From David Mamet's MasterClass

Purpose of Drama

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.

Topics include: Drama in Life • Drama as Entertainment

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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.

Topics include: Drama in Life • Drama as Entertainment

David Mamet

Teaches Dramatic Writing

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Preview

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...

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.

Reviews

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

I've just completed the video portion but I will return to complete the lessons and enjoy some discussion. The quality is high, David Mamet is interesting and offers some good advice. I particularly like have the ability to listen to the knowledge of individuals with such long standing careers.

A great master class, with tremendous insight into dramatic storytelling, and maybe more importantly inspiration through plainspoken directives to get to it.

Very inspirational, entertaining and thought-provoking. That phrase sounds cliched but I've gone through the door marked 'no admittance' and now I know I didn't take the wrong turning!

He's amazing... I've never learned more in my life.

Comments

Bobbi !.

At first somewhat perplexed by this notion that drama is not to be a tool to teach or influence. The films and books that have made the greatest impressions on me have done just that. It's clear now that their common purpose was to tell a story, and it was my personal connection to the story that defined the impact it had on me, not any intended lesson or agenda.

Mitchell F.

I've learned that an audience yearns to be entertained no matter how meaningful a story may seem to be. David Mamet is right -- the teacher shows up when the student is ready to learn.

A fellow student

The purpose of drama is to entertain, not to teach. Leasson learned ! Thanks Mr. Mamet.

Jordan W.

I love the connection David is drawing between the necessity of cause and effect as the basis of drama, and the role drama plays in "relieving people of their consciousness." When we dramatize, we give people a new set of rules - a new clan - that they can trust in for a couple hours and not have to worry about the actual rules and clans that dictate their lives. This is why drama doesn't teach, or at least, why it can't *seem* to teach. Because when it teaches, it's no longer a new set of rules. It brings you back to the ones you know and were hoping to get away from.

Anastacia S.

I love being exhorted not to teach or preach but to entertain. As writers, we feel strongly about things. We need to remember this crucial lesson, lest our work become insufferable or boring.

Vickie R.

I also love listening to AM radio and have found a lot of con artists hucksters trying to get me to buy something and in the end I wound up falling for one of these "ads" and went to a crummy LA online law school that tried to double bill me by $2,000. I had to fight and scream for my f--king money back and never went back. It's even worse when they get a well known celeb to promote some con because it's easy to fall for it when MR or MS "X" is urging you to buy it on late night TV. They even urge me to buy all my groceries online so I don't have to venture outside and how "convenient" it is but by the time I get my order they gave me all SUPER HUGE BAGS OF grated CHEESE that I obviously did not order and is way too much for two people to eat. So I don't trust online orders that much either.

GERALD D.

David seems to be implying that our log lines should be made public before reading our script or seeing our movie -- to avoid false advertising. Seems fair.

Peter R.

Loving this Masterclass. I agree that drama is to entertain - but not quite certain I agree with the notion that it is not meant to teach. There is a spectrum of teaching - in public education, due to the pressures of standardized testing etc. teaching often become very much "here's the answer memorize it." Like the Bunny Must Do His Homework story you referred to, David. Great teachers though know how to create the experience to help a student discover it on their own... to see other points of view. To be provoked. To feel. To see if any of what is put before them causes a reaction - good or bad. Connecting with the story personally and being moved to action, deeper thinking... that is learning. And drama - great drama makes that happen to an audience.

Gus C.

What I'm getting from this lesson is that you don't present a lecture and pass it off as drama. You can have themes, present topics, use satire, but they must be delivered in an entertaining work that may use interesting characters, humor, suspense, etc..

Gina M.

I’m getting audio on my iPad ...So far he is outlining a thought process that he potentially goes through. I’m taking it as that.