Writing... leaves out much of what makes language tick: timing, prosody, emphasis, tone. Language is more than libretto; we shouldn’t settle for the sheet music when we can have the performance.
from "The Samantha Test" by Brian Christian blogging at newyorker.com 1/1/2014 link
Most people assume that meaning is embedded in the words they speak. But according to forensic linguists, meaning is far more vaporous, teased into existence through vocalized puffs of air, hand gestures, body tilts, dancing eyebrows, and nuanced nostril flairs. The transmission of meaning still involves primate mechanics worked out during the Pliocene era.
from “Words on Trial” by Jack Hett, The New Yorker 7/23/12
It is only when the image is consciously interpreted that its poetic effect is destroyed. A folktale can be interpreted, but any single interpretation will impoverish it and will miss what is essential.Max Lüthi, The European Folktale: Form and Nature. Indiana University Press (p 94) (highly recommended!)
The moment "talk" is put into print you recognize that it is not what it was when you heard it; you perceive that an immense something has disappeared from it. That is its soul. You have nothing but a dead carcass left on your hands.... I wouldn't talk in my sleep if I couldn't talk better than that.Mark Twain (letter to a journalist, explaining why he was nixing publication of an interview, after reading the transcript.)
The actor's manner of speaking has to be free from parsonical sing-song and from all those cadences which lull the spectator so the sense gets lost.Bertholt Brecht (letter to an actor) (more brecht)
In fact, speech is characterized by all the things writing teachers tell students to eliminate from their prose in the interest of clarity: repetition, contradiction, exaggeration, run-ons, fragments, and cliches, plus an array of tonal and physical inflections-- drawls, grunts, shrugs, winks, hand gestures--unreproducible in written form. People talk for hours without uttering a single topic sentence. Yet we generally understand speech perfectly and instantaneously. We don't have to keep going over the same sentence three times to figure out what the person is trying to say. People communicate with their bodies much more effectively than they do on paper. You cannot make a semicolon mistake when you're talking...
Friends of the critic Desmond MacCarthy, who was a member of the Bloomsbury circle, thought that he was a fantastic talker, and that his genius was never reflected adequately in his writing. One day, some of them invited MacCarthy over and hired a stenographer to hide outside the room and record his conversation. MacCarthy showed up and obliged by talking brilliantly. After he left, the friends waited impatiently for the transcription to arrive. They read it. The writing was completely banal.
Louis Menand, from "Comp Time", The New Yorker 9/11/00
Improvisational theater is popular theater, and popular theater is separate from the literary theater. However popular Neil Simon may be, he is still in the literary tradition... If you're talking about popular theater, I think you have to get back to the primal, which is the stories of the people.
One way of looking at improvisational theater is that it is part of the oral tradition, that it is connected with storytelling, anecdotes, and any form of speaking in the present in front of an audience. Storytelling, like playing a game, is an act of the self. When you truly tell a story, there is self-discovery.
"Snow White" has something to do with the psyche, with the person. Stories are teachings handed down for thousands of years, and what they say is different for every person, because every person is different... and this is why we were able to stage a bunch of children's fairy stories, lug them all over the country, put them on TV, and do them on Broadway without being labeled "children's theater."Paul Sills (founder of both 2nd City and Story Theater)
What I think happened is, over the months, and later over the years, the audience taught everyone to answer the unspoken question the audience always asked:"Why are you telling us this?" You learn various answers to that question. "Because it's funny" is a very good answer. If you can't answer "Because it's funny" then you'd better have a damn good other answer.Mike Nichols (speaking of early days at 2nd City)
both interviewed in
"Something Wonderful Right Away"