Any tragedians here? Complimentary copies of my new book are available for the first five takers! Please PM your mailing address.
"An insightful and compelling read . . . Through the art of reinterpretation, Wong manages to present a bold, inventive new model of theatre through the lens of risk."--Kerrie Nicholson for Broadway World
"The Risk Theater Model of Tragedy offers a fresh perspective not only of the classical theater but more importantly how we can restructure the old paradigms in a way that speaks to modern audiences. It’s an important work, and will hopefully inspire playwrights everywhere to reimagine classical themes in a dynamic and exciting ways." Mike on Amazon
"I've been dealing with theatre actively and academically for many years, and the idea of 'tragedy' was wrapped in the mystique of motivations and nobility and flaws that put it out of reach for me as a playwright. This book strips away the mystique and makes the form available to me. Seeing risk as the fulcrum of the action clears my head and lets me see contemporary situations and conflicts in the light of risk and potential tragedy." Two-time Academy Award nominee Donald Connolly on Goodreads
"Wong’s insightful and excellently-sourced treatise on 'risk theatre' reframes our understanding of tragedy in terms of how hero’s (often flawed) analysis of risks and rewards prompts them to make decisions that set actions in motion leading to their tragic outcomes. He organizes information so effectively, providing relevant examples from classical and modern drama. You are never bogged down in the philosophy- rather, you are encouraged to expand how this new framework will inspire NEW content. Wong is hopeful in his desire to push the bounds of what modern tragedy will look like, and readers of this text and playwrights inspired by it are better for it!" Emily McClain on Amazon
"Readers of this highly stimulating book will undoubtedly ask themselves what they would be willing to wager in their lives and for what. As an actor who has performed in tragedies, and a playwright who has attempted to write one, I know that this is a book to which I will often refer. PS: Be sure to read the footnotes which are chock full of good stuff from Wild Bill Hickok anecdotes to the link between tragedy and goats! Tragedy will rise again!!" Alan Thurston on B&N
Edwin, your book sounds intriguing. I cannot read it because I've way too much on my plate. However, I wish you the very best.
I do have a question about "Tragedy" though. I define it simply by whether or not our protagonist overcomes his/her obstacles. I am interested to know your take on the simplicity of that definition. Thank you, Edwin. I look forward to seeing you around this forum. The thoughts and interests of playwrights are always most welcome. If the exchange of ideas had a monetary value then it would be priceless. I wish you great success, Thanks, Edd
Hi Edd, great question! I like your definition of tragedy as a play where the protagonist doesn't overcome the obstacle. There's beauty in simplicity. In the risk theatre model of tragedy, the protagonist usually doesn't overcome the obstacle. What sets this model apart, however, is that there's no tragic flaw or error (e.g. hamartia). The protagonist has a foolproof plan but does not succeed because of an extremely low-probability, high-consequence event. In finance and economics they call these sort of events 'black swan' events. That's why it's called the 'risk theatre' model: risk serves as the dramatic fulcrum of the action. Heroes wager too much. They take on too much risk. And, when you take on too much risk, you've overextended yourself and expose yourself to low-probability, high-consequence events. Think of Birnam Wood. How often does it come to Dunsinane Hill? Or Christine in O'Neill's "Mourning Becomes Electra." Christine's plan to poison Mannon was foolproof. But what were the odds that their daughter would walk into their bedroom at 3AM right at the moment he dies? And what were the odds that the moment Lavinia walks into the room, not only does Mannon die but Christine faints and the poison falls out of her hand? Or Oedipus. Who would have known that he was the matricide he himself was searching for? Heroes in risk theatre are like shiny red sports cars. And the unexpected is like that telephone pole that comes out of nowhere. There's a thrill in dramatizing risk act gone awry that playwrights could capitalize on. If you have a chance, let me know what you think!
Thanks for the kind comments IMR! Isn't it surprising how it's the short books that say the most? In addition to Aristotle's Poetics, Abel's Metatheatre and Austin's How to do Things with Words were also short and influential works. I think there was a response from Edd to my Jul 7th post that seems to have disappeared. I was thinking about a reply and now it doesn't seem to show up anymore. From what I remember, he was talking about the Original Sin. I can do a reading of the biblical story through an Aristotelian lens and a risk theatre lens to highlight the differences. First, a caveat: the story of Adam and Eve may not really be a tragedy, so both readings might be forced. But here we go. In the Aristotelian reading, Adam and Eve are tempted by the serpent. They make a mistake. And then they pay the price by being expelled from the Garden of Eden. There is a degree of moral culpability. They get their 'comeuppance', to use your colourful term. In the risk theatre reading, Adam and Eve are making a bet. It's a good bet. They will be wiser than the gods (I think the biblical text does have gods in the plural here, but I'm on the road). And their bet is 'foolproof'--they just have to have a bite of that other apple and they will live forever. What could go wrong? But then the unexpected happens. They eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and they become aware of their nakedness. This was entirely unexpected. Trying to clothe themselves, they lose valuable time and forget to eat the apple that will make them immortal. The Lord happens to be strolling through the garden. They're caught. And then they pay the price by being expelled. What I want to show is that these two readings illuminate different aspects of the same story. And, by illuminating different aspects, both are valuable. As for your comment that nothing in life is foolproof, yes, I would have to agree. But, I would add that in the world of theatre, the plan doesn't actually have to be foolproof, it just has to be made that the audience believes that it is foolproof. Then, when the unexpected low-probability, high-consequence event occurs, the audience is entertained, because they realize that the playwright has pulled a quick one over their expectations!
Last edited on Wed Jul 10th, 2019 11:38 pm by edwinwong
In this in-depth article, Columbia writing professor Charlie Euchner talks about how 'risk theatre' offers writers and critics a powerful and fascinating new tool. Risk theatre is a model for writing and interpreting drama developed by Edwin Wong. Although the focus is drama, it is useful in developing tension in all forms of writing. Risk is now the fulcrum of the action.
Shout out to Rae Porter and Don Descoteau at Monday Magazine for covering Langham Court Theatre's Risk Theatre Project. The goal of the Risk Theatre Project is to discover this generation's greatest stage tragedies.
What do I have in common with celebrities Jim Carrey, Jonathan Frakes, Diana Hart, and bestselling writers J.A. Jance and Daniel Silva? Readers’ Favorite announced today that THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY: GAMBLING, DRAMA, AND THE UNEXPECTED is a winner in their 11th Annual Book Award Contest! Thank you to editors Carla DeSantis and Damian Tarnopolsky for making concise the argument that risk, in tragedy, is the dramatic fulcrum of the action. Thank you to proofreader Mark Grill for his sharp eyes. Thank you to professors Laurel Bowman, Charles Fornara, and David Konstan for their inspiration and insights on drama. Thank you to Michael Armstrong, Michelle Buck, and Keith Digby at Langham Court Theatre in Victoria, Canada for publicizing this new model of playwriting. And finally, thank you to Readers’ Favorite for making this opportunity available. Publicity means so much to writers releasing their debut efforts. It is an honour to win the prize and to have my book displayed at the Miami Book Fair International. Congratulations to all the other winners who I look forward to meeting at the Miami Award Ceremony this November. Miami, here I come! https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/the-risk-theatre-model-of-tragedy
Just found out (quite randomly by googling myself!) that a major MFA program has launched a course exploring risk theatre!
Risk theatre is my bold new theory of tragedy that argues risk is the dramatic fulcrum of the action. In my book I answer the question: why do we find tragedy so fascinating? Tragic heroes, by making delirious wagers, trigger unintended consequences. Because they wager human assets, tragedy functions as a valuing mechanism. Because they lose all, audiences wonder: how did the perfect bet go wrong? If you’re interested in reading THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY: GAMBLING, DRAMA, AND THE UNEXPECTED, please ask your local library to carry this thought-provoking critique. Whether you love plays, novels, history, biographies, or operas, you will never read or write another work of literature the same way.
Langham Court Theatre. 6PM October 20th. Staged reading of Gabriel Jason Dean's IN BLOOM, winner of the inaugural Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition. Directed by Michael Armstrong. Special Bonus: Book Launch of Edwin Wong's THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY. Click on the link for details. See you there!
The English Department at Okanagan College hosts a presentation on risk theatre. Fantastic to see risk theatre, a bold new 21st century theory of tragedy gaining academic traction. Go Okanagan College!
For everyone unable to attend my keynote presentation WHY DO WE ENJOY TRAGEDIES? at Okanagan College on October 28, here’s a link to the full transcript! I talk about: 1) the impact of highly improbable events in life and literature, 2) introduce a new theory of tragedy called “risk theatre” that makes risk the dramatic fulcrum of the action, and 3) compare risk theatre with Aristotelian, Hegelian, and Nietzschean interpretations. No matter what you’re interested in—history, biography, drama, opera, novel, whatever—once you look at literature through the lens of risk, I guarantee that you’ll never look at it in the same way again. Thank you to Terry Scarborough and the English Department at Okanagan College for the invitation.
Any Marlowe fans here? Here's a Halloween special for you!
Full transcript of a presentation I'm giving at Okanagan College next Tuesday on one of my favourite plays: Christopher Marlowe's DOCTOR FAUSTUS. The talk that launches a thousand papers! The title of the presentation is: A RISK THEATRE READ OF MARLOWE'S DOCTOR FAUSTUS
BookLife review of THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY: GAMBLING, DRAMA, AND THE UNEXPECTED. THE GOOD: "Wong's hardy debut book of literary criticism succeeds in presenting a challenge to the famous playwrights of yesteryear while providing a compelling framework for today's storytellers." THE BAD: "Readers opening it in hopes of a quick explanation of tragedy in drama may find it initially slow going." THE UGLY: "Though the language is dry, dense, and highly technical--leavened only by the occasional humorous quotation--this is nonetheless an excellent compilation of arguments that will stimulate creative minds."
Request that your local library carry this book and decide for yourself: is risk theatre a legitimate new theory of drama?
However...actually, I think you are being too hard on yourself.
Metaphorically, it seems to me, that all he is saying is "Your tie is a little crooked."
Rather than whispering in your ear, "Your fly is open."
This review is much better than you think. He is complimentary, but points out some things personal to his own taste/judgement. That is what every reviewer does. In the end, they don't know any better than you do is the way I always have looked at things.
The only reviews I hate are the uncreative...PURPOSELY bitter and nasty ones.
I hope the book is doing well for you and continues to be.
Hi IMR, I love that expression "Your tie is a little crooked!" Thanks for the feedback. A few folks have been saying similar things, that the review isn't that bad. I guess that's the thing: when a work goes out into the world, it has to experience the world for itself, and it's going to have its own ups and downs. In thinking about it some more, I guess the worst feedback for an author isn't a bad or a mediocre review, it is no review at all. At least a review is a review, someone has taken time to read your work. No review is just oblivion. Silence. Onwards!
For playwrights and storytellers who want to know the secrets of Sophocles' dramatic technique in OEDIPUS THE KING. This is a transcript of a short talk I'll be giving at the University of Victoria on February 3rd. Thank you to Professor Laurel Bowman for inviting me to speak to her third year drama class. https://melpomeneswork.com/oedipus/
THANK YOU to the internationally respected and peer-reviewed NJ DRAMA AUSTRALIA NATIONAL JOURNAL and University of Newcastle lecturer Carol Carter for reviewing The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected. Let's get the word out there!
Quick--with seven attackers, seven defenders, and seven gates, what are the odds that the two brothers will confront one another at the seventh gate? In this talk at Samford University, not only will I answer this, but I'll also work out all the possible arrangements of attackers and defenders in Aeschylus' classic play SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.
If you're interested in chance, uncertainty, and the impact of highly improbable events in life and literature, click and read the link. You'll be blown away by Aeschylus' dramatic technique in how he suppresses the fated event from happening so that when it happens, the audience lies dumbstruck. The odds are truly astounding. https://melpomeneswork.com/aeschylus-seven-against-thebes-probability-and-a-new-theory-of-tragedy/
May be of interest to those seeking the solace of art. Here's the transcript to my Zoom conference at Memorial University tomorrow (April 3, 2020). The title of the talk is: "Greek Tragedy, Black Swans, and the Coronavirus: The Consolation of Theatre." In this talk, I discuss the impact of the highly improbable on life. Thank you to Professor Luke Roman for this wonderful opportunity to connect with the Memorial University community. Stay strong everyone. https://melpomeneswork.com/coronavirus/
To celebrate the launch of my award-winning audiobook THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY, Barnes & Noble will be giving it away absolutely free--no strings attached--for a limited time. Narrated by Greg Patmore of Coronation Street. Offer valid till June 1, 2020, get your copy today! If you enjoy it, please let your friends know about this new theory of tragedy that explores the impact of the highly improbable.
YouTube video of my virtual talk on the intersection of probability theory and theatre at the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS) AGM. Recorded May 28, 2020. 15 minute presentation and 15 minutes Q&A. I start with a gentle introduction and build up to a climax by claiming: "Risk theatre is the finest moment of literary theory in the 21st century." Even in literary criticism, a bit of showmanship is welcome :)
The RISK THEATRE project makes its NATIONAL NEW PLAY NETWORK debut. At 9min30sec I talk about how LANGHAM COURT THEATRE revitalizes the stage by making risk the dramatic fulcrum of the action. Such a pleasure to connect with Jess Hutchinson at the NNPN, moderator Julie Felise Dubiner, and fellow panelists Carrie Kaplan, Sally Ollove, and Tanya Palmer. Grab a coffee (or a quarantini) and watch us talk about THEATER & CRISIS in this 90 min YouTube special. Pamphlet wars?--check! Cabaret?--check! The Little Theatre Movement?--check! A new theory of tragedy?--check! Go NNPN! https://youtu.be/-2MOP5C2Th8
By popular demand, an essay on Shakespeare’s MACBETH from the perspective of risk. The crossroad of probability and theatre. Shakespeare’s swans. The imperial theme. The engine of suspense. Unintended Consequences. Littlewood’s Law. You will never look at Macbeth in the same way. Read and share. This is a risk theatre reading of Macbeth. https://melpomeneswork.com/a-risk-theatre-reading-of-shakespeares-macbeth/
Last edited on Sat Nov 28th, 2020 04:36 am by edwinwong
Any OTHELLO fans here? Here's a risk theatre reading of one of Shakespeare's most endearing tragedies. This interpretation combines literary with probability theory. Je est un autre - Seeming and being - A handkerchief, spotted with strawberries - Five sigma events - Moral Certainty - Iago's Gambit - The Empire of Chance. This is Othello like never before.
Thanks for reading Paul and glad you enjoyed it :) It was fun writing about chance in Othello: it helped me to really understand what Shakespeare was getting at. Perhaps I should have mentioned also in the paper that Shakespeare's source, Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi has the Iago character (the wicked Ensign) stealing the handkerchief; presumably Shakespeare's making the loss accidental is significant to the theme of chance. I am so glad you mention the formula--that was the one thing that I was really hesitant to include! It's so cool but also so ... conjectural. But one thing I learned from biologist E.O. Wilson's book Consilience is that, to drive innovation and new ideas, it is good to bring together insights from a multitude of seemingly unrelated but actually interconnected disciplines. I'll keep pressing on, trying to bring together literary and dramatic theory with probability theory! Hopefully, one of these days, this will catch on with playwrights, dramaturgs, directors, critics, and audiences. Chance is so ... fun in its scintillating forms :)
What an awesome story of chance's upside :) Sometimes it seems as though the brain is built to emphasize will and intention and to discount the effects of chance and accident. This would be a fantastic topic to explore! Even some gamblers--playing pure games of chance--will ascribe the winning combination to a "sign" rather than luck! So many images and layers of ambiguity in Joyce's PORTRAIT. I remember the image of Ireland as a farrow, then as the tower where Daedalus was imprisoned. Icarus' wings becoming Stephen's wings of art (that would be a cool title!). And the ending, the work creating the uncreated conscience of his peoples. Oh, I do remember there was a definition of tragedy in there (it has been 20+ years)...I can't remember the lines. It was just a sentence or two though... I remember I thought it was terrific because it was different than all those other theories they taught in grade school. Unique.
New review in THEATRE HISTORY STUDIES journal: 'Valuable for scholars, directors, and playwrights', 'a fresh, distinctive method for analyzing and staging tragedies', 'a vision that has been a long time coming'. Thank you to Jayetta Slawson at Southeastern Louisiana University for a thoughtful and thought-provoking review. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/777166/summary
Last edited on Wed Jan 20th, 2021 06:44 pm by edwinwong
A breakdown of Aeschylus' dramatic technique in SEVEN AGAINST THEBES. Patriotism-25,401,599:1 Odds-Dulce et decorum est-Us and Them-Signs and Symbols-The Ancient Quarrel-Fake Myth-The Biological Imperative. Read, like share.
Perhaps of interest—my review of Madison Wetzell's fantastic play: THE LOST BALLAD OF OUR MECHANICAL ANCESTOR, the winner of the 3rd annual Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Playwriting Competition. The rise of a modern Prometheus.
Interview with playwright Madison Wetzell, winner of the 3rd annual Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Playwriting Competition. We chat about: power structures, empathy, dramaturgy, casting, philosophy, Prometheus, a playwright's voice, and MORE! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXmJtjJtbS4