verse drama

drama written as verse to be spoken

Verse drama is any drama written significantly in verse (that is: with line endings) to be performed by an actor before an audience. Although verse drama does not need to be primarily in verse to be considered verse drama, significant portions of the play should be in verse to qualify.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 William Shakespeare's, Ben Jonson's and John Fletcher's drama, and other works like Goethe's Faust and Henrik Ibsen's early plays. In most of Europe, verse drama has remained a prominent art form, while at least popularly, it has been tied almost exclusively to Shakespeare in the English tradition. In the English language, verse has continued, albeit less overtly, but with occasional surges in popularity such as the plays of prominent poets, such as Christopher Fry and T. S. Eliot. In the new millennium, there has been a resurgence in interest in the form of verse drama. Some of them came in blank verse or iambic pentameter and endeavour 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 endeavours 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. However, the twenty-first century also saw theatre practitioners using verse and hybrid forms in a much wider selection of dramatic texts and theatrical performances and forms than those inspired by Shakespeare. A transnational researcher Kasia Lech showed that contemporary practices reach for verse to test the boundaries of verse drama and its traditions in Western theatre, including English-language theatre but also Polish, Spanish, and Russian. Lech argues that verse is particularly relevant for contemporary theatre practice because the dialogical relationship between its rhythmic and lexical levels speaks to the globalized world’s pluralistic nature. Lech discusses artists such as Polish Radosław Rychcik and Spanish-British Teatro Inverso use verse in multilingual contexts “as a performative tool to engage with and reflect on interlingual processes as a socio-political force and as a platform for dramaturgies of foreignness.” Nigerian Inua Ellams explores his identity that escapes geographical, national, and temporal boundaries. Russian Olga Shilyaeva in her 2018 28 дней. Трагедия менструального цикла (28 Days. The tragedy of a menstrual cycle) uses verse to talk about experience of menstruation. Irish Stefanie Preissner in her Our Father (2011) and Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend (2012) plays with autobiography and her multiple identities “as the character she performs, as the performer, the writer, and a voice of a young generation of Ireland facing the drastic political, social, and personal changes and desperately looking for predictability.”
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