Scripts Written For The Theatre Vary Greatly From Screenplays Written For The Big Screen
Erwin Panofsky wrote, “The screenplay, in contrast to the theatre play, has no aesthetic existence independent of its performance, and… its characters have no aesthetic existence outside the actors”.
When a #playwright completes a play he/she does so in hopes that the play will be performed numerous times, and in an ideal scenario such as with Shakespear’s work, continue to be adapted as time progresses. In juxtaposition, when a #screenwriter completes his/her #screenplay, it is viewed as a one-time offering. This means, it is meant for one #director and one cast of #actors. This is because most often in a film, the character lives and dies with the one actor who they were played by, as opposed to the #theatre where many actors can play the same #characters over many years. Therefore in the theatre, the character never really dies. They are resurrected in many ways, during many time periods and across many countries.
#Films are however re-done and re-made all the time, but the fact is that they are not meant to be. Screenplays are not written and developed with the idea in mind that they will be filmed again in a decade or so. Plays by comparison are written for the masses, no matter where they live, or how they lie or when they live. The playwrights know that it will be #performed again and again overtime, hopefully, and in many places around the world, and they thus want it to be accessible and relevant to all. So they are written with those ideas in mind. The #stories and plights are written so if they are performed even a hundred years after the fact, there are still ideas and messages that the #audience can understand and take with them. A play may take place during a certain time-period, but it is not “dated” in the same way a contemporary film may be.
Stage plays are by virtue, a continuous pieces of work, but transitory. They and their characters change through each #performance and each interpretation. There is room to grow and room to limit things. Everything is available for change. Film, on the other hand, is discontinuous, but permanent. In film, what you see is what you get. There is no changing it, once it is completed it is completed for all time. Someone else may come down the road and reinterpret the work, but the original work will still remain, and always be the original.
Another variant which differs with stage plays and screenplays is the order things are made. A stage play must be performed in order, no exceptions. Otherwise, how would the audience understand what is going on? With a screenplay, things can not only occur out of order during the final product, but they can be filmed or performed for the camera out of order and no one need ever know. This in turn creates a different dynamic, not only with the material and the audiences, but with those who are performing and shaping each piece.
Therefore when writing for a screenplay or for the theatre, an understanding of these differences is important. It is integral to know not only who your audiences is today, but who they will be in the future. While screenplays and scripts for the theatre may have stark contrasts, they have many similarities too, but that is something we will explore in another post.