All About Theater

How to Write a Play
by Edmond Gondinet 

My dear friend:

What is my way of working? It is deplorable. Do not recommend it to any one. When the idea for a play occurs to me, I never ask myself whether it will be possible to make a masterpiece out of it; I ask whether the subject will be amusing to treat. A little pleasure in this life tempts me a great deal more than a bust, even of marble, after I am gone. With such sentiments one never accomplishes anything great.

Besides, I have the capital defect for a man of the theater of never being able to beat it into my head that the public will be interested in the marriage of Arthur and Colombe; and nevertheless that is the key to the whole situation. You simply must suppose the public a trifle naïf,--and be so yourself.

I should be so willingly, but I can't bring myself to admit that others are.

For a long time I imagined that the details, if they were ingenious, would please the public as much as an intrigue of which the ultimate result is usually given in the first scene. I was absolutely wrong, and I have suffered for it more than once. But at my age one doesn't reform. When I have drawn up the plan, I no longer want to write the piece. You see that I am a detestable collaborator. Say so, if you speak to me, but don't hold me up as a model.

Edmond Gondinet.

Edmond Gondinet (1828-1888) was the author of a host of pleasant pieces, mostly comedies in from one to three acts, and mostly written in collaboration. He believed that he preferred to write alone and that only his good nature kept tempting him into working with others. It was probably to warn away those who wanted to bring him their manuscripts for expert revision that led him to assert in this letter that he was "a detestable collaborator."

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