Norman Allan
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The Seven Laws of Drama


My father, Ted Allan, was a playwright
and he said there are laws,
laws of drama.
He said the first law of theatre is
there must be conflict.

The second law, said Ted, is there has to be "character development."

The third law is, you have to care. If you don't care, you may just switch the channels. (Ted said that if the audience could identify with the protagonist, they would care.)

These were his musings on theatre, and when he told them to me I thought, "Wow! That is, actually, cosmic! What if it is all written - "Mucktube," the Arabs say - it's all written, and this is God's theatre."

On the personal level, in our own stories, we identify because we are the protagonist.

On the grand scale of things, universally, conflict is an essential of any good story, and perhaps that is why there is "evil" in the world. My friend, Rick, says if the dragon isn't awesome you'll not spawn much of a hero.

So God got bored in His heavenly bliss, His renaissance paradise with all the angels singing glory glory and hallelujah. "Enough!" He said. "Let there be light and dark." And there was. There was a big a big a bang with quantum and relativity and natural select, chance and error and the devils snaking through.

Further to the laws of drama: I overheard an actor, in Starbucks, explain to a student director, "The climax must be, at one and the same time, a surprise and inevitable. So that's the fourth and fifth laws, which might explain the need for the rational, the predictable. Without expectations, where's the surprise?

The sixth law of drama: If spirit wanted to be manifest it would do so in neon with whistles and bells. But it chooses, it seems, to be subtle.
Why would the playwright sit on the stage?

The seventh law is love.



Stanley Mann was telling Ted, after a reading of My Sister's Keeper, "It's good, but… in classical theatre you are told what you are going to see. The Greeks, of course, with the chorus, said Stanley and then he set out to demonstrate this thesis acting out Hamlet, and then Death of a Salesman, dramatically for us a one man show, with the energy of a dervish, he presented Hamlet meeting his father's ghost on the ramparts, Hamlet entangled in the cause of revenge, "And we know the banana peel is right there under his feet; that fate will kick him in the tuckus." And Death of a Salesman: "Willy Loman comes home, exhausted, depressed. He can't handle the traveling anymore. He asks his wife where his sons are. She says they're out, down at the pool hall. And he says he'll go and find them. And the audience all know (Stanley slides into a teasing school yard taunt) "Don't do it!"."

or something like that...