I’m going to guess that there are three types of people who click on this article.
- People who already love reading plays. You might be looking for some affirmation nostalgia. Welcome!
- People who hate reading plays. You might be here trying to get yourself hyped to read some play somebody assigned you to read, or you’re still angry that you couldn’t get into “Our Town” or “Romeo and Juliet” in high school. Welcome!
- People kinda close to group 2 who’ve been peer pressured by group 1. Welcome!
If there’s a fourth group that I missed. I’m so sorry. Your existence matters. Let me know who you are. Those of you on the roll call, scripts open, this article is for you.
Reason 1: You can take over the world!
Okay. So you won’t directly take over the world just by reading a play, but you will completely out read Deborah this year. You know Deborah, the girl who reads a ridiculous number of books every year. Oh, she says that it’s just because she loves reading, but you can hear it in her voice: she loves to feel superior. Then, there’s you. You have a life, a busy life. You can’t read all of The Silmarillion in a day.
Do you know what you can read? A play. Seriously! Even acted out with pauses and fight scenes and awkward stares, a play usually runs less than three hours. Your internal reading voice can crank up the speed and have you done in two hours. Take that Deborah!
While you’re at it, you can tackle some serious classics. Sure, Deborah made her way through War and Peace last week, but you can make it through The Frogs, A Walk in the Woods, Endgame, Zoo Story, AND A Raisin in the Sun in the same time.
Sure, it takes a hot minute to adjust to reading just dialog, but, once you do, you’ll destroy Deborah’s smug little world. Muahahahaha! *Pauses maniacal laughter to resume blog*
Reason 2: No Reading Required!
A whole bunch of famous and not so famous plays have been recorded live. The internet is littered with them. YouTube bootlegs and Reddit back-alley copies pop up daily, and Broadway HD has legitimately legal pro-shots of everything from obscure Irish plays to Broadway Musicals. Your local library probably carries a handful of plays on DVDs (or VHSs if your city doesn’t believe in funding knowledge).
You have access to tons of plays. Watch them to read them. If you watch a play with the subtitles on or read the play while it is playing in the background, you’ve read the play.
Why would someone who teaches theatre and writes plays advocate for this? Simple. I want people to be able to read, but our society isn’t set up to help people who don’t have internal reading voices after they leave grade school. If you struggle to read for funsies now but had a blast in story time back in those wild kindergarten days, plays can be a way to relax and can also help you learn or relearn to read with fluency and fluidity.
Reason 3: Plays bring the action!
Have you ever tried to read a book but couldn’t make it past the first few chapters? Exposition takes time, and, when mishandled can put a reader to sleep. Good playwrights know that they don’t have time for lengthy exposition. They have 10 minutes-3 hours to tell a full story, so they JUMP in.
Good plays are action packed from beginning to end. Everything is important, and things have to keep moving.
Playwrights have found some super inventive ways to get their ideas across quickly too. Ancient Greeks gouged out eyes on the daily. Shakespeare had people being chased by bears. McDonough requires a guy to be force fed a child’s toes. You know, family stuff. If you don’t want your reading to get stale and boring, plays might be the fix for you.
Reason 4: Plays are portraits of humanity.
The good, the bad, the ugly, the awe-inspiring: plays are life distilled, portraits of humanity crafted by people who live with eyes wide open. Because playwrights write almost entirely in dialog, they spend their lives getting to know people and the depths of language. Every character speaks at least a little differently.
Most books are beholden to the rules of grammar and a need to fake universality. Plays, on the other hand, are deeply regional. Words are dropped, people cut each other off, punctuation flies out the window. “Hmmmm” is a full sentence. What could be more realistic?
What’s more, as you read each character’s thoughts and gargles you get to know them as real people because, well, they are. As soon as an actor reads, signs, or dances those words, a real person clambers out of the pages to make friends and enemies and ask for forgiveness. What could be better?
Reason 5: Plays move mountains.
Most people writing plays know that they won’t make a killing from what they write. They don’t pretend to want to impress people (there are exceptions). When you don’t care what people think, you can be open and unbridled. Playwrights fill their plays with new and unique ideas all the time.
As a result, plays wind up shaping a whole lot of our world. Theatre desegregated long before film. In times when others weren’t examining such things in the public sphere, theatre was harshly interrogating assisted suicide, FGM, and rape culture.
While not often cited as the catalyst for change. Plays that focus on these subjects introduced ideas that led to films and music that influence politicians and activists.
If you want to be active in your efforts to grow as a person, plays are a great way to ask yourself what you know and what you believe in. If you don’t feel comfortable asking yourself who you are, don’t worry, there’s a character out there who will do it for you. After all, aren’t we all just trying to be the best we can be?
Whether your assigned a play or just looking for light reading, I hope that you give plays a chance.
**Disclaimer: I only know one Deborah, she hardly ever reads and is the sweetest person I know. I just picked a sacrificial name. Love you, Debbie!**