Monday, March 26, 2012

Playwrighting Process and the Product of Chicken McNuggets

There is line I heard many years ago, delivered by the character Chris Stevens on my favorite old Television show, "Northern Exposure" and it goes; "Art is the process, not the product". I'm not sure where this line originated - I did a bit of research to trace the quote to its origin but could not find the source. For all I know, it may have been imagined by a writer for the series - which segues nicely into the thoughts (or process) that follows.

Follow me
The argument would follow that a painter or sculptor is only creating "art" while in the "process" of painting or sculpting, and the finished result, the painting/sculpture, is nothing more than a "product". (just something that happened as a result of art, not art itself.)

However, for someone like myself who writes plays, the "process/product" argument is difficult to maintain. Yes, writers can fall under the category of "artists" - we use our imaginations to create something out of nothing - we use an artistic process to create a product however, in the case of a playwright, the process of art doesn't end with the product, which is "a play". Not by a long shot - the journey for a play is still to follow another process as the art continues.

Another Journey
camdenton high school cast
Occasionally, I am invited to attend performances of my plays all over the country. Most recently, I journeyed about 2 hours from home into the magnificent Ozark mountain region of southern Missouri to Camdenton High School for a production of "I'm Getting Murdered In The Morning".
While it can be said, my process of writing is my art, in the case of a play, the "art" does not stop when I have finished writing. A "play" is essentially taken by other artists (actors) and reprocessed. (sort of like a Chicken McNugget) The characters I created in my mind and captured on paper were wonderfully realized and brought to life in a live setting. The lines were memorized and spoken before a room full of people. The actors of Camdenton High School took a story from my imagination and essentially reconstituted it with their own thoughts. Painters and sculptors could only dream of that process.

The world a playwright creates in his or her imagination; the setting, characters, dialogue, is given over to the imagination of the director and actors who will enact their own artistic process and create another product; the live performance. And in a sense, a live performance is a "process" and therefore, art.

Remember This
So, if art is the process not the product - what is the product of a playwright? Well, I could say, finally it's the audience who views the processes, and in the end - the product is just a memory. At least, that's what I imagine. I may have to process it a bit more.

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