The Playgoer: The Dramatic Play Meets the Graphic Novel

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Dramatic Play Meets the Graphic Novel

Toronto's Kelly Nestruck writes up Robert Lepage's innovative idea to publish his latest play as a comic book:

Instead of publishing the script of his recent play, The Blue Dragon, Lepage's theatre company Ex Machina decided to take an entirely different route, commissioning Quebec City-based artist Fred Jourdain to transform it into a graphic novel. Now published in English by Toronto's House of Anansi Press, Jourdain's gorgeous mise en images of the play ...includes every word of dialogue spread over 176 pages of comic-book panels and cinema-inspired paintings.
Perhaps Lepage's visually driven devised pieces are uniquely suitable to the medium in a way other plays aren't. Still Nestruck also makes a case for more playwrights (and play publishers) to consider it, given how reading conventionally formatted scripts requires powers of imagination and visualization the common reader is perhaps not used to:
For all but the most dedicated theatre enthusiasts, deciphering a script can be a difficult task – trying to keep track of which character is which and remembering the location in which a scene is set, all without losing track of the plot.
Indeed, in this age of diminishing sales of theatre books--and publishing industry panic in general--might such an approach help at least generate some sales, or even more general interest in the theatre?

Graphic-novel Shakespeare has already been done, right? Why not Shepard!

Sample panels from the Lepage/Jourdain Blue Dragon book here. As you'll see, the artist has taken the liberty to flesh out and "open up" the play in ways that don't reflect necessarily how it was staged. But that doesn't have to be the way. Even photographs of the play with captions and/or bubbles could be cool.


cgeye said...

Of course, it's an intuitive solution.... except for the part where individual actors would demand royalties for their image rights in the book, and designers would need their cut, and directors' overall intellectual property would be litigated as equal to that of the author....

Lepage can get away with such a gesture because he's of the old school, of the "no one's a star but me" *regie* system -- it wouldn't fly for any production with a brand name creative other than the author.

Anonymous said...

I believe Qui Nguyen of Vampire Cowboys has talked of doing this.

I do see one of my plays being done as a graphic novel, but my personal opinion is that each medium demands its own script and that a play going to graphic novel would best be specifically rewritten for that medium.

Seth Christenfeld said...

I'm a week behind, but didn't Lee Breuer do something sort of like this in the 1970s? It wasn't quite a comic book, but I recall a former playwriting professor of mine giving us photocopies out of a book version of one of Breuer's "animations" (I think it was Warrior Ant) that included text and storyboards.