Lies & Truth (Cont'd)

David Mamet

Lesson time 11:48 min

David continues talking about the truth in two of his most controversial works: <span style="font-style:italic">Oleanna</span> and <span style="font-style:italic">Race</span>.

David Mamet
Teaches Dramatic Writing
The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.
Get All-Access


Well, Oleanna was a play I wrote about 25 years ago and I was always fascinated by a piece in Hamlet where Hamlet hires these strolling players, and he says to his sidekick Horatio, he says, I want you to stage a play. Something like the Murder of Gonzago, where this wife kills the husband, and marries the uncle, much like my mother, and so forth. And he says, I've heard the guilty creatures sitting at a play made by the cunning of the set of scene be so moved as to confess their own malefaction. And I think, well, that's cute, but it's certainly not true. You can't get somebody, however guilty, or however upset at a play to start confessing their own malefactions. OK, Shakespeare. You wrote a lot of good stuff. We'll give you a pass. So then I write this play called Oleanna, which was about at the beginning of this whole nonsense about political correctness, and incipient fascism, and the end of free speech, and all that other good stuff. And I'd put it off Broadway. We did it first in Cambridge, Mass, and then we were off Broadway. And it's about this young woman student, and her professor, and she's all confused, and she doesn't know why she got such a bad grade. And he says OK, let me help you. Let me devote myself to you, blah, blah, blah. I'll talk you through the thing. You know what, the grade doesn't count. I'll just give you an A. She says, but I don't understand. I don't understand. I'm the first of my family ever came to college. So I don't understand how this works and I work like mad to get here. You can just assign me a grade? He says, yes, that's right. He says education's nonsense. He says, we give you a lot of books, and we say read them. You say you've read them. I say you're lying. We're going to give you a test. We're going to find out you lied and when we find out you lied, you'll be disgraced, and your life will be ruined. He says, that's the educational process. She says, but then I'm really confused. She says, why are you involved in it? And he says, because I love teaching. She says, no. I'm lost. I'm really, really lost. Things begin to escalate and he says listen, you got stuff stuck into your head early on about what the educational process-- he says I'll give an example. He says, when I was a kid, I heard that poor people make love more frequently than rich people, but they take less of their clothes off. He says, is that true? She says I don't know. He says, does the person who said it, do they know if it's true? I don't know. It's stuck in my head. Why? I don't know, but there it is. He says, I don't have time to go through and rip out all this stuff, but it's operating against me. It's clogging up my head. You have a prejudice about education, which should be xyz. That got stuck in that-- so they go on, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. She gets radicalized because the pres...

Write great drama

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.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Fear of the process reduced, optimism rising. Keep it simple. For me, don't overthink it. He has same self-doubts, but he just keeps doing it. I'm enriched by having taken this Master Course.

I appreciate the insights he chose to share for a start. I think his intensity and focus could help me understand how to harness mine.

I'll just say that it's been an astonishing and enlightening ride listening to Mr. Mamet. One of a kind.

Learned how to make an outline. I also learned that the plot is all their is.



I’ve been pretty riveted up until this lesson. This definitely could have been cut for brevity’s sake.


I think it is interesting that section is two parts. Its the way he writes.

Doha I.

Found this chapter a bit rambling and stream-of-consciousness...Otherwise i'm LOVING Mr Mamet's Masterclass.


If a a writer is creating a dramatic story based on historical truth. The writer first must do active research to be correct. The audience knows the history of the given setting and will call the writer on it.


Davids instructor style isn't as informative as I like. I feel like we are just hearing him offload whatever information he knows about a random topic.

Allen K.

David Mamet has true grit. The entire class has made it clear to me why screen/play writing will never be more than a curiosity or at best a hobby to me. But that's O.K. ... Mr. Mamet's discussions are so interesting that I unexpectedly binged through the whole class. Many insights to creativity, actors and what he described as "prophecy". I like to call it "extemporaneous grace". I liken it in my experience, to those musicians with an innate inner compass to spontaneously and ingeniously jam to jazz and blues.

Christine B.

Like most coddled white men, Mamet doesn't know anything about life. And this section is a joke.

Tyson H.

As a mormon I appreciate the shoutout lol. But really being a missionary in Japan did teach discipline and structure for a young and immature kid like myself. Definitely need that kind of discipline in my writing.

Mia S.

"'Race,' on Broadway - it was about another very provocative case... The question is, Who have become the writers? The people who are affronted by something in youth, or who don't understand. A lot of writing, especially my writing, is an attempt to understand - to work something out in a way that it can be understood, because a lot of human equations don't come out even on a day to day scale, but perhaps they can be understood poetically, mythologically. Our country has been been fighting about race now for 230 years and there are all of these cases coming up, pro and con, and I say, 'Well gosh, it would be a terrible idea to write a play about such a provocative topic. Here I go.' I wrote it so the play is, two lawyers, white guy and a black guy, and they take on a new client, guy who's a white guy who's accused of raping a black woman. The question is whether or not they're going to take on his case. He's a billionaire. So I wrote this long expository scene, 'When he comes in this, it says in the paper...' and then there's a speech at the end where the African American lawyer says, 'Wait a second, he says you want me, Mr. White Man, to tell you about black people? You never actually fucked a black girl, but one sat next to you in science class.' 'I would never say any of that stuff.''You're god damn right you wouldn't. Because you know what a white guy can say to a black guy about race? Nothing. Let me put you out of your misery: You white people think that black people hate you, you're right, we absolutely do. I don't want you coming in with your white, rich bullshit about how you were wrong.' 'She made a false accusation.' 'Which of us is immune?' 'She said she loved me.' 'Well I guess she changed her mind, because it says here she says you raped her.' This is 35 minutes into the play, I'm thinking - 'Man if you don't start the play with this speech, you're stupider than I think you are.' All of a sudden we ripped the Band-Aid off the subject of race where this black guy says, 'I don't care if you don't ever like it, this is the truth; you want to talk or not?' The whole beginning of the play becomes this black and white couple saying to the white rich guy, 'You want to talk or not? You want to tell the truth or not?' It was just electrifying, the audience - God bless them - they loved it, it was thrilling."

Mia S.

"You take kids 17-22 and now we're sticking them in college where they learn to march around with signs, burn effigies. That's all good fun, but what about preparing for the wider world? If you do it all the time, you're going to be very confused. What happens to kids who are very confused? They have the capacity to become radicalized. Just like gangs - an attempt of young people with insufficient structure to find structure, it's perfectly logical. The result may be unfortunate, but the urge is absolutely logical. Young kids can get radicalized; any cause, right or left, American, anti-American, Islamic, Zionist. 'I'm going to put all my energy because I finally found the truth. I didn't know what the truth was.' I didn't go into the military with this, there the truth is 'Make your bed or you're going to the brig,' that's the truth - the rest of it you can figure out on your own. They've got nobody to tell them, 'Make your bed.' They're going to say, 'I want the truth,' someone says, 'Here's the truth, the educational system is misogynistic, and male-oriented, and you've just been taken advantage of.' The young girl goes out off stage, gets radicalized. Of course she's going to listen to the person who says, 'I have the truth, and I will protect you.' The college is not protecting her, her parents aren't protecting her, the group is protecting her, she says, 'Yeah!' 'Wait a second, that guy put his arm around you, and he talked to you about people taking off their clothes and making love? Oh my god, you've just been raped. Under the college code of sexual ethics, that constitutes rape - let's ruin the professor's life.' The girl comes back to the professor in Act Two and Three, and eventually they end up almost killing each other. It so raised the audience to a fever pitch that every night they'd scream at the stage; they wouldn't do it on purpose, they'd just find themselves screaming. Every night there would be fights within the audience at the end of the thing, a man and woman; they wouldn't always take the same side. 'How can you say that?' 'How can you say that?' - pointing fingers, marriage was breaking up... it was great. Mary McCann did it for a year - she once got actually punched coming out of the dressing room by an audience member. People were screaming, it drove them nuts - I thought it was marvelous, the fact that I could look at an impossible problem and say, 'Well OK, let's take it up to 11 now. We'll see where that goes, ain't that fun?'"