People have asked me how I got into playwriting, my typical answer is that it was the power of suggestion. The real answer is something of a long story. People wonder how I went from music, to poetry, to theatre. In order to tell this story, let’s look at the origins of a few things. And yes, my sources are from Wikipedia for convenience: the academic in me dies but I’m lazy. Also, if you want pictures, you’ve come to the wrong girl’s article; I am that lazy.
While it is highly debated, the origin of music is considered to have been primitive humans imitating what they heard in the natural world. After all, monkeys are into percussion and birds sing. In fact, if music comes from imitation I have a very keen understanding of this because I’m a mimic.
Mimicry in singing is relatively self-evident: I hear a voice singing and, in most cases, I can copy it to some degree both in terms of pitch and tone. This is not an uncommon trait, John Lennon was a mimic. It’s a way of teaching yourself how to sing, especially if you don’t know how to read music. When I was a little kid, I used to sit in the hallway and listen to my father play 12-string and sing. I got into music and, as I got older, I decided I wanted to be a rockstar and write my own songs.
The origin of modern poetry is in lyric poetry. What is lyric poetry? Verse set to music! The jump from wanting to write my own songs to poetry is a relatively small one, since poetry was originally set to the lyre why not a guitar? Well, I can’t play the guitar or any musical instrument, so that kind of put a damper on things.
But then I got more into poetry, reading it and seeing it performed, and gradually became very interested in highly structured poetry (e.g. terza rima, sestina, etc.). I eventually decided that, for me, songwriting was formulaic (e.g. verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus, fade) and I was more interested in what poetry had to offer in terms of experimentation.
The jump “from” poetry – I haven’t stopped writing poetry, mind you, it’s still one of the things that I do – to theatre seems a little more of a stretch and, for me, it took longer. But where does theatre come from? The Ancient Greeks, of course.
If you read the Ars Poetica of Aristotle, what does he call the writer? In Greek, the word “poetes” (def: maker, author, poet) comes from the word, “poiein” (def: to make or compose). All creative writers were considered poets, especially some of those we consider to be great playwrights.
Not only were all writers considered poets, the origin of theatre has its roots also in music. In Greek plays, there are interludes in verse often exactly or very close to the forms found in lyric poetry. It is argued that the reason Greek theatre used masks was because it increased vocal projection. Granted, vocal projection in theatre is an extremely important issue but it is believed by many that ancient theatre may have been sung not spoken. It is certainly true that theatre was accompanied by live music, even if the former statement is untrue.
Therefore, if you look at how theatre evolved from poetry and poetry evolved from music, my own creative evolution is not difficult to understand.