Theatre and the Image
John Guare once said that the magic of theatre happens in the space between the actors and the audience. To enable the connection necessary for this magic, the playwright must employ many devices; one of these is the image.
What is unique about the image in terms of language in drama is that it must come from a character, rather than directly from the author as with poetry or prose. When Macbeth asks if there is a dagger there before him he asks the audience to see with him. By doing so, the playwright establishes the connection by engaging both actor and audience in the creation of the image.
In my play, Sex & Violence, the character of Jimmy talks about catching himself in the mirror, unawares, and the image that presents itself to him. He is asking the audience to see him not as he is presented to them on the stage but rather as both the child he once was, who just wanted a snow cone, and the man he had once dreamed of becoming. I used these images to connect the audience to Jimmy, even as he prepares to engage in a horrendous act. By seeing the character in deeper terms, he becomes not simply a rapist but a human engaged in a human act.
When I pondered the image in drama, I immediately thought of the work of Adrienne Kennedy, and I am very honored that she was willing to discuss her work with us. Her use of imagery connects the audience not only to the time and place in which her work occurs but also the longings and confusion of her characters as they attempt, as with Macbeth and Jimmy, to reconcile what they see before them.
We are also honored to present Phyllis Green’s By the Beautiful Sea, in which the characters use imagery to guide an audience through their lives as they stroll along a pier.
Image is not everything in drama but it is a powerful tool, which, when done well, helps create magic.