Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Lies & Truth

David Mamet

Lesson time 09:55 min

Your responsibility as a writer: don't lie. David discusses how the audience comes to the theatre to hear the truth and how drama helps us search for the truth. He gives examples of conveying the truth from two of his most revered plays.

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Topics include: Conveying the Truth • Examples of the Truth


A guy comes to the rabbi and says if I'm only going to obey one rule in my life, what would that rule be? Rabbi says don't lie. Pretty good rule-- hard, but pretty good rule. Because A-- if you don't lie, B-- you're not going to do anything you have to lie about. So I always thought that my responsibility as a writer and a director is don't lie-- that there is something called the truth, which exists somewhere in an ideal form outside of myself. And if I really pay attention, I might have access to some of it. And sometimes, I don't know the truth, but if I try to find out the truth, I'm doing my job. And so if I'm writing a play, it might take me 10 minutes to find out the truth. Or it might take me 20 years. But if I say no, no, no, this is not quite true, I can get by with it. I can cheat with it. The audience might even buy. It might even be successful. I don't know. But if it's not quite true, then I'm not doing my job. So it's important to me to tell the truth. So in order to tell the truth, you got to figure out what the truth is. And sometimes, that's a very unpleasant process. Curiously, the theater is the place we go to hear the truth. And the theater in this is like the religious setting. And I'll prove it to you. How many people come late to a movie? Nobody comes late to a movie. Everybody gets to the movie early. How many people come late to church and synagogue-- everyone. Everyone in the world has the same experience of for God's sake, we're late with blah, blah, blah. Don't change your shoes. Did you lose your keys? Get the car, I'll get the kids. We're going to church. We're going to school. We're late. Don't you understand? We're late. Everybody comes late. Everybody also comes late to the theater. My God, we got tickets to the theater. We're late, blah, blah, blah. We're not going to get there. But nobody comes late to the movies. Why-- because the movies don't challenge them. The church, the synagogue, and the theater challenges them so deeply, because there is a human need to hear the truth-- challenges them so deeply, they have to retain some measure of autonomy. I'm not going to say I'm anxious about the word of God, or I'm anxious about the play. They say no, I'm anxious about the time. Freud said psychoanalysis is the art of the obvious. It's hard to face the truth, isn't it? I've been fortunate to be very friendly with and studied with a great rabbi and named Mordecai Finley And he was telling a story one day about counseling. And he said this woman comes and says Rabbi, my mother has forgotten my birthday for the fourth time in a row. She calls me one day, two days later. She said it was so busy. She says she never sends a present. She says she'll write a letter a month later saying I thought I'd send you a present, because I missed the birthday and blah, bl...

About the Instructor

David Mamet sat in on a poker game full of thieves and left with the inspiration for American Buffalo. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross takes you through his process for turning life’s strangest moments into dramatic art. In his writing class, he’ll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.

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David Mamet

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

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