What playwrights get up to in private.

Playwrights – and what they get up to in private.

I have just finished reviewing David Edgar’s excellent book on How Plays Work. Reviewing this book has focused my thinking on a word – the noun that describes the activity of writing plays.

Rod Dungate explores a linguistic anomaly in the world of writing plays . . .This, for me, is a problematic word. And, OK, I put my hand up – this may be the tiniest bit eccentric. But I don’t care – about being seen as eccentric. I care a great deal about what I say below.

One of the things I do when not writing reviews for ReviewsGate.com is write plays. I’ve always been moderately thrilled by the term playwright. What I like about the word – and why I like applying the word to myself – is that it’s an artisan word. It fits historically, with words like wheelwright and cartwright. We are ‘play makers’ – not effete play writers. (This last sentence should be seen as a movable feast.)

On the face of it, writing a play might appear to require a person to put together witty, poignant, pithy dialogue. But dialogue is only the most visible of the many elements a playwright must consider – structure, meaning, settings, rhythms, actions and so on are all important, and really should be considered when writing the dialogue. So a play is much more crafted than it is written. It’s wrighted, if I may coin a word, by a playwright.

Having established the writer’s (wrighter’s) right to be called a playwright, I’d like to address the activity. This is commonly called playwriting; but it shouldn’t be. The word playwriting diminishes the task on one hand, and on the other, doesn’t appropriately represent it. The word should be, of course, playwrighting.

This is the word I use whenever possible. But I’m both a coward and a realist; I must confess to using the word playwriting in certain public areas – where I think people may simply think playwrighting is a spelling mistake.

But I’d like to encourage everyone to join with me and use the word playwrighting whenever, wherever and however they can. And to use it as frequently as possible too.

2009-09-06 14:23:31

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