drama written as verse to be spoken
Verse drama is any drama written as verse to be spoken; another possible general term is poetic drama. For a very long period, verse drama was the dominant form of drama in Europe (and was also important in non-European cultures). Greek tragedy and Racine's plays are written in verse, as is almost all of Shakespeare's drama, Ben Jonson, John Fletcher and others like Goethe's Faust.
Verse drama is particularly associated with the seriousness of tragedy, providing an artistic reason to write in this form, as well as the practical one that verse lines are easier for the actors to memorize exactly. In the second half of the twentieth century verse drama fell out of fashion with dramatists writing in English, although the plays of prominent poets, Christopher Fry and T. S. Eliot continued the tradition.
Recently, there has been a resurgence in interest in the form of verse drama, particularly those plays in blank verse or iambic pentameter, which endeavor to be in conversation with Shakespeare's writing styles. King Charles III by Mike Bartlett, written in iambic pentameter, played on the West End and Broadway, as well as being filmed with the original cast for the BBC. Likewise, La Bete by David Hirson, which endeavors to recreate Moliere's farces in rhyming couplets, enjoyed several prominent productions on both sides of the Atlantic. David Ives, known best for his short, absurdist work, has turned to "transladaptation" (his word) in his later years: translating and updating French farces, such as The School for Lies and The Metromaniacs, both of which premiered in New York City.
With the renewed interest in verse drama, theatre companies are looking for "new Shakespeare" plays to produce. Companies such as Red Bull Theater in New York City (named after the historical theatre of the same name) specializes in producing Ives' "transladaptations" as well as obscure verse plays. Turn to Flesh Productions, a New York City theatre company founded by verse drama specialist, Emily C. A. Snyder, directly develops new verse plays with living playwrights, with a mission to create vibrant roles for women and those underrepresented in classical art. In 2017, the American Shakespeare Center founded Shakespeare's New Contemporaries (SNC), which solicits new plays in conversation with Shakespeare's canon. This was partially in response to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival commissioning "modern English" versions of Shakespeare plays.
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