Closet screenplay

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Related to closet drama, a closet screenplay is a screenplay intended not to be produced/performed but instead to be read by a solitary reader or, sometimes, out loud in a small group.

While any published, or simply read, screenplay might reasonably be considered a "closet screenplay," 20th- and 21st-century Japanese and Western writers have created a handful of film scripts expressly intended to be read rather than produced/performed. This class of prose fiction written in screenplay form is perhaps the most precise example of the closet screenplay.

This genre is sometimes referred to using a romanized Japanese neologism: "Lesescenario (レーゼシナリオ)" or, following Hepburn’s romanization of Japanese, sometimes “Rezeshinario.” A portmanteau of the German word Lesedrama ("read drama") and the English word scenario, this term simply means "closet scenario," or, by extension, "closet screenplay."[1]

Critical interest[edit]

Brian Norman, an assistant professor at Idaho State University, refers to James Baldwin's One Day When I Was Lost as a "closet screenplay."[2] The screenplay was written for a project to produce a movie, but the project suffered a setback. After that, the script was published as a literary work.

Lee Jamieson's article, "The Lost Prophet of Cinema: The Film Theory of Antonin Artaud"[3] discusses Artaud's three Lesescenarios (listed below) in the context of his "revolutionary film theory." And in French Film Theory and Criticism: 1907-1939,[4] Richard Abel lists the following critical treatments of several of the Surrealist "published scenario texts" (36) listed in the example section below:

  • J.H. Matthews, Surrealism and Film (U of Michigan P, 1971), 51-76.
  • Steven Kovács, From Enchantment to Rage: The Story of Surrealist Cinema (Associated UP, 1980), 59-61, 157-76.
  • Linda Williams, Figures of Desire: A Theory and Analysis of Surrealist Film (U of Illinois P, 1981), 25-33.
  • Richard Abel, "Exploring the Discursive Field of the Surrealist Film Scenario Text," Dada/Surrealism 15 (1986): 58-71.

Finally, in his article "Production's 'dubious advantage': Lesescenarios, closet drama, and the (screen)writer's riposte,"[5] Quimby Melton outlines the history of the Lesescenario form, situates the genre in a historical literary context by drawing parallels between it and Western "closet drama," and argues we might consider certain instances of closet drama proto-screenplays. The article also argues that writing these sorts of "readerly" performance texts is essentially an act of subversion whereby (screen)writers work in a performance mode only to intentionally bypass production and, thereby, (re)assert narrative representation's textual primacy and (re)claim a direct (re)connection with their audience.

The comments section of Melton's article also has an ongoing discussion of the Lesescenario canon.[5] The list of examples below is based on "Production's 'dubious advantage,'" that discussion, and Melton's "Lesecenario Bibliography" at Google Docs.[6] The bibliography contains additional critical works concerned with individual Lesescenarios and/or the canon at-large.


Alphabetical by author last name. For a full list, please see Melton's aforementioned Google Docs bibliography.






  • "Eyes Wide Open" ("Paupières mûres"), "Horizontal Bar," and "Mtasipoj" (by Benjamin Fondane)











  • Don't Put a Dog Outside: A Film without Words (by Claude Sernet)


  • Whispering Moon, (by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki)
  • The Unconquerable People, The Doctor and the Devils, Rebecca's Daughters, The Beach of Falesá, Twenty Years A-Growing, Suffer Little Children, The Shadowless Man, and Me and My Bike (by Dylan Thomas)



  1. ^ Sanseido's Concise Dictionary of Katakana Words. Tokyo, Sanseido, 1994
  2. ^ Norman, Brian. “Reading a ‘Closet Screenplay’: Hollywood, James Baldwin’s Malcolms, and the Threat of Historical Irrelevance." African American Review 39.1-2 (Spring/Summer 2005): 10-18.[1]
  3. ^ Jamieson, Lee. “The Lost Prophet of Cinema: The Film Theory of Antonin Artaud" Senses of Cinema 44 (27 August 2007).[2]
  4. ^ Abel, Richard. French Film Theory and Criticism: 1907-1939 (Princeton UP, 1993)
  5. ^ Melton, Quimby. January 2010. "Production's 'dubious advantage': Lesescenarios, closet drama, and the (screen)writer's riposte." 1.1. (accessed November 21, 2009) [3]
  6. ^ Melton, Quimby. 6 February 2011. "Lesescenario Bibliography." Google Docs. (accessed February 06, 2011) [4]
  7. ^ Hidekatsu Nojima,a Japanese translater who translated this work, wrote the following in the postscript of Kuro-Misa ('Black Mass',1977,Shueisha): 'Trial of the warlock' is never a so-called screenplay.It's an absolute novel.I think that ,by taking advantage of the present tense in screenplay's style, Mailer discovered a new style of novel, which matched his existential sense about time,namely 'The Time of Our Time' or 'in the present, in that enormous present'.

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