By Zander Brietzke
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Additional info for American Drama in the Age of Film
Moreover, anything you do that is dishonest in relation to what the character is thinking or feeling will be noticeable to the audience. The camera allows no deceit. Either you are truthful or you are not” (4–5). The camera doesn’t really lie. It merely records. But because it can record action at close range to the subject, any movement has the possibility of seeming huge. The scale of performance is entirely different than in a stage play. A ﬂicker of a smile in an extreme close-up shot may represent much greater actual movement than an actor’s vault across the width of a proscenium in the theater.
In ﬁlms, though, actors constantly adjust their performance within a single ﬁlm according to the size of the individual shot. In Tucker’s schema, a mezzanine view in the theater is equivalent to a long shot in the cinema in which the entire human ﬁgure is visible; an orchestra seat in the middle of the house is akin to a midshot in which the human ﬁgure is seen from the waist up; a front-row seat is similar to a medium close-up shot from the chest up; and, ﬁnally, an extreme close-up shot has no parallel in the live theater (5–9).
Their play puts in dramatic form the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 that pitted Clarence Darrow (Henry Drummond in the play) against William Jennings Bryan (Matthew Harrison Brady). The argument in the play, one that still carries weight even today, is whether to teach creationism as found in the Bible or evolution as theorized by Charles Darwin. At the end of the play, Drummond, having lost the case as a formality, but essentially having won the argument and carried the day, remarks, “The Bible is a book.
American Drama in the Age of Film by Zander Brietzke