Neil Gaiman sums up my entire view on playwrighting. He was asked to provide counterpoints to people who had interpreted or analyzed his work:
Once you’ve written something it’s not yours any longer: it belongs to other people, and they all have opinions about it, and every single one of those opinions is as correct as that of the author – more so, perhaps. Because those people have read the work as something perfectly new, and, barring amnesia, an author is never going to be able to do that. There will be too many ghost-versions of the story in the way, and besides, the author cannot read it for the first time, wondering what happens next, comparing it to other things that he or she has read.
And theater even more so. Because you have actors and directors who have crafted the characters in very specific ways. Some that veer further from what is in your mind, and some closer. You have designers who are creating an enivronment that is valid, but that can be very different from what you see in your head.
And if that isn’t enough change, you bring in the audience. And they bring in their own views, expectations, and experience. Every audience will laugh at different jokes. Be touched by different moments. And the reactions of their fellow audience members will color their reactions. As will the review they read in the press. And so it becomes this amazing collaborative effort, Between everyone involved, especially the audience. Rather than just passive, they make the meaning. And the playwright was just the person who started with a few words.
We actually saw a play last week that was very symbolic. And we were able to overlay this play like a stencil on the playwright, and her husband’s lives (as we imagine them), and it seemed incredibly personal and autobiographical. But we don’t really know the playwright and her husband. So we might have been reading too much into it. And the playwright might have had no clue that this symbolic play was almost a one-to-one parallel to her life. It might have been subconscious. So in that case who is the arbiter of meaning? Who is the most right?
What do you think? Does meaning belong to the writer or the audience? And is one more right than the other?