Presentation on theme: "Lajos Egri Born in Hungary, emigrated to US in 1908"— Presentation transcript:
1Lajos Egri 1888-1967 Born in Hungary, emigrated to US in 1908 Pre WW1 socialist, communist and journalistPlaywright for the Hungarian radical theatre in NYC
2Lajos Egri 1888-1967 Mid 1930s founded the Egri School of Writing 1942: How to Write a Play1946: Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives
3Lajos Egri 1888-1967 Edited radio (and eventually TV) plays for CBS Acted and directed in a Hungarian theatre group in NYCCollection of his papers available through the Immigration History Research Center, Univ. of Minnesota
4Egri on “Why we Write” We want to be immortal We want to be important We want attentionWriters are extremely needy and insecureThey want to be noticed and remembered
5Great Writing…is a submission to a creative force (individuation-Jung) that seems to use the writer as an instrument. Writing becomes a process of discovery as the story and characters lead you forward.
6Linking Aristotle to Egri … From the laws of logic to the laws of dialectics
7Aristotle’s Formal Logic Aristotle developed the laws of logic:Law of identity: a thing is always equal to itself (a=a)Law of contradiction: if a thing is always identical with its self, it cannot be different from itself(a can never equal not a)Law of excluded middle: everything must be one of two things, (a or not a)
8Formal Logic has Limits Logic is fine of daily life, but when you begin to contemplate higher questions like…How can a man be a manand nothing else? At what point is man dead? You need a higher form of logic.
9Hegel’s(1770-1831) Dialectics, modified by Marxists (late 1930s) Hegel’s “Universal God” was “materialized” by Engels, Marx, and TrotskyWhereas formal logic was rigid and examined static relationships, dialectics was the understanding of real life-processes of motion, contradiction and change existing in the material world
10Laws of Dialectical Materialism Law of quantity into quantity and of quality into quantityUnity of opposites (polarization-attraction)Negation of the negation“Each is linked organically to the other as an expression to a law which is felt in all grades of consciousness and general experience”-Hegel
11So what does this mean to playwrighting? Movement and change results from causes inherent in processes and things, from internal contradictions. These contradictory tendencies within phenomena represent, in reality, a unity of opposites. For every action this is a natural reaction. Change takes place in leaps and revolutions.
12So what does this mean to playwrighting? There must be something to generate tensions and create complication and this something must be natural and organic.The force that unifies is human character and all of its contradictionsIf there is a thesis, there must be an antithesis. From the two will come a synthesis, uniting the road to truth
14Plays have a premise and every character has a premise of their own No character (figuratively) “lives on an island” in a playEverything in existence is closely related to everything elseThe more the dramatist reveals, the better the play
15What is a premise?Everything must have a purpose, premise or goal. A premise is the writer’s message; what you have to say. No idea, situation or emotion can carry a play thru beginning, middle and end as well as a clear cut premise.
16Expressing Your Premise The premise must be clear cut, contain emotion and be brought-forth by character and action.The premise should be worded so that anyone can understand it as the author intended it to be understoodAn unclear premise is as bad as no premise at all
17Three Parts of a Premise 1). Character (adjective, such as a trait like “frugality”)2). Conflict (verb, should be active, “leads to”)3). Conclusion (noun, such as “waste”)A good premise is a thumbnail synopsis of your playThe writer must take sides, take a stand, commit to the goal. Without the author’s conviction there is no premise
18Examples of Premise Pride brings destruction Immorality brings destructionDishonesty leads to destructionExtravagance brings destructionEgotism leads to destructionGreed brings destructionAny could be true, but the author must commit to only one of them!
19Must a Premise be True? Only in the story. A premise may not be universally true, but if you choose it the action and characters of your play must prove it.Passion and emotion enter when the author takes sides and commits.Passion and emotion must be driven by the premise
20Can I use someone else’s premise? Yes, but you must make it your own through your own beliefs, passion and personal experience.
21Must I begin with a premise? No, you can begin with an event or character.You must allow the premise to unfold and you must commitCharacters and action cannot carry a good play alone
22Can I change my premise?Yes, but you likely will wind-up going back to the beginning of your play and rewriting much of it.
23Does my premise have to be obvious? No, it shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb.In a good story you cannot tell where character ends and premise begins
24Can I have more than one premise? Yes, but you must accept the fact that you will not have a great play.Don’t confuse subplots with premises. Subplots may be included as devices to propel the action that propels the premise.
25How can I find my premise? Look within yourself. What do you believe? Where do your passions lie?Study charactersStudy human natureStudy the “why” (motivation) instead of the “how” (action)
26Remember dialectics:There must be something to generate tensions and create complication and this something must be natural and organic.The force that unifies is human character and all of its contradictionsIf there is a thesis, there must be an antithesis. From the two will come a synthesis, uniting the road to truth
27The Art of Dramatic Writing: Basic Story StructureDevelop your Premise2. Decision or Event Sets Action in Motion3. Conflict Arises4. Character is Revealed5. Characters Develop Under Pressure of the Situation or Environment6. Protagonist vs. Antagonist Propels the Story to its Ultimate Destination7. Premise is Proven
28Remember dialectics:There must be something to generate tensions and create complication and this something must be natural and organic.The force that unifies is human character and all of its contradictionsIf there is a thesis, there must be an antithesis. From the two will come a synthesis, uniting the road to truth
29The Art of Dramatic Writing: Basic Story StructureDevelop your Premise2. Decision or Event Sets Action in Motion3. Conflict Arises4. Character is Revealed5. Characters Develop Under Pressure of the Situation or Environment6. Protagonist vs. Antagonist Propels the Story to its Ultimate Destination7. Premise is Proven
30West Wing Episode Characters: Leo, The President, Josh Event: Republicans want to strike a deal suppressing Leo’s substance abuse in exchange for his recommendation to the President that he accept a Congressional CensureLeo is loyal to the President; Leo’s friends don’t want to see him destroyed; Josh wants a friend to become more than a friend
31Mills Schedule Changes I will not hold office hours this week due to my husband’s surgery on TuesdayI will be available via Thursday and Friday of this week.Do not hesitate to contact me via if you have a question or need something
33Describing characters is not enough. You must understand them. If a character is happy, sad, rude, friendly, apathetic or active, you must understand WHY.To understand the action of any character we must look at the motivation that compels him or her to act as he or she does.Understanding character allows you to truly understand how the story will move forward.
34The Bone Structure: Making Characters Three-dimensional PhysiologySociologyPsychology
35Environmental Pressures Physical, mental, sociologic, economic, politicalThese are ever-changing
36Character = physiology + sociology + psychology pressures of the environmentAs with all mathematical equations, as one variable changes the resulting product changes, and here his where we can form our character’s growth or arc
37Dialectical Approach Thesis: What the character wants Antithesis: Obstacle preventing them from getting what they wantSynthesis: Thesis and Antithesis circling around each other create dramatic action and change, the only constant of the human condition
38A Character Grows Through Synthesis All great plays build upon the constant change and development of a character under the impact of conflict
39Weak vs. Strong Characters Weak characters have no power to put up a fight. They are always held back or their growth is implausible.Strong characters grow and find the will to change and get what they wantJosh’s secretary is an example of a strong character that is not a protagonist or lead
40Character Drives PlotYes, this is the OPPOSITE of what Aristotle believed.The pivotal character is the Protagonist.Anyone who opposes the pivotal character is an Antagonist.There may be more than one of both.
41Orchestration This is the melding of character with plot Good orchestration allows the plot to rise in several stages or intervalsOrchestration demands well-defined and uncompromising characters in opposition, moving from one pole toward another through conflict
42Unity of OppositesThere is no compromise in a good play. One thing has to be destroyed in order for the other to live. EXAMPLES:Science vs. SuperstitionReligion vs. AtheismCapitalism vs. Communism
43Unity of Opposites: Character EXAMPLES OF CHARACTER TRAITSSloth vs. ProductivityFear vs. ConfidenceLoneliness vs. CompanionshipInnocence vs. Maturity
44The Heart is a Lonely Hunter What is the premise of “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter?”State the premise as a thesis, proven by “Mick.”State the premise as an antithesis, proven by “Singer.”
45Character: The Bottom Line (for a great play) The dominant trait or quality of a character must fundamentally changeThe change must be motivated by that character him or herself (plausible)Unity of opposites brings the conflict that allows a great story to rise to a climax
46The premise is proven by strong characters A decision or event sets the action in motionA conflict arisesThe true nature of the character(s) is revealedCharacters develop under pressure of the situation or environmentThesis/antithesis propel the story to its ultimate destinationPremise is proven
47Singer His deep desire is for friendship, “connection” He is very observant and a “good listener.”Gives Mick a gift: musicOften his kindnesses are not returned, and he remains lonely, isolated (chess game)Cruel circumstances are beyond his control (Andropolis’ behavior, doctor’s illness)Makes sacrifices for the collective
48The Bone Structure: Making Characters Three-dimensional Character = physiology x sociology = psychology________________________________________Pressures of the environment
49Singer’s equationDeaf mute X outcast = loneliness/frustration (isolation)_____________________________________________Pressure to conform to societyAntithesis: Isolation leads to destruction/death
50Mick Her deep desire is for beauty beyond her grasp She also gives gifts… helps Singer “hear” music… gives her friends a party… takes care of her brothersShe also makes sacrifices for the collective: her family (room)
51Mick’s Equation Innocent X Outcast = Frustration/Anger ___________________________________Pressure to accept life is unfairThesis: Communication leads to freedom
52Doctor’s Equation Dying X Racism = Bittnerness/Stubborness _____________________________________Pressure to conform to societal rulesThesis: Communication leads to understanding and love
53Jake’s equation Psychological pain X Drifter = Feels hopeless ______________________________________Struggle for meaning in lifeAntithesis: Violence leads to a meaningless existence
55What is conflict?Definition: “a state of opposition or incompatibility between two or more people or groups of people.”Argument is not conflictContrast is not conflictA conflict can have no less than two forces (characters)
56Conflict won’t happen if… Your characters all get along perfectly with each other because none of them are flawedYour characters are weak or superficial
57Conflict won’t be satisfying if… The action is illogical and difficult to sustain (logos)The action is static and never really goes anywhere (because characters aren’t willing or aren’t strong enough to make a decision or take action)
58Conflict needs… Strong characters that can grow Intensity provided by the strength or the will of the protagonistProtagonist and antagonist must be evenly matched (Kirk and Spock vs. Klingons or Romulins)
59Almost all conflict can be traced to… Environmental pressuresSocial pressuresPsychological flaws of main characterIt is the main character’s nature and will that create the counteraction that sets the play in motion
60Your challenge as the storyteller: Line up the forces that will create the conflictBring those forces out of the true nature of your protagonist and antagonistEach character must have a stake in the outcome of the conflict
61Typical dramatic conflicts: Between human beingsWithin human beingsBetween human beings and non-human animate beingsBetween human beings and natural forces
62Three kinds of conflict Static: ping-pong, doesn’t GO anywhereJumping: Not believable, inorganic, overdramaticRising: Always moving up (with plateaus). Always involves foreshadowing. Rising action can be unrelenting, so you must give your audience room to breathe
63Conflict Structure: Crisis, Climax and Resolution The unbreakable BOND between characters ensures rising crisis, climax and resolutionThe climax must be inherent from the very beginning of the play: choosing your protagonist and antagonist predicated it.BUT… the climax can still be ruined if any character weakens for some reason
64Crisis and Climax These follow each other to the rising plateaus One single scene may contain the exposition of premise for that particular scene, the exposition of character, conflict, transition, crisis, climax and resolutionThe procedure is repeated over and over in an ascending scale
65Periodical Connections All the elements of a three-act play are actually repeated over and over again in each defining sceneCrisis, climax, resolution and exposition are cyclical
66What is a Crisis? Any turning point A state of things in which a decisive change one way or the other is impending
67What is a Climax? (Egri) The resolution of all crises The culminating pointIt is the height of all plateausIt is the part before the resolution
68What is a Climax? (Vogler, pp. 208-209) Greek for ladder.Explosive momentHighest peak in energyLast big event in a workHighly emotional but decisive
69“Quiet” Climax Gentle wave of emotion Sense that all conflicts are harmoniously resolvedTensions are converted into feelings of pleasure and peace
70“Rolling” Climax Individual subplots each require their own climax Hero experiences a climax with each new level of awareness or emotionMind, body, spirit climaxes and the hero’s whole world changes
71Climax leads to Catharsis Psychoanalysis: catharsis is a technique for relieving anxietyA raising of the consciousness of both hero and audienceA sudden expanse of awareness, peak of higher consciousnessMay include physical expressions like laughter
72Climax and Character Arc Logical result of a character’s change or growthA common flaw is the climax is reached too abruptly
73The Puffy Chair 2005 Jay and Mark Duplass Mark Duplass plays Josh Has won many independent film awardsShot on a very low budget… on location… with friends who worked for little or no pay