as the effects of sounds and smells – for instance, the effect of the sound of Nora slamming the door on her past life in the final scene of A Doll’s House.
   Finally, the book is beautifully structured. Any writer who approaches it will find the “Content” section extremely effective and lucid.
   This book triggers two keywords in me: “provoke” and “inspire.” No one can teach anyone to become a dramatic writer. But it is possible to learn how to improve your writing skills. It is possible to be provoked into thinking differently, into adding different colours and dimensions to your ideas, to extend the range of images in your head, to startle your imagination; in short, to be inspired into trying new approaches and methods. This book has the potential to do all of that for a writer.

– May-Brit Akerholt,
   January 2009
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