Stephen Evans

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Stephen is a playwright and author of The Marriage of True Minds and A Transcendental Journey.

The Day the Stories Fail

I’ve been binge-watching Game of Thrones for the who-knows-how-manyieth time. And in the process, mainly while the credits roll or I’m fast forwarding through the parts that I don’t enjoy as much, I have been wondering why I watch this, why it is so enthralling, and why I can watch it for the who-knows-how-manyieth time and still find it enthralling.

In the Biographia Literaria, Coleridge wrote about the willing suspension of disbelief:

“My endeavours” he wrote, “should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”

But I don’t think that’s it. It’s not a suspension of disbelief. And it is not willing. There is nothing of choice about it. We are enthralled - or we have enthralled ourselves. But it is not magic - it is neurology that captures us.

I believe stories work because of the imperative of belief. Deep down in the animal brain (which, let’s be honest, is almost all of it), there is an inability to understand that stories, whether on the page or on the screen, are not real. In some small part of the brain, we know, but we can’t overcome the other part. Or we forget about it as the story unfolds.

Yet there is a difference between stories and reality, if that exists anymore. There is some understanding that stories, real or not we can’t say, are not happening to us. This gives us the safety to enjoy, to experience the terror and heartbreak and grandeur without the need to run to safety.

One day, far in the future, I imagine, we or our descendants, or the descendants of whatever species are left, will lose this disability, this imperative to believe will disappear. Brains will automatically distinguish between what is real and what is not. Stories, all of them, will fail.

These lucky creatures, unable to see the world other than it is, will not understand the power our stories held over us. And they will wonder in disbelief why we writers spent our lives creating them.

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
I think you might enjoy the words of the wonderful late Alan Rickman on the subject of storytelling: http://www.ideachampions.com/... Read More
Monday, 26 February 2018 20:17
Rosy Cole
Game of Thrones? I may have heard of that. Coleridge's observation, I think, is more general than what you describe. In some ways... Read More
Friday, 02 March 2018 23:01
Stephen Evans
I watch the same way I read - skipping the boring bits. ... Read More
Saturday, 03 March 2018 00:20
1146 Hits
7 Comments

A Visitor to your Planet: A One-Minute Play

At Rise:    A man is doing something. An alien enters and watches him.

Alien:       Why are you doing that?

Man:        Needs doing.

Alien:       How do you know?

Man:        It’s my work.

Alien:       What is work?

Man:        What needs doing.

Alien:       I’m asking you.

Man:        I’m telling you.

Alien:       What is my work?

Man:        Asking questions.

Alien:       That is my work!

Man:        You’re good at your job.

                (Long pause)

Alien:       I am a visitor to your planet.

                (Long pause)

Man         Aren’t we all.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Interesting dynamic. Reflects the popular conception of 'democracy'. (Look at it this way, the US is approaching halfway through t... Read More
Sunday, 04 February 2018 11:25
Stephen Evans
I just realized that the last two posts were plays. How true to the spirit of The Green Room!
Monday, 05 February 2018 03:55
Katherine Gregor
Beckett would be envious.
Sunday, 18 February 2018 22:27
963 Hits
4 Comments

Flipping the Omelet

Very few people who have eaten my cooking realize that I am an expert cook. My topic today is flipping the omelet.

(Disclaimer: my omelets don't look like this)

Never flip an omelet from the center.

Always flip from the side.

If you are right-handed, flip from the left side.

If you are left-handed, flip from the right.

Never flip from out to in.

Flip in to out if you must.

Never flip from back to front or front to back.

It just confuses the omelet

Not to mention the cook.

These instructions apply to many areas of life, especially if butter is involved.

 

(From the archives)

 

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
And does this in-depth advice also apply to pancakes? Will it preclude adherence to the overhead light fixture? There's less than ... Read More
Thursday, 18 January 2018 18:37
Stephen Evans
This is the whole of my philosophy. Via con huevos.
Thursday, 18 January 2018 22:26
Katherine Gregor
What's wrong with just using a fish slice spatula to turn it over?
Sunday, 21 January 2018 17:30
887 Hits
5 Comments

Going to the Dickens

I have never read anything by Charles Dickens. The closest I ever came was playing Young Scrooge in a production of The Christmas Carol (many years ago - Dickens was probably still living). 

I have decided this is the year to correct this oversight, and I am looking for recommendations. Anyone have any favorites?  Other than Christmas Carol.

 

 

 

Recent Comments
Ken Hartke
Happy reading -- there's a lot to choose from. I had to read Great Expectations and Tale of Two Cities in school and still remembe... Read More
Friday, 05 January 2018 16:33
Rosy Cole
Are you sure you want to read Dickens? You can't skip all the narrative with him! He's much dramatised, but hardly the postage st... Read More
Friday, 05 January 2018 21:05
Stephen Evans
Thank you! Ken has reminded me that I read A Tale of Two Cities in school. I am moving on to Carson McCullers However, I am addi... Read More
Friday, 05 January 2018 22:22
879 Hits
5 Comments

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Latest Comments

Rosy Cole Paris, 14 Juillet
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Yes, I feel confident that 'The Government' does not essentially represent the British people. When ...
Stephen Evans Memory
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Very kind!
Rosy Cole Memory
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In view of the above theme, I feel bound to add this:Back in the theater again after too many years....
Rosy Cole Memory
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Some mischievous ambiguity here :-)
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