Oral interpretation  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Oral Interpretation is a dramatic art, also commonly called "interpretive reading" and "dramatic reading", though these terms are more conservative and restrictive. In certain applications, oral interpretation is also a theatre art - as in reader's theatre, in which a work of literature is performed with manuscripts in hand or, more traditionally, using stools and music stands; and especially chamber theatre, which dispenses with manuscripts and uses what may be described as essentialist costuming and stage lighting, and suggestive scenery.

The term is succinctly defined by Paul Campbell (The Speaking and Speakers of Literature; Dickinson, 1967) as the "oralization of literature"; or more eloquently, if less intelligibly, by Charlotte Lee and Timothy Gura (Oral Interpretation; Houghton-Mifflin, 1997) as "the art of communicating to an audience a work of literary art in its intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic entirety". Historically essential to Charlotte Lee's definition of oral interpretation is the fact the performer is "reading from a manuscript". This perspective, once the majority view, has long since become the minority opinion on the question; so that whether one is or is not reading from a manuscript, the art retains the same name.

Voice and movement technique is opsis ("spectacle") while oral interpretation is, conceptually, melopoiia ("music technique").

Because oral interpretation is an essential dramatic element in all performance art (even dance, in which the oral element is most typically a silent element), all actors, singers, storytellers, etc., are interpreters - but not all interpreters are necessarily actors, or singers, or storytellers, and so on. When, for example, the writer David Sedaris reads one of his stories on stage, or when Leonard Cohen performs one of his lyric poems, they are both engaged in the art of oral interpretation. But Sedaris is no actor, and even Cohen himself would say that he is no singer.

In the United States, there is an historic and purely academic argument as to whether oral interpretation and drama/theatre performance are different names for the same thing or whether they are completely different art forms. This argument is almost exclusively found at colleges and universities whose theatre programs evolved in departments historically or currently called "English and Speech", "Speech and Dramatic Arts" or "Communication and Theatre Arts". The argument is rarely heard in theatre programs that did not evolve out of English and/or Speech Communication departments, such as those associated with schools/colleges of music.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Oral interpretation" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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