Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Purpose of Drama

David Mamet

Lesson time 12:22 min

Trying to understand drama? Look no further than everyday life. David teaches you how to recognize drama at its best—when it seeks to simply entertain, not teach.

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Topics include: Drama in Life • Drama as Entertainment


The purpose of drama. That's a really, really good question. That's a really good question. There's an old-- I'm Jewish. My people have only been Jewish about 5,000-6,000 years, so we're kind of getting used to it. So there's an old joke about there's an international flight, and this terrorist breaks in with a submachine gun. And he says, OK, who's a Jew? And a little old guy at the back says, that's a really interesting question. So that's kind of how I feel about drama. I think the purpose of drama is to define the clan. And the reason I think this is I have been watching a lot of football games lately. And also my Chicago Cubs finally won after 108 years in the best ballgame anyone's ever seen. And I realized that what these sports rooting does is it defines the clan. Not just Green Bay versus Atlanta, but football fans. The fans get together. They get to scream at the referee. You evil swine, are you blind, blah, blah, blah. But they're united in their love of the rules. Because if there weren't any rules, the guy would just come out with brass knuckles and bang and get the ball over the-- So they're united, and that which unites the clan is the rules. Drama has rules. We're given a premise. The hero wants something, to find the cause of the plague on Thebes or to free the Jews or to establish civil rights or to fly the Atlantic. We get it. We're going to follow his or her journey until the end. And the end is going to be surprising and inevitable, just like in a great football game. The perfect game is the last game of the World Series. It comes down to the final three seconds, and then they have to call it off because the field's no good. Or the Green Bay's playing, and the guy kicks the final field goal. They have to call it back because it was a time out. That's the perfect-- our consciousness is freed We're relieved of the burden of our consciousness. So one way we've always done this is through getting into trouble. That's what human beings do. With the sex and drugs, booze, sports, and drama. So here's what happens. The end of the day, what do we human beings do? We gather around the campfire. That's what human beings always do at the end of the day. Today the campfire is called a computer or a television, whatever. We may not sit in the same place. But watching the young people today, while they're watching they're all talking to each other around the campfire. Did you see that? Drama goes back to the beginning of civilization around the campfire, where the tribe comes together and they say, my God, did you see what blah-blah did with that mountain lion today? And the other guy says, I'll tell you one better than that. When I was young-- and we tell stories that unite the tribe. We reinforce our tribal unity. We say, this is how we do things here. And w...

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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