Master Class: Girish Karnad on The Structure of the Play

Master Class: Girish Karnad on The Structure of the Play

“A play has to be like a well built house, where every corner – has a solid beam – or a door or a window – Why? Why? Why? You have to go on asking these questions”

Jnanapeeta Award winner Girish Karnad speaks about the struct I am so happy to have come across this video almost by chance. I have been re-reading Girish Karnad’s plays off late and to find this, video where he talks about The Structure of the play was indeed most precious~

Thank you to Sunil Khare who has made this available for all of us.

Karnad ji uses his play Yayati to talk about the straight forward narrative structure of the play.

On the whole, Karnad talks about

  • The differences between dialogue and conversation
  • Persuasion of characters
  • the live nature of play – without a chance to refer back
  • Character motivations

Here are parts of the talk that I found very important for my own study


Writing a play is a very individual activity, every playwright has his own method, different play wrights do it differently…..

We should be clear what a play is… what is a naatak –?

Usually we associate a play with dialogue. A dialogue is not a conversation. When you go in a train you hear two people talking… you hear, and it is interesting, they are talking, they are fighting, they are proposing or whatever ..and then they get down and go and you forget it.

That is just a conversation between, an exchange of ideas between two people that is … it does not give you an idea of where they came from and where they are going… and you are not interested, you are on your own way somewhere else…

The point of the dialogue is that the audience has come there to listen to dialogues being exchanged by the actors, so the dialogue has to tell the audience, who are these people.. the first thing that the dialogue has to tell people is the characters.

If it is A and B, what is A, what is B. Where does A come from, where does B come from? And because of this… play essentially has… although what happens in a play is what happens in front of you…a past and a future… each character brings a past and a future…. and a good playwright should be able to with each sentence bring out this past and future.


What does a dialogue do?

This is the second one.. .what are these characters trying to do? Of course they are trying to tell a story. Everyone is interested in a story but, what is actually happening there, in a play any play is .. .one character is trying to persuade the other character to do something. You know there has to be action… people say that there has to be action in a play… but an action doesn’t mean they have to run around on stage, beat each other and this…

The action is in the dialogue, and the action in the dialogue says, that one character should try to persuade, the other character. It may be Manthara trying to persuade Kaikeyi that her son should become a king. It may be someone trying to seduce another person. It may be Lady Mcbeth trying to tell McBeth kill the king, you know.. these are major, well known cases of persuasion, but even in smaller things, little suggestions, little gestures, the whole process of persuasion goes on..

Then there is a second degree of persuasion which happens which is that this dialogue must persuade the audience that it is worth listening to. Otherwise the audience will get bored. So, you know there are two levels of activity going on… the two actors or actresses are trying to persuade each other resisting the persuasion… that is the conflict there. ..the conflict arises because the other person may or may not agree to what persuasion is going on, but even more important is that these two or three characters on stage are trying to persuade the audience, that this scene is worth listening to, the play is worth listening to, and this is important.

That is a basic notion that every playwright has to bear in mind. Then there are other limitations which are typically theatrical limitations. A novel can go on for ever, I mean War and Peace is something – two and a half pages. But a play cant go on forever.

but a play cant go on forever

There was a time when people used to sit through the night to see a play, but then they were allowed to sleep, which is a great advantage which we don’t have, these days. So, today you have to have a play that can go at the most for two and a half hours. You see, because, ultimately what decides the length of a play is the capacity of our bottom muscles. After two and a half hours, the audience wants to go home, to their activity. And this physical thing cannot happen in a novel, or in a poem or in another thing else. You can read it tomorrow. Here (in theatre) it is one continuous activity. So, you have this limitation, that the play has to be two hours long.

Second limitation, is that the play can be seen ideally only by this kind. Say about five hundred and fifty people. It has been decided that after five hundred and fifty or six hundred people, the last man cannot see the facial expressions of the actors. Ultimately people have to be able to see what is going on stage. So what the play has to do is to keep the attention of five hundred people.

They may be children or adults, what ever it is, this concentration of everyone to listen to what is happening – it is not a poem, where you write a poem to one person and that person might like it or reject it or what ever it is.

Third point, if it has to attract someone is, everyone must be interested in – what is the play about?What is the play about.

About play structures he has said:

Structures do not come naturally, you have to work at them. When Bhim Sen Joshi sings an intricate aalap, he does not do it because inspiration comes to him, there has been hours and hours of riyaz… A playwright has to do it too.. read other plays, analyze them and when you write .. write.. question them and so on. 

He ends the class with this crucial tip

Whether a play works or not, apart from the structure – it has to have genuine truth of experience. Fake emotions always show on stage.

……Do they convince you? That is what makes a great play




Open Call – Dance and Theatre Festival Rampenlichter 2017

Rampenlichter 2017 – open call

Dear Arts and Culture Innovators,

Rampenlichter Dance and Theatre Festival for Children and Youth is celebrating its ten year anniversary in July 2017 and…

we are looking for young artists to take part in the largest dance and theatre festival to take place in Munich’s Creative Quarter. We are looking for productions large or small, quiet or loud, simple or spectacular featuring children and teenagers from Munich, Germany, and across the globe!

It would be greatly appreciated if you could help us spread the word by sharing our project description and application with interested parties by sharing our open call in newsletters and online.

From July 6 to 16, 2017in Munich’s Schwere Reiter Theater we are proud to present a platform for creative exchange for young artists from Munich, Germany, and beyond.

Featuring a large variety of dance and theatre productions, a series of performances for local school classes, evening performances, a diverse selection of workshops, our KunstSpielRaum (Art-Play-Space) program located on the festival grounds, and—as in other theatre festivals—Rampenlichter facilitates a space for artistic exchange between artists and audiences alike.

  • Rampenlichter provides dance and theatre groups with the opportunity to:
  • Present their artistic work to other groups, school classes, and the general public
  • A full, diverse program of productions throughout the festival
  • The opportunity to witness and learn new performance styles
  • To lead workshops for school classes and other groups
  • To take part in workshops lead by other groups and
  • Take part in an exchange of artistic and stylistic exchange

Our festival is aimed towards groups with full-length evening productions, as well as shorter dance and theatre productions.

More information is available in the attached PDF Call for Applications_Rampenlichter2017.

The application period is open until January 31, 2017 at

Please contact us with questions or for additional information.

Thank you!

Best regards,

the Team of Rampenlichter


Play for Beginners: Cinderella


Based on Roald Dahl’s Cinderella

For Drama Beginners

Stage Clear. Music Comes on.

All stage hands and three narrators gather around the narrators as the story begins.

Narrator 1:                                                 I guess you think you know this story.

(All stage hands nod their heads.)

Narrator 2:                                       You don’t.

(All stage hands look towards the main actor)

(NARRATOR 3):                              The real one’s much more gory.

(All stage hands go… making gory faces)

Narrator 1:                                                The phoney one, the one you know,

Was cooked up years and years ago,

Narrator 2:                                                And made to sound all soft and sappy

NARRATOR 3:                                 Just to keep the children happy.

(All stage hands go..awwww, so cute, sigh!)

Narrator 1:                                                Mind you, they got the first bit right,

The bit where, in the dead of night,

Narrator 2:                                                The Ugly Sisters,

Ugly Sisters:                                    jewels and all,

Narrator 2:                                      Departed (Claps her hands) for the Palace Ball,

(Narrators become chariot)

NARRATOR 3:                                 While darling little Cinderella,

(Sitara Ramanna comes walking in with a red chair and Cindy  gets on top of it)

Was locked up in a slimy cellar,

Cindy :                                             (Sigh) This is sooo sad.

NARRATOR 3:                                 Little Cinderella

Was locked up in a slimy cellar

Narrator 1:                                      Where rats who wanted things to eat,

Began to nibble at her feet.

Cindy :                                             Shoo! Help! Let me out!

Narrator 2:                                                The magic fairy heard her shout!

NARRATOR 3:                                 Appearing in a blaze of light

He said,

Fairy God Father :                         My dear, Are you alright?

Cindy :                                             All right? Can’t you see?

I feel as rotten as rotten can be.

Narrator 1:                                      She beat her fist against the wall and shouted…

Cindy :                                             Get me to the palace Ball

Music:                                     Some Bee Gees number

Cindy :                                             There is a disco in the palace


The rest have gone and I am jalous!

I want a dress! I want a coach!

And earrings and a diamond brooch!

And silver slippers, two of those!

And lovely bedazzled clothes!

Done up like that I’ll guarantee

The handsome Prince will fall for me!

Narrator 2:                                                The Fairy said,

Fairy God Father :                         Hang on a tick.

NARRATOR 3:                                 He gave the magic wand a mighty flick                                                        And quickly, in no time at all,

Narrator 1:                                                Cindy was at the Palace Ball!

Music:                                               Waltz

Narrator 2:                                      It made the Ugly Sisters wince, to see her dancing with the Prince.

NARRATOR 3:                                 She held him very tight and pressed /herself against his manly chest.

Narrator 1:                                      The Prince himself was turned to pulp, All he could do was gasp and gulp.

Prince :                                            Wait a sec, let me catch a breath.. am seeing spots, am I close to death?

Narrator 2:                                                Then midnight struck.

Sound Effect:                                   Clock Striking 12

Narrator 2:                                                Cindy shouted,

Cindy :                                             Heck! I’ve got to run to save my neck!’

NARRATOR 3:                                 The Prince cried…

Prince :                                            No! Alas! Alack!

NARRATOR 3:                                 He grabbed her dress to hold her back.

As Cindy shouted,

Cindy :                                             Let me go!

Narrator 1:                                      The dress was ripped from head to toe.

She ran out in her underwear,

Narrator 2:                                                And lost one slipper on the stair.

The Prince was on it like a dart,

NARRATOR 3:                                 He pressed it to his pounding heart,

Prince :                                            The girl this slipper fits,

NARRATOR 3:                                 he cried,

Prince :                                            Tomorrow morn shall be my bride!

I’ll visit every house in town

Until I’ve tracked the maiden down!

NARRATOR 3:                                 Then rather carelessly, I fear,

He placed it on a crate of beer.

Narrator 1:                                                At once, one of the Ugly Sisters,

The one whose face was blotched with blisters

UGS1:                                               that means you (to UGS2)

UGS2:                                               no you…

Narrator 1:                                                It is not her or her.. but the both of you

(Actor brings a barrel – UGS1 and UGS2 go around like they are playing dog and the bone)                                              

Sneaked up and grabbed the dainty shoe,

Narrator 2:                                                And quickly flushed it down the loo.

Sound Effect:                                   Flush of the Loo

Then in its place she calmly put

The slipper from her own left foot.

UGS1:                                               Evil Laugh!

NARRATOR 3:                                 Next day, the Prince went charging down

To knock on all the doors in town.

Narrator 1:                                                In every house, the tension grew.

Who was the owner of the shoe?

Narrator 2:                                                Thousands of eager people came

To try it on, but all in Narrator 3in.

NARRATOR 3:                                 Now came the Ugly Sisters’ go.

One tried it on. The Prince screamed,

Prince :                                            No!

NARRATOR 3:                                 But the sister screamed,

UGS1:                                               Yes! It fits! Whoopee! – So now you’ve got to marry me!

Narrator 1:                                      The Prince went white from ear to ear.

He muttered,

Prince :                                            Let me out of here.

UGS1:                                               Oh no you don’t! You made a vow!

There’s no way you can back out now!

Prince :                                            Off with her head!

Narrator 2:                                                The Prince roared back.

They chopped it off with one big whack.

This pleased the Prince. He smiled and said,

Prince :                                            She’s prettier without her head.’

NARRATOR 3:                                 Then up came Sister Number Two,

Who yelled,

UGS2:                                               Now I will try the shoe!

Prince :                                            Try this instead!

NARRATOR 3:                                 the Prince yelled back.

He swung his trusty sword and smack

Her head went crashing to the ground.

It bounced a bit and rolled around.

Narrator 1:                                                In the kitchen, peeling spuds,

Cinderella heard the thuds

Narrator 2:                                                Of bouncing heads upon the floor,

And poked her own head round the door.

Cindy :                                             What’s all the racket?

Narrator 2:                                                Cindy cried.

Prince :                                            Mind your own bizz,

Narrator 2:                                                the Prince replied.

Poor Cindy’s heart was torn to shreds.

Cindy :                                             My Prince!… He chops off heads!

How could I marry anyone

Who does that sort of thing for fun?

Narrator 1:                                                The Prince cried,

Cindy :                                             Who’s this dirty One??

Push her around, just for fun!

Narrator 1:                                                Just then, all in a blaze of light,

The Magic Fairy hove in sight,

And said swoosh and swish

Fairy God Father :                         Cindy! make a wish!

Wish anything and have no doubt

That I will make it come about!’

Cindy :                                             Oh kind Fairy,

This time I shall be more wary.

No more Princes, no more money.

I have had enough of people who act funny.

I’m wishing for a decent man.

Are they hard to find ? Do you think you can?’

Narrator 2:                                                Within a minute, Cinderella

(Talia appears)

Narrator 2:                                                Was married to a lovely feller,

A simple jam-maker by trade,

Who sold good home-made marmalade.

Their house was filled with smiles a    nd laughter

And they were happy ever after.


Curtain Call