“No intermission” are words that cheer my heart.
You might think that Will (now a TV series, seemingly inspired by our friends at Something Rotten!, in which The Bard is a Rock Star) would not approve.
In truth, though his plays had many acts, folks walked in and out as they saw fit. The audience were a rowdy bunch we probably would not tolerate in our theaters today. Theatrical etiquette is far more decorous these days.
I make that statement despite having to sit through a show next to an apple-chewing patron once upon a matinee. Cell-phone incidents are another of the annoyances that Shakespeare’s contemporaries would not have had to contend with, but that are very common among today’s audiences.
All this off the beam, however, as I was lauding the show without an interval. In that vein, I will admit that the above mentioned Something Rotten! was NOT a musical without an intermission. Many of the plays I have enjoyed over the years have been multi-acts with the obligatory pause for the audience to find refreshment and stretch their legs.
more shortly, so come on back, after this brief intermission…. and it’s July 11th, so we are back in 1, 2, 3:
n William Shakespeare’s (and Kit Marlowe’s) time, eating oranges and throwing tomatoes were not unusual activities during the course of a theatrical performance. The audience hardly needed a pause in the action to eat or drink or wander about. The interval was not for the patrons but the actors to regroup. It was for a change of scene; the groundlings bustled about throughout the show.
Get to the point, we say, and so the one act does. It suits our times as a longer play fit other eras and fashions.
A story told in one breath, without a break has a different arc from the one that follows the convention of three (or five) acts. It is shaped and shared differently. In some ways, it packs more intensity by providing a continuity of action.
And 90 minutes or an hour and forty-five is a manageable chunk of time for those of us whose attention spans have been shortened by social media.
A one-act play is a haiku, often the more beautiful for being succinct.