Frank Cotolo's Rocket Science

I care for drama. It gives me great comfort to realize why drama exists and how it is distinguished from reality and its importance in contrast to peace.

Most people I have ever known link drama with fear. I did once, too, most likely because I was raised as a Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church of the 1950s ruthlessly defined drama as fear. It was a crime with many victims, some still walking the planet thinking they are gifted with faith and touched by divinity.

For me, being a writer has been the divine experience, which in itself includes the drama of understanding drama and how it is distinguished from reality. Surely in drama there is fear but drama’s contents, by definition, always employ a host of high emotional qualities. Drama works like a bellows pump. It breathes in and blows out. It is a tool of positive displacement.

All the years of reading fiction and watching screenplays come to life in film and seeing theater pieces did little to separate drama from reality. When I finally found my voice as a writer, I clearly saw the distinction between the art/science of writing (drama) and the randomness of living (reality).

There is no drama in that. Discovering the essence of drama is an experience in reality, mostly because it takes awfully long for the distinction to arrive; also because there is nothing one may do to provoke its arrival.

A paradox.

I was fortunate, though, because my early tendency to be creative turned out to be natural, so no matter the time it took for my enlightenment I was more likely to be awakened than others—say those who have no penchant for creating drama as an entity, that is, a piece of fiction with a beginning, middle and end.

For instance, my father never realized drama and reality are diametrical. My father was highly uneducated, leaving grade school to become a plumber, as guided by his mysteriously underworld-connected father. What my father thought was an endless drama from youth until his untimely death was simply reality.

Within my life span, of course, have been and will be many situations and circumstances that have a semblance of drama. There have been and will be tales of specific scenarios that all have beginnings, middles and ends. However, on the stage of reality, they are traveling shows ridden with romance and anger and joy and depression and yes, fear. They play themselves out in various measures of time and are not slaves to reasoning because reality is sloppy, while drama is calculated and prescribed. Indeed, these thunderstorms of reality are not neatly resolved in their feeble endings; nor are they smoothly transitional in their middles; nor are they perfectly clear in their beginnings.

This is why I care for drama and even when I am not writing it I am aware of the petty plays performed for me and with me in real time. Drama helps me tolerate the vacancy of reality. It helps me carry the weight of reality through life’s meaningless perpetuation.

A school of thought attended by some creative minds is to produce art that marries drama and reality. They have the audacity to label it “realism” and not, simply, “real.” The “ism” makes all of the difference. Realism in art, however, is related to drama but drama never disguises itself as “dramacism” [sic] because it is merely drama. Even non-fiction (an intellectual form of realism) has a dramatic backbone. An essay asks a question (the beginning), entertains with serious considerations concerning a solution (the middle) and then answers the question (the end). Life should be so neat.

Back to my father.

In any drama, my father demanded a neat ending. Perhaps his definition of “neat ending” was infantile but still he wanted only satisfaction as a reward for his audience. Without the training or experience to explain his need for satisfaction, my father knew the essence of drama—he knew that its singularly important task is to resolve the conflicts presented as adroitly as possible. The style my father demanded, of course, was that of obvious punctuation, not subtlety. Nonetheless, the results equal satisfaction. Tragedy or comedy, no question of conflict or character must go unanswered.

Characters and their conflicts fuel drama. They do so, as well, in reality. However, reality has no mercy; it’s a miserable organizer, a bad storyteller, and a subscriber to morbid conclusions with no moral. Shakespeare knew this as well as Alfred Hitchcock knew it. You know it.

In reality, nothing ends well. But drama is forever.

“Oh, life could be a dream
If only all my precious plans would come true
If you would let me spend my whole life lovin’ you
Life could be a dream, sweetheart

“Sh-boom sh-boom, ya-da-da da-da-da da-da-da da
Sh-boom sh-boom, ya-da-da da-da-da da-da-da da
Sh-boom sh-boom.”

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1 Comment

  • Frank, good to see you’re still contributing with your manifest skills at writing and humor. Lying just below the veneer of the “comic” are the profound observations of a poet and a philosopher. This piece is a prime example of that. Keep up the good work, my friend. – Doc

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