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Organic Script Analysis - Questions

Read the play at least once without thinking about analyzing it. Read it to see whether you like it, whether it resonates in you. Sometimes, one gets lucky, and you just intuitively understand a play. You may even enjoy reading it. You may want to read it again before you start to ask yourself questions about it.
Then, you begin to ask questions:
 
Do I like the play?
Do I understand what the play is about?
To know this, you should be able to find moments in the play, where something is said or done, that determine what you think the play is about? For instance, in Hamlet by Shakespeare, the play is normally interpreted as being about either, “to be or not to be”, or “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Perhaps, it could be about something else. Like what?
Who are the protagonists?
Why are they the protagonists?
Can a play be interpreted with different characters being the protagonists? Or, is there a clear structure that determines this for all readers?
Who are the antagonists? Why are they antagonists?
  • Determining this, leads to, and comes from, what you think the play is about?
To help understand the play, and its structure, more deeply, break it down into Acts and Scenes.
How many Acts are there?
  • Are the acts structured in any particular way?
For instance, Chekhov’s acts each take place in a different season of the year? Greek plays are in one act. Why? Shakespeare has five acts. Chekhov, Ibsen, etc., have four acts. Twentieth century plays had three acts in the first half of the century, and two acts from then on. Is this Organic, commercial?
Can the number of acts be changed without destroying the structure and meaning of the play?
As you begin to see the structure of plays, it helps you understand them. And understand how playwrights tell stories. For instance, I tend to analyze plays and structure the scenes like a film. I often have many more scenes than seem to be indicated by the playwright. This helps me understand what is going on in every moment of the play. I don’t know why I began to do this. But, with experience, I understand why I do it. However, I believe that it could be done in more than one way. In an organic creative process, there may be numerous possibilities that could all be true and applicable. There is not some mechanical idea of perfection. There are no absolute, linear realities that everyone must accept as the only right way to analyze. This doesn’t mean that anything goes. Some analyses are better than others. Because, they reveal more clearly what the playwright is trying to express. Unfortunately, playwrights do not always know best what they have written. Or, what they are trying to say.
Are all the characters essential to the story? Why?
  • If not, can they be cut? Why?
Is each scene you perceive in the play essential to the story? Why?
  • What happens in each scene? Why is it different from every other scene in the play?
  • If it isn’t, can it be cut? Why?
If you reorganize the number of scenes, or where they are, do you change the play?
  • Does it change the meaning? Is it better?
  • What are you saying by restructuring, that you believe illuminates what the play is about, for you?
John Strasberg Studios http://www.johnstrasbergstudios.org