Created By: kjnoren on September 25, 2013 Last Edited By: kjnoren on November 8, 2013

Drama Through Intimacy

A work purposefully created to be intimate and require few resources

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

YKTTW notes

Dropped the proposed Chamber Work name, since it was misunderstood and other tropers seemed to have a hard time grasping it.

Description

four rational people conversing.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A work characterised by intimacy between performers and audience, simplicity, a small number of largely co-equal performers, and on requiring little in the form of effects, locale, or crew. It has elements of Minimalism, but the Rule of Drama always comes first. Within music, when first used consciously it became known as chamber music, and in theatre as chamber plays.

Put another way, this is putting minimal distance between the work, the performers, and the audience, and placing a premium of interaction between the performers. This also means that the setting is very demanding for the performers—in a very real sense their performance is the work.

Note that this trope relates to both the work (the script, the score etc.) and to the performance (how the work is expressed to the audience). If a work is written to be performed this way, it can still be set up in a big scene, though the performance won't be a chamber play (or chamber music) anymore. Some plays share many of the outer trappings of a chamber plays but were not written as such and are usually performed on big scenes. The opposite can also happen, but will require a lot more work and adaptation. A lot of amateur theatre functions that way.

The trope was first defined in music, as chamber music, meant to be performed by a few musicians (eg a string quartet) in a single (palace) chamber for a small audience. As such, it goes back at least to the 16th century, though early works were often written to be performed both in a chamber or in an orchestral setting. In 1906 Max Reinhardt borrowed the term when he founded the scene Kammerspiele in Berlin as an annex to the Deutsches Teater, and his ideas here were inspired by August Strindberg, who then was the first to call his own plays chamber plays (or kammarspel in Swedish). There was also a short-lived tradition of chamber movies in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

Compare Bottle Episode (a good such can be indistinguishable from a chamber play) and Minimalist Cast. The Minimalist Cast is often a consequence of writing a Bottle Episode or a chamber play.

Examples

Literature

  • The short story Aftermaths by Lois McMaster Bujold is set on a spaceship with a crew of two, collecting four corpses as part of a war burial assignment.

Live-Action TV
  • Carroll O'Connor's iconic character Archie Bunker from All in the Family routinely conducted his thirty minutes of barbarians-at-the-gate sitcom from his favorite living room chair. The interior of his house at 704 Hauser Street in Queens was often the only set used.
  • Most performances of The Honeymooners set solely in the Kramdens' apartment on Chauncey Street. In fact, one set piece was a kitchen sink, which makes The Honeymooners an early Kitchen Sink Drama as well.
  • The parts of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Darmok that are set planet-side with only Picard and Dathon (the episode as a whole doesn't qualify, though, but it's the planet-side scenes with Picard and Darmok which are memorable).
  • The Homicide: Life on the Street episode Three Men and Adena is almost entirely set in the interrogation room with two cops interrogating the suspect.

Theatre
  • August Strindberg acted as the Trope Codifier of the type in theatre. Miss Julie is an early example, but he later consciously worked with the form in a series of five plays, of which The Ghost Sonata is the most famous.

Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • October 1, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Theater
    • Comedians Jackie Gleason and Art Carney staged The Honeymooners at the old Apollo Theater in New York, which was also televised nationally. Most performances were set solely in the Kramdens' apartment on Chauncey Street. In fact, one set piece was a kitchen sink, which makes The Honeymooners an early Kitchen Sink Drama as well.
  • October 1, 2013
    kjnoren
    ^ Sounds quite fitting, but with a live audience of 1,000 according to the other wiki? Though the television showings may have an entirely different feel.
  • October 3, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Live Action TV
    • The late Carroll O'Connor's iconic character Archie Bunker from All In The Family routinely conducted his thirty minutes of barbarians-at-the-gate sitcom from his favorite living room chair. The interior of his house at 704 Hauser Street in Queens was often the only set used.
  • October 4, 2013
    kjnoren
    Rolled in examples.

    Still not sure on the trope name. Chamber Show? Chamber Performance? Chamber Style? Or drop the chamber prefix for something else, though I'd like to keep it due to its long history of use.

  • October 4, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    "Chamber Show" works for me. It conveys the single set approach to entertainment. Contrast the plays of Shakespeare, which have multiple Acts to accommodate multiple sets. Producer Norman Lear seems to specialize in these Chamber Shows.

    Live Action TV
    • Much like All In The Family from which it was derived, The Jeffersons focused on George and Louise Jefferson in their luxury Manhattan apartment, comically dealing with issues of being black enterpreneurs in a largely white milieu.
  • October 4, 2013
    kjnoren
    Note that many chamber plays are three-acts. Having a single set isn't the only or even the primary consideration. The key words should be intimacy, a limited cast, and a focus on interaction between the cast.
  • October 6, 2013
    kjnoren
    To expand a bit, the chamber here doesn't refer to where the story (play, episode) itself is set, ie its settings. The chamber refers to that the story can be enacted in a limited space and with limited equipment.

    I'm also thinking about how and if the club scene in music can be viewed as a continuation of the chamber music tradition.

  • October 15, 2013
    kjnoren
    Bump.

    To get the things going, one good example is the parts of the ST:TNG episode Darmok that are set planet-side with only Picard and Dathon (the episode as a whole doesn't qualify, though, but it's the planet-side scenes which are memorable).

    Another way to think of it is that it's a work that's not only not one long Action Film Quiet Drama Scene, but where the action scenes still are drama scenes.

    Literature:

    • The short story Aftermaths by Lois Mc Master Bujold is set on a spaceship with a crew of two, collecting four corpses as part of a war burial assignment.
  • October 16, 2013
    kjnoren
    Switched the name, since the old name didn't seem to work.

    Should we try to define some sort of guidelines about the work to be added, like numbers of actors needed or similar? I think it'd be helpful to point at, but at the same time I'm afraid people will focus on such a number and not on the goal of the performance.
  • October 17, 2013
    DAN004
    Drama Through Intimacy? I'm thinking of... well.
  • November 8, 2013
    kjnoren
    Get your mind out of the gutter :-)

    Time to get this rolling again.
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