Verse Drama in the 21st Century
Contrary to popular narrative, verse drama is alive and well in the 21st Century. In fact, contrary to everything your drama teacher taught you, verse drama has never gone away in the English speaking world - although it certainly has been dominated by a certain British Bard.
One of the most exciting things about Hamlet to Hamilton has been seeing the global community tuning in. At the time of this writing, the podcast has been heard in 44 countries and rising. So, wherever you are in the world - welcome!
What This Blog Is AboutA good educator knows that different people learn different ways. Some of you learn by listening, but others learn by reading; still others by watching, interacting, or trying out exercises. This blog will cover the basics of writing and performing verse drama, complimentary to the podcast episodes.
We will begin at the very beginning, with blog-length articles covering Season One and the Tool Boudoir. Then we'll keep up apace with each new season. Patreons can make requests for blog articles over on our Patreon page, or by dropping us a line.
Some of the information here may vary from the podcast episodes, so do give us a read!
What Verse Drama Looks Like NowAs we explored in Season Two: King Arthur Through the Ages, every century has produced their share of verse playwrights. While many are still working within the very Anglocentric iambic pentameter blank verse, we didn't get the chance to take a look at (yet) some experimental verse playwrights of the 20th Century. (A fun one to look at may be Waldemar Young's Birds of Rhiannon: A Grove Play.)
Examining the verse drama plays of our own century, while iambic pentameter blank verse continues to be the brass ring for many beginning verse dramatists, we're starting to see the innovation of exciting techniques - such as the crossed out line, and a greater understanding of white space.
Many modern playwrights are already writing in free meter, including such notable playwrights as Mike Bartlett whose play Cock is actually full of excellent verse (while his Charles III is a bit more...well, we have notes).
The funny thing, though, is that so many modern verse playwrights don't recognize that while they're using all the tools of the Tool Boudoir - most importantly, the recognizable verse line - because the plays aren't called "verse drama" the belief persists that no popular verse dramas have been written or performed.
This is, of course, tantamount to believing that there are no more musicals because Rent doesn't sound remotely like Rogers and Hammerstein. It is even more akin to how we insist that shows such as Hamilton or Les Miserables are "sung-through musicals" - when it's equally appropriate to call them operas. Which are plays where everything is...sung through.
What's To ComeAs long as you keep supporting us, we'll keep creating content covering the writing and performing of verse drama. We're excited for our plans for upcoming seasons, and we're thrilled to have gotten to know several of you already.
In the meantime, keep writing! Keep innovating! Verse drama is a beautiful form, with tools than can be used in a variety of ways to express many facets of the human experience. What's yours?
QUESTION DU JOURWhat verse plays are there - where the majority of the play is written in lines of verse, rather than paragraph form - that people may not recognize as verse? For example...is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead largely in vaudevillian di- and trimeter? Make your argument below!
DROP LINKS BELOW to New Play Exchange or published scripts! Or tweet us at @hamlet2hamilton.