Class #1 - 10/3/17

  • This class will be more receptive to your needs as playwrights with a bit more experience.  You don’t need to be walked through the nuts and bolts of things anymore, so I'm going to give you the option of bringing in pages, no more than five please, whenever you want.  I’ll also be putting the time to work on your pages earlier in class so that if we have a class where everybody is bringing in stuff to work on, you won’t be given short shrift because I wrote a wonderful lecture.  

  • This class has more of a focus on the kind of play you’re going to write.  You know the basic tools of playwriting, conflict, characters, action, and dialogue, and when we workshop pieces we’ll be going back to those tools.  But I also want you to think about the kind of play you’re writing, and the kinds of play you might be writing, and what those kinds of plays entail.

  • In-Class Writing Exercise - Write down these five things:

    • A one or two sentence plot synopsis of the play you’re going to write.  Title too, if you have it.

    • How would you classify your play?  Comedy, drama, black comedy, suspensful, absurdist, realistic, experimental, choose any grouping of words you want.

    • Who is the main character (or if there are two main characters, pick one)?  Tell me three intriguing things about her/him?

    • What do you think is the most interesting aspect of your play, what will draw people in?

    • What concerns you the most about writing this play?

  • “On the One-Act Play”

    • What is important about the one-act play?

    • There is no break.  The play begins and twenty minutes, thirty minutes, forty minutes, sometimes sixty minutes later, it is over.  It is contained.  Ten minute plays have their own rhythms to them, though people are breaking the form all the time, but within their name they have a clock running on them.  Your audience, and if you’ll remember from our last class together, I am very much focussed on what the audience is experiencing, your audience knows how long a ten-minute play is going to be.  And that might seem obvious and silly, but there is something to that fact that differentiates it from a one-act play.  Your audience for a one-act doesn’t know when it will end, it just knows that there will be no intermission.  That you will be done telling the story when you’re done telling the story, no breaks.

    • We need to take advantage of that fact.  You’ve got them for that time period, that unknown time period.  So what does that mean for us as writers? 

      • The pressure is on.  I’m not talking about for you, thought it is, it always is, but for the audience.  They don’t get a break to stand up and stretch, to talk to their friends and say, “What did you think?  Isn’t that one actor really good, he’s a friend of mine?  I would never do what the main character did.”  That’s the thing.  You are immersing your audience in a world and they don't get to come out of it until it’s over without an extreme effort on their part.  They have to get up in the middle of a performance, collect all their belongings, walk past everyone in their row, say excuse me, excuse me, and deliberately leave.  With the performers still performing as they do.

      • We have a little room for indulgence.  We can make our audience experience things in total that were it a full-length, they might ditch at intermission. 

      • What good is it in A Number, which is a longer one-act than most, probably running about an hour?  The play is built on a series of visual repetitions.  Each scene has the same two actors, but it’s not the same two characters every time.  The father keeps meeting and interacting with his son and his clones, so it all kind of blurs for us, which is right and wrong.  These are distinct people, but they’ve not been given the gift of distinction.  The way the repetition works best is not to take a break from it, but to keep seeing it happening over and over again.

      • One of the subjects of the play is the falling apart of the father's world when this knowledge about cloning comes to his son.  Because the identity of the younger actor on stage keeps changing, we can only hold onto the father, and so we must go through this with him, and he does not get respite from his predicament.  Nor does he deserve it.  Given an intermission, I think the deterioration of the father’s existence would lose its impact and immediacy.

      • So why even have a break?  If we want people to experience our work in full, to live it, why give them an opportunity for escape?  A couple of reasons. 

        • The human body can only take so much sitting.  You’re writing for people to see.
        • A good act break can accomplish a lot.  If you have a cliff-hanger, you can generate more excitement in your work, not less.  I know there was a Hamlet production a few years ago that had a really interesting act break.  The play-within-a-play is over, Claudius is praying, Hamlet is about to kill him, dagger up in the air, and intermission.  Even though you know, if you know the play, you still want to come back to see what happens.
        • A good act break can also act as a device to reframe what you’ve seen thus far.  The second act break of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is when Martha cheats on George and when George decides to kill their fictitious son.  The landscape of the world will change when we return.  At the end of Act I of The Sound of Music, Maria returns to the abbey to take her vows, but the Mother sees that she’s not ready and tells her to go back and see if she’s in love with Captain Von Trapp.  She’s no longer just there to be a governess, and the world we’ve seen has been reframed.  I picked that at random.  I looked up the act breaks to musicals, and they all do that.  Any good play uses its act break to either create a cliff-hanger to bring you back or to let you know that when you return from your drink in the lobby, you will be seeing a new framing of what you’ve been watching.  If they can’t promise that, then it’s just to stretch your legs, and it’ll be difficult to get you back. 
      • Not having a break means we have to be economical about who or what we’re showing.  What parts of the story do you need to tell and who do you need to tell it?  We have a little more room than we did in the ten-minute, we can have a few more characters if we need them, and we can even have a subplot or two if we’d like.  Ideally, though, they need to pretty directly tie into, if not mirror our main plot.
      • Caryl Churchill has her cake and eats it too by having a four character play with two actors.  So she’s a good playwright and budget-minded.  We talked too in Beginning Playwriting about starting at the latest possible moment and ending at the earliest possible one.  She absolutely adheres to the first part of that tenet.  The opening of the play seems to be the moment that Salter learns that there are a number of clones of his son.  Or at least the moment he knows his son knows.  This moment is not like any other moment, everything changes from here.  We think we know what he knows, but we learn that he is hiding information.  Everything, though, everything in the play stems from this moment, and, in a way, from the decision Salter made before the play that brings us to this moment.
      • But does Churchill get out at the earliest possible moment?  Could she have ended it with scene 4?  Maybe.  What do you think she’s doing with the scene with the perfectly bland Michael Black, who’s thirty percent lettuce?  I think she’s thwarting Salter.  He wants another connection, you know he does.  He wants a son to depend on him, but not too much, who will care for him and about him, but probably not too much either.  He wants a son on his own terms, and Michael Black doesn’t need him at all.  Not for comfort or support.  Michael Black is his own self-contained system who finds this delightful, who finds connection in his family and in his discovered clones.  Does he like his life, “I do, yes, sorry.”  In a shorter play, the visceral impact of the killing of Bernard 2 would be sufficient, but what Churchill wants is an echo of these scenes you’ve seen before, where a son goes to Salter and needs him for support, as a punching bag, as any of these things, and the last echo is the same two people but with no connection.
      • I think the last thing a one-act does really well is it sets out its thesis and then explores that in this contained setting.  That’s a really dry way of saying it, I know, but I think the best one-acts are about an idea and a case study in the exploration of that idea.   Edward Albee has a beautiful quote about this, “When you write a play, you make a set of assumptions — that you have something to say, that you know how to say it, that its worth saying, and that maybe someone will come along for the ride. That's all.”  A Number is about nature vs. nurture.  These clones who are genetically the same are different than each other, because of how they’re raised or is there something intrinsically different?  Is it how a child is treated, and can a parent learn?  Does Salter change?
      • You have a bit more time now, so you have more room to explore.  You don’t have to jump from plot point to plot point.  You have space in which to move around.  Utilize that not by wasting time or going off on flights of fancy, but by finding other aspects of your idea that you can explore.  Scene 5 is Churchill using that in order to create a fuller picture of that idea.
  • In-Class Writing Exercise - Write  down what you think the idea of your play might be.
    • There are still a number of rules, and by rules I mean suggestions, and by suggestions I mean rules, that we had in the ten minute play that still apply here.  Should we limit the number of places?  Yes.  Can we have a place change?  Sure, if you need to.  But figure out if you need to.  It’s a one-act play not a feature film, so an audience isn’t necessarily expecting constant moving of sets.  A set change, I’ll remind you, is also a way of relieving pressuring and distancing your audience from the reality you’ve created.  If you need multiple sets, think about putting them both on stage at the beginning so that the movement between them is less an abrupt shift and more of a natural progression in your story.  Churchill keeps it all in the same space and by doing that she achieves a number of things.  As I said before, it’s a repetition of images and by keeping it all in the same visual frame, that repetition is strengthened.  Also, it’s Salter’s play and it’s his space where we’re experiencing it.  By never leaving it, we never forget that.  Plus, it’s a character-focussed play.  We’re not meant to care all that much about where they are.  Why do I think that?  I’ve talked a lot about how every choice needs to be deliberate.  Here’s what Churchill chooses to say about the setting:  The scene is the same throughout, it’s where Salter lives.  That’s it.  I don’t think she even mentions a single prop in the text.  All she cares about is the people on stage and their relationships.  To acclimate an audience to a new set would take away from the immediacy of the drama.  You’ll note: it’s not that she puts nothing for the setting.  If she put nothing, a director who gets her/his hands on this play might try to open it up, have a scene in a Bernard’s apartment, or at a coffee shop, or, I don’t know, by a swimming pool.  Churchill says no, it’s always the same place, it’s always where Salter lives.  Do what you want with that space, but it’s not changing.  That’s place, we’ve talked about how long it should be, and that’s at your discretion, somewhat, and characters are the same way.  Should you have a cast of thousands, probably not, but I’m always willing to be pleasantly surprised.  Use as many characters as you need, and when you figure that number out, make sure that number couldn’t be one or two people lower.  If it absolutely can’t, you're good. 

  • Homework: Two choices

    • Write a monologue for your main character, the one you mentioned before.  I want you to write it as stream-of-consciousness.  This character does not to be talking to someone specific, just what is going through her/his head.  And, this is important, I want to know what leads up to the beginning of your play.  Give me what’s going on in this character’s head in the minute or two before the play starts.  

    • Write an invented scene with two of your characters.  Two to three pages, and place them in a completely different context.  You don’t need to explain why they’re there, but you have to have them deal with their space.

      • Space station, old west, haunted house, the deck of a cruise ship, spelunking in a dark cave, marching in the Macy’s Parade, any incongruous context.

Class #2 - 10/10/17

  • Questions from assignment:

    • For the scene:

      • What did you learn about your characters by placing them in this odd situation?
      • What did the new setting tell you about your original/preferred setting for these characters?
      • If the setting didn’t make a difference, shouldn’t it?  How will being specific about the setting tell us more about the characters, the stakes they have, and the plot of the play?
    • For the monologue:
      • What did you learn about the character?
      • What did you learn about the story?
  • "On Drama”

    • Today we’re going to talk about drama, not the overarching discipline in which we are working, but the dramatic one-act play, as opposed to the comedic one-act play.  This is the start of three lectures where we’re going to talk about the general genre of your work.  Drama, comedy, experimental, that’s this and the next two weeks.  These are, obviously, really broad genre categories, and there’s often a lot of overlap between them, so don’t think that because I’m breaking this down into three different lectures that I want giant concrete walls between them in your work.  

    • When all this theatre stuff started, it wasn’t comedy and drama, it was comedy and tragedy.  Tragedy meant you started with a protagonist in a place of prominence and then brought him or her low.  Comedy meant the opposite, take a person in a low or dark place and bring them up to win in the end, where winning often meant marriage.  That’s been the simple analysis of it, but even with a cursory look at things, it doesn’t quite bear out.  Medea is a tragedy where the main character is actually in a terrible way at the beginning of the action, to take revenge she kills her husband’s new wife and also the children she had with him, and then gets away unscathed.  It’s a tragedy, but it veers more towards drama then the typical Greek tragedy.  Fun fact about Medea, when it was presented at the City Dionysia, the ancient Greek playwriting competition, it placed third.  Out of three plays.  The world wasn’t ready for it yet.

    • When we get to Shakespeare, we still have tragedies, but we also have his history plays, which are basically dramas, and the problem plays, which only get labeled as comedies because there are marriages at the end, but Measure For Measure doesn’t have a lot of jokes in it.  By the time we hit the 19th century, Ibsen and Chekhov are writing straight-up dramas as we would recognize them today.  Chekhov called them comedies, but ...

    • Drama can be about anybody, it need not have a character of great prominence.  Willy Loman, Blanche DuBois, Troy Maxson, these are not people of high social standing, but they are the featured characters of dramas.  Dramas can also be tragic, still, that has not disappeared as an option, but you can also have a drama where someone is changed, but not necessarily doomed.  Your drama can even, gasp, have jokes.  There are some hard jokes in Zoo Story.  Life, if that is what we are trying to replicate on stage, is rarely all serious. 

    • Trifles:

      • What’s happens in the play?

        • It’s disguised as a whodunnit.  You have a sheriff, a county attorney, and a witness to a crime.  You’re expecting this play to be about the solving of a murder, but all of the investigation by these three characters basically happens off stage.  It’s about solving the motive, and Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale judging whether or not this was justified, and you’ll note they’re judging another women, the unseen Mrs. Wright.  The men investigate the death of a man and the women investigate the motive of a woman.

      • What’s the play about?

        • I talked last week about how a good one-act play sets out its thesis and then explores it.  Let’s look at the first exchange in the play.  All the men come in and huddle around the stove.

          COUNTY ATTORNEY: This feels good.  Come up to the fire, ladies.

          MRS. PETERS (After taking a step forward): I’m not--cold.

          This is a play about fundamental differences between men and women in this society.  What the men call trifles in the play are actually important things that tell Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale about the mindset and the actions of Mrs.Wright.  The men are cold and tell the ladies to come up to the fire, and Mrs. Peters who is shown to be more of a rule-follower than Mrs. Hale, takes a step forward to do it, but then stops herself because she’s not cold.  Mrs. Hale doesn’t even move.  The women have a fundamentally different understanding of the room, which is the world the play gives us, than the men.

          As the play goes on, it becomes even less about the case of Mrs. Wright and more about Mrs. Peters’ transformation from someone who follows what society says without questioning it to a person who understands the unfairness of the situation that they’re in. Mrs. Hale sums it up nicely with: “We live close together and we live far apart.  We all go through the same things - it’s all just a different kind of same thing.”

          By concealing the bird at the end, Mrs. Peters has agreed to save Mrs. Wright, to absolve her of her crimes, and she’s proclaiming solidarity with the other women.  That is more important to her than the law, to which she is supposedly married.

      • How is this drama?

        • Well, for one, it’s not comedy.  So it checks that box.  It’s not tragedy either, well, maybe for Mr. Wright it is, and how perfect a name choice that is, but is it a serious situation, marked by conflict, with an outcome that irrevocably changes the protagonist?

          Do you think Mrs. Peters is forever changed by this moment.  I do.  I think nuance has creeped into her worldview.  That seems like such a small change, but boy is it significant.  To accept that the world is no longer black and white, that’s kind of a remarkable thing.  It might also be considered a trifle by some, but not by me.

          What Glaspell is also doing is making us complicit in the cover-up.  And, because I think she’s a really good writer, she’s making us okay with it.  The men are not listening to anybody but themselves, they talk way too much when they’re on stage, especially Mr. Hale, so we’re not inclined to believe them.  We only have the words of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters and we trust them because they don’t have an agenda.  When they decide to hide the incriminating information from the men, we feel it’s a good decision, but if at the start of the play we were to ask the audience, “Are you cool with covering up evidence for a murder” I don’t think we’d get a lot of automatic yeses.  

      • Title talk: 

        • What are the trifles in the play?  How do they matter to the story being told?

      • Any issues with this play?

        • Action takes place off stage.  But does it?  The real action is front and center.

    • Before we go into Zoo Story, think about what the dramatic, read: serious, elements of your play are.  Even the most frivolous plays have to have serious elements to them or they won’t be interesting on stage.  The silliest, most door-slammingest of farces have real consequence to them: be it money, or a marriage, or one's station in life.

    • Zoo Story:

      • What’s happens in the play?

        • Peter is trying to read (is he?) in the park when he is accosted by Jerry who is looking for ... a conversation?  A confrontation?  A person willing to kill him?  It’s not clear, but by the end of it, Peter has seen what humans are capable of, both in Jerry’s story and in his own actions.  By the end, Peter’s been to the zoo too.

      • What’s the play about?

        • The play’s thesis, I think, is in Jerry’s lines near the end of the story of Jerry and the dog:

          “I have learned that neither kindness nor cruelty by themselves, independent of each other, creates any effect beyond themselves; and I have learned that the two combined, together, at the same time, are the teaching emotion.  And what is gained is loss.”

          Peter is in a bubble.  Listen to how Albee describes him: “A man in his early forties, neither fat nor gaunt, neither handsome nor homely.”  He is perfectly plain, he is 30% lettuce.  He is reading a book in Central Park on a Sunday afternoon.  He has responsibilities at home, one would assume, what with his two children, but he has the luxury of just sitting here, reading, while the world goes on.  He has not addressed any of the things that bug him.  You notice that when Jerry asks him about his children, Peter is defensive to a point of ridiculousness.  He does not want to think about these things.  There's also the possibility that Peter is a closeted man, who is sort of getting close to things without participating in them.  Either way, he has an unexamined life.  And he treats Jerry like an animal in a zoo.  Not just Jerry.  He says, of Jerry’s landlady:

          “It's so ... unthinkable.  I find it hard to believe that people such as that really are.”

          He finds difficulty in conceiving of people outside his social circle.  What Jerry does is immerse Peter in his life.  He starts by trying to make a connection, asking Peter about Peter’s home life, telling Peter about his own.  That doesn’t really work, and so he tells this story, hypnotizes him with it, and it breaks through to Peter.  It shakes him up.  He says, “Why did you tell me all this?” and “I don't understand,” and “I don’t wanna hear this,” and we think he’s changed.  Jerry says, “I suppose you don’t quite know what to make of me, eh?” and then Peter brushes it all off with "We get all kinds in publishing.”  Jerry’s lost his foothold.  He’s just another anecdote.  And so he tickles him, he shows good humor and kindness, and then he elbows him off the bench. He combines kindness and cruelty to teach Peter.  

          He teaches Peter about what it's like to lose something.  To not just have the things he has because he exists.  Jerry is clearly someone dealing with loss.  Peter asks him why he doesn't just move from his horrible apartment, as if Jerry can have any apartment he wants in the city.  He takes away one tiny thing from Peter, a park bench, and Peter could've just left, but he doesn’t.  Why?

      • How is this drama?

        • Somebody dies at the end.  That's usually means you're in a drama.  You can see it as a tragedy.  It's the loss of Jerry’s life, and it's definitely the loss of Peter's smug complacency. 

          There's a lot of comedy in Zoo Story, but I don't think anyone walks away from it and describes it as such.  It’s also considered an absurdist play.  I find that it walks the fine line between absurdism and realism, in this little subgenre I call abrealism, and if you’d like to learn more about that, I'll direct you to my master's thesis.

          Is it a serious situation, marked by conflict, with an outcome that irrevocably changes the protagonist?  Do you think Peter is changed forever by this?  I definitely do.  Assuming he gets away with it (if he doesn't get away with it, obviously it’s a big change), but assuming he gets away with it, he has to live with this, how he acted, what he was capable of, and how the story made him feel.  He cannot go back to his bubble; it has burst.

      • Title talk:  

        • What does the zoo mean?  Is the zoo story an anecdote or is it the thing we're watching?

      • Any issues with this play?

        • Lots of speechifying.  Odd reactions from Peter, but are they that odd if we think of the title?  Is it the way a person might react to watching an animal’s behavior, especially an animal in captivity?  Delighted or horrified but not willing to look away.  Yet, when confronted, capable of previously unthinkable things.

  • Homework: Two items

    • Write a monologue from the perspective of a non-main character in your play.  As long or as short as you want, but that character has to talk about something that happens in your play, but cannot mention the main character.

    • Pick a character in your play.  And tell me a secret of theirs that they've never told anybody.  Show me what your character wouldn't want anyone knowing about her or him. 

  • Next week: Comedy, The Cleaners, and Unveiling, and bring in any pages you want to hear.

CLASS #3 - 10/17/17

  • Questions from assignment:

    • What did you learn about these secondary characters?
    • Did it help to see them as independent of the main character, or do they work just for that function?
    • Did anything about them surprise you?
    • What did the secret tell you about your character?
    • Can you use that secret?
  • "On Comedy”

    • Today we’re going to talk about comedy.  Last class, I said that at the beginning of theatre it was comedy and tragedy, but that’s not exactly true.  Actually, it was just tragedy and tragedy, for about fifty years of the City Dionysia.  Then they added in comedy, but it still took them about thirty years to give any prizes for comedy.  And because it’s ancient Greek, a bunch of philosophers have some ideas about it, which I only tell you because they are either useful or amusing.  Plato hated comedy, because he hated most every artistic thing, because of his theory of forms, but also because he thought laughter led to low-self control and violence.  Plato was fun.  Aristotle, on the other hand, says that comedy makes you happy, and that’s good.  And in comedy there’s farce, there’s romantic comedy, and there’s satire.  He also thinks that comedy doesn’t need to involve sex.  Anybody know the most famous ancient Greek comedy now?  It’s Lysistrata by Aristophanes.  Anybody know what it’s about?  Greeks also had satyr plays back then, which are closer to burlesque than anything else.  So there are your four comedies type, farce, romantic comedy, satire, sex comedy, and though I’m not a dedicated follower of Aristotle, I think these are useful terms for us.

    • We talked about the general progression of theatre last week, so I’m going to stay away from repeating that, but let me tell you a couple of broad things about comedy before we delve into the specifics of these plays.

      • Comedy has to have serious stakes.  A good definition of drama is: a serious situation, marked by conflict, with an outcome that irrevocably changes the protagonist.  And for the definition of comedy, I’d add: with jokes.  There is almost no difference between good comedic and dramatic writing except for the jokes.  There are comedies where it means life or death for the protagonist, where he or she has love at stake, a career, a family, all of those important, serious things.  Because if the stakes and the situation weren’t serious, why does the audience care? 

      • What do the jokes do then?  I think, and this is my own theory of comedy, is that they allow you a little bit of distance from the performers and unity with the audience.  Comedies are always better with a big, boisterous audience, while you can see dramas sitting alone and it won’t make as much of a difference.  Why?  I think because laughter puts you at a distance from the performers, but who wants to be on an island.  It’s hard to see the comedy in a situation you’re in unless you can sort of mentally remove yourself from it and see it from above.  The jokes are the playwright’s way of recognizing the silliness, absurdity, strangeness of the situation and commenting on it.

        Is this a backpedal from my feeling about keeping up the pressure on the audience?  Maybe a little.  Or at least let’s look at it as a different kind of pressure.  When you’re writing a comedy, you’re pressuring them to see the humor in a situation.  This may involve laughing at a ridiculous thing, laughing at a clever thing, laughing at a dark and disturbing thing (one of my favorites), but it does involve eliciting a reaction.

        In a drama, these moments of comedic respite, comic relief, can provide a good cap on a moment, or can let you reset before the pressure starts mounting again.  We’re allowed to give our audiences a break once in a while, as long as you’re going to hit them even harder the next time.

      • Comedy ages worse than drama.  Sophie’s Choice, having to pick which one of your children survives is not really going to lose its resonance for humans anytime soon.  But some jokes only work because of the cultural and societal references of when they’re made.  Comedy also often makes fun of social customs and structures, and those are always changing.  Language does too.  A word that’s known and funny now, may be unfathomable a few generations from now. “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh?  Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal - you sockdologizing old man-trap.”  That’s a line from Our American Cousin.  Anybody know that play?  Those are the last words Lincoln heard.  Why did Booth choose that line to shoot him?  Because it got a huge laugh every night.  Anybody find it hilarious now?  Slapstick will always work, but “HE trips and falls” as a stage direction is only going to get you so far in your playwriting. 
      • Write what’s funny to you.  I can’t guarantee that it’ll be funny to everybody; in truth, I can guarantee that it won’t be funny to everybody, but if it’s not funny to you, it’ll come off as stilted and forced.

    • Unveiling

      • What’s happens in the play?

        • Michael and Vera have Vanek over to their house in order to unveil their new decorating job, but really in order to convince Vanek to conform to the way they act/see the world.  They push a little too hard, almost forcing Vanek out, and finally Vanek returns in an act of pity.

      • What’s the play about?

        • This is a play that shows how time and context can change the view of the audience of the play.  When we watch or read it now, it seems like it’s primarily about consumerism and the ideas of conformity, and it can absolutely be played like that.  The audience who would’ve read it then, or seen it (under secret circumstances if it was in then-Czechoslovakia) would’ve had a very different view of it.  These are people who have wealth now which means that they have conformed to the ruling government’s views, perhaps getting paid off for it.  And if Vanek is an old friend of them, one who is a “writer,” they must have had some sort of sympathy for him.  They want Vanek and his unseen wife to join them because it makes them feel less guilty and less alone. 

        • Either way you look at it, it’s about the illusion of happiness in things and privilege.  Michael and Vera try everything they can to convince Vanek (and the audience) how happy they are and they do nothing more than making us realize just how untrue that is.  It is a play with a pretty simple idea, that money can’t buy happiness, but I think it explores it in an interesting way.  It’s not about a couple that has no money, gets money, and isn’t happy; it’s about a couple that now has money, isn’t happy, but is trying to convince themselves and the world that they are.  We can only guess at what they’ve done to achieve this wealth, and they were clearly hoping that by having money, it might erase their pain.  But they’ve done the deed, they’ve rung a bell you can’t unring, and so their choices are, admit how wrong they were, OR smile through it all and get as many people on your side to believe so that you start believing it.

        • The final moments show you just how empty they are.  They’ve clearly embarrassed Vanek, made him uncomfortable, driven him to leave with their desperation.  But when he finally comes back, as an act of pity, that is enough for them to believe he is convinced and that they can go on.  Think of the message that sends to an audience who is considering betraying their ideals.  The play isn’t saying: don’t do it because you won’t be happy.  It’s suggesting: don’t do it or you’ll have to spend your life pretending you’re happy.

      • How is this comedy/What kind of comedy is it?

        • It’s not a romantic comedy.  I think it’s a combination of satire and farce, with some sex thrown in but it’s not really a sex comedy.

      • What’s funny about it?

        • The repetition.  They become weird consumerists robots with their repeating of “you’re our best friend” and the cuckoo clock marking punctuation.
        • There are genuinely funny jokes, where the small talk slowly turns mean, a compliment of Vera’s cooking turning into a slam on Vanek’s wife Eva’s cooking.
        • The heightening of it.  Advice on decorating turns to advice on cooking turns to advice on lovemaking, all cloaked in friendship.
        • The incongruity of things.  The place is littered with objects that don’t fit together or have been robbed of all their meaning.  The confessional, the Madonna statue, etc.
      • Any issues with this play?

        • Vanek can be seen as a very passive character, and he’s definitely an audience surrogate.  If you were directing, how would you direct Vanek?  If you were rewriting it, what could you give Vanek to do/want?

        • Who is the protagonist in the play?  Is that person forever changed?  Is it Vanek or is it the couple?  Does change occur?  This is a question that comes up in plays that tip toward the absurd.  Sometimes the change isn’t a dramatic life change, but a recognition that one cannot escape from an absurd situation.  Prometheus is a character, but Prometheus’ situation will never change.

        • What is the conflict?  Is there conflict between Michael and Vera or is it all between them as a unit and Vanek?

      • Title talk: 

        • What is being unveiled?  What is still veiled in the play?

    • The Cleaners

      • What’s happens in the play?

        • Rita has taken a new job as a crime scene cleaner with friend of a friend Jerry.  Rita needs the money, but Jerry is interested in Rita.

      • What’s the play about?

        • The play is about messiness in general.  Lindsay examines a messy situation, dating, especially dating when you have kids, when you have troubles, etc., and she puts it in the context of people cleaning up a literal mess, but a mess like she’s never seen before.  These are people who are cleaning up messes, bad decisions made by people, and in doing this together, they are cleaning up their own messes.

        • Question for you: Who is the protagonist?  Who has agency and who is changed?  Or are they both protagonists?  This can absolutely happen in a romantic comedy.  Are Harry & Sally co-protags?

      • How is this comedy?

        • It’s not really satire. I would say that it’s a combination of romantic comedy and farce.

      • What’s funny about it?

        • The incongruity of someone trying to make a pass at someone while in the midst of cleaning up body and brains.

        • There are genuinely funny jokes, because Lindsay Joy lives up to her name.  She’s also adept at going the other way with jokes, tags that you don't see coming.  Patenting the cleaner, for example.

        • The heightening of it.  How the person died.

    • Homework: Two items

      • Write (at least) the first two pages of your play.

      • Tell me the picture I’m going to see on stage when the play begins and the picture I’ll see when the play ends.

    • Next week: Experimental Plays, Dutchman, and The Long Christmas Dinner.

CLASS #4 - 10/24/17

  • Questions from assignment:

    • How do the first two pages teach your audience how to watch your play?
    • Is the latest possible moment for you to start?
    • How do the first and last images differ?
    • Is the play going to take us on a journey to that final picture?
  • "On Experimental Playwriting”

    • Today we’re going to talk about experimental playwriting.  This is maybe the broadest term I could come use because I don’t want to just talk specifically about absurdism or expressionism or surrealism.  Avant-garde might have been the way to go, but let’s stick with experimental as an umbrella term.

    • As theatre progresses through the ages it begins to take on established, some might say calcified, rules.  Every major period of theatre has it’s own rules, in fact.  The Greeks had the three unities (time, place, action) and that violence must take place off stage.  Elizabethans had their views on who should be performing and what kind of stories they should be telling, based on their audience.  French Neoclassical theatre had its commitment to the unities and a declamatory/presentational style of acting.  And as we creep into the end of the nineteenth century, we have the tyranny of a proscenium space, naturalistic/realistic plots and characters, and a level of decorum.

    • And then Alfred Jarry shows up.  This twenty-three year old writes a play called Ubu Roi.   Ubu Roi is a play where Ubu leads a revolution in Poland, kills the royal family, and then a good deal of the population.  It is a play where the first word is “merdre" the French word for “shit” with an extra R.  There are elements of burlesque, of puppetry, of parody of Shakespeare.  It’s often vulgar, often grotesque, silly, childish.  It opens December 10, 1896 in Paris at Théâtre de l’Oeuvre, William Butler Yeats, among others, is in the audience, there is a riot in the audience at the end of the play, and it closes on December 10, 1896, just one performance.

    • This weird little play opens up the Western Theatre world to deliberately flouting the conventions of theatre.  It sparks this huge debate in French literary magazines, the mainstream ones and the avant-garde ones, who respectively attack and defend Ubu Roi.  They take issue with the coarse language, the absurd plot, the monstrous protagonist, and the flouting of the unities.  In this discussion, artists and writers begin to see lines drawn even sharper than before and they start to figure out how erasing or redrawing those lines leads to new art and theatre movements.

    • About a decade later, Strindberg comes out with his Dream Play.  He abandons his hard-core naturalism to try to replicate dream life on stage.  So he smashes the line between what is real life and what is the mind on stage.  Surrealistic theatre begins right around here.  The theatrical settings and spaces change.  Then in the 1920s you have Pirandello write Six Characters in Search of an Author, which is the first meta-drama where you have characters removed from a play who are walking around in the “reality” of the play we’re watching.  That’s the fourth wall smashing.  Brecht comes around at that time, bringing his ideas of alienation, taking away the notion of identifying with a character, instead creating a dramaturgy of distance and self-reflection.  Goodbye catharsis, an idea that’s been around since Aristotle.  There are some precursors to absurdity, like Witkiewicz, but post WWII, we get the rise of the theatre of the absurd, with Ionesco, Sartre, Beckett, and then on to people like Pinter and our good friend Edward Albee.  Absurdism recognizes the meaninglessness of life and the futility of communication.  Also known as motivation and dialogue.  Gone.

    • This is the tiniest of thumbnail sketches of experimental theatre, but the big takeaway should be: every rule, every precept, every convention is ripe for examination and possibly obliteration.  

    • If you are writing something with experimental elements, here are things you should consider:

      1. Why are you doing it?  An experimental choice, at the beginning, is always, always an alienating one.  An audience expects to see real life reflected back at it and when we don’t provide that, we’re going to force them to examine the choice you’ve made and whether or not they’ll buy into it.  Some choices are bigger asks than others, but it’s always something you’re asking of them, so you better have a reason.  If the subject you’re tackling is too familiar to an audience in its realistic form, then an experimental choice is a great way of reframing it, defamiliarizing it.  If the subject you’re doing is one that might turn people off immediately if presented in a straight-forward manner, then maybe an experimental choice is a way of sneaking in subversive ideas in different clothing.  

      2. How are you doing it?  You aren’t just breaking the rules of drama; you need to also be replacing them with something else.  I am not going to have a real live bird in my play, I will have an actor playing the bird.  So I won’t keep switching from real bird to human, unless that’s my convention, and then I need to do this several times.  You are making these choices for a reason, and you need to stick with them.  If you keep changing the rules of your world at a whim, then the audience will be hopelessly lost and your play and the experimental choices you’ve made will lose their effectiveness.

      3. Are you making full use of your choice?  You have changed the world to fit your play.  If your change is big, the outcome should be big too.  You shouldn’t leave your audience wondering why you left out so many other things in this change.  I’ll talk a bit more about this in our next class, but make sure you understand the ramifications of your choice and take full advantage of them.  Use every part of your experiment.  

    • Dutchman:

      • What’s happens in the play?
        Lula, outside the subway, spots Clay inside the subway and they stare at each other.  Lula gets on and flirts with him and Clay flirts back.  At some point, Lula grows tired of Clay and, to the delight of the people who have now boarded the subway car, begins mocking him as an African-American person, and African-American culture in general.  Clay slaps her and tells her what he thinks African-Americans feel about white people, but then disavows that rage, even disavows speaking for African Americans.  Lula murders Clay and gets the other car riders to throw him off.  Then the final cryptic exchange where Lula looks at a new passenger, another young African-American man, and then at the Conductor, an older African-American man who does a soft-shoe and tips his cap at Lula.

      • What’s the play about?
        The play is about race and race relations.  There’s no getting around it (and why would you want to?).  Baraka has begun with a situation that is common to the point of cliche: boy meets girl, and has spun it so that it is about the treatment of blacks by whites in America.  Lula claims she knows Clay, that he is “a well-known type,” but what she’s really doing is constantly defining him the way she wants.  She tells him what he and his friends are like and have done, she scripts the way he asks her out, and then tells him what’s to come, “May the people accept you as a ghost of the future. ... You’re a murderer, Clay, and you know it.”  She, the only white person with a speaking role in the play, has defined his past, present, and future.

        But what’s the idea of the play?  I don’t know if it’s about racism as name-calling (which Lula definitely does) or overt discrimination.  I think the idea is in Lula’s lines: “Our whole story ... nothing but change.  How could things go on like that forever?  Huh?  Except I do go on as I do.  Apples and long walks with deathless intelligent lovers. ... But you change.  And things work on you till you hate them.”

        Clay is worked on in the play (molded like his name).  Lula keeps changing the rules of what she’s offering: is it sex, is it acceptance into society (which means they get to “make fun of the queers” among other things), is it love?  And when she has him entrapped on that subway car, people start to come in and watch them and that’s when he has gone from an equal to a subject of lampoon.  Lula is forcing Clay to show his true face to the world.

        Lula cannot accept it, though.  I think she wants him to be a stereotype, “a well-known type” and instead what he offers her is something different.  He wants the ability to be “a middle-class fake white man.”  “And let me be in the way I want.”  He is not a performer, he is not some mythical sexual being, he is not even a revolutionary (“My people.  They don’t need me to claim them.  They got legs and arms of their own.”).  He tells her the truth, that what Western rationalism is peddling could just as easily be used to justify the killing of white people as it was for the killing of slaves.  

        Once she hears all this, she is all business and murders him.  “I’ve heard enough.”  And she orders everyone out at the next stop so this can all begin again.  She runs the world.

      • How is this experimental?  Why go the experimental route?
        The play is full of symbols.  “The subway heaped in modern myth.”  The apples.  The clothing of the characters.

        The play barely nods at realism.  The title lets you know there is an opaque quality and their conversation is mysterious and strange.  “You look like death eating a soda cracker.”  “Run your mind over people’s flesh.”  The reactions of people to Lula, obeying her, celebrating her and her mockery of Clay and then helping her dispose of a body.

        The stabbing is clearly unrealistic, part of an unending cycle, a meeting-a seduction-a murder-a disposal and then we start all over again.

        What do we make of the last few moments?  The Young Man is clearly the next step in a cycle, but what of the Conductor?  Thoughts on him?

        Is there a clear protagonist?  Is there change?  I’m not certain.  Perhaps the point of the play is that there cannot be change.

        Why do you think Baraka chooses an experimental form?  What does he achieve here that he couldn’t accomplish in a realistic play?

      • Title talk: 
        Dutchman as in the Flying Dutchman, the legend of a ghost ship doomed to ride the waves forever in penance for an unknown crime.  Wagner’s Flying Dutchman was about a ghost ship piloted by a captain who was cursed, the curse only broken by a faithful wife.  The Dutch ships that brought slaves to America is also an illusion.

      • Any issues with this play?
        Is it dated?  The language might be, but the situation not so much.  The misogyny of the play is a problem.

    • The Long Christmas Dinner:

      • What’s happens in the play?
        Ninety years of Christmas dinners in the Bayard household are gone through.  Generations come and go, fortunes rise and fall.  Things stay the same and change.  Time is what happens.

      • What’s the play about?
        “Only time, only the passing of time can help in these things.”  Lucia on the passing of her granddaughter, but also on the passing of time.  The play is about how time circles but moves forwards.  People are doing the same thing, saying the same things their ancestors have done, doing it without a trace of irony, and yet, it’s never quite the same and there’s never enough time.  

        The title gives us this clue that we’re going to be talking about time and the way it wears on us or flees past us.  It’s a long Christmas Dinner, and yet time skips indiscriminately.  We see only the dinner and not the changes in between.  To Roderick II it feels like a place where nothing changes, and there are echoes throughout, but he can’t understand the massive changes because he cannot see beyond his own experience.  

        Question: Who is the protagonist?  Is the protagonist the family itself, constantly changing, constantly repeating?

      • How is this experimental?  Why go the experimental route?
        The play is giving you an experience of long periods of times and it does so in about thirty minutes.  It is initially jolting, the first jump in time, but Wilder trains us to get used to it and to the simple conceit of birth and death being two doors.  

        Wilder defamiliarizes the concept of time passing by making these jumps and it forces you to see things as a blur, noticing the way generations echo each other and what time does to people: how they deal with loss and gain, how they deal with each other and their new roles in life.  Time is inescapable and that is what Wilder does by not letting us enjoy the moments the characters have with each other.  Time keeps marching relentlessly.

        The repetition of lines and names, of experiences.  The simple way of making someone’s death or near death poignant by making death a door through which they’ll never come back.  The death of a child after we’ve figured out what the door is is especially poignant.

        Wilder takes the most mundane of situations and makes it exotic by presenting it as snapshots of a sequence that keeps repeating.

  • Homework: Two items

    • Write: 100 word synopsis of your play, 50 word synopsis of your play, and a 10 word synopsis of your play.

    • You have thirteen days until Monday, November 6th.  WRITE A FIRST DRAFT OF YOUR PLAY AND SEND IT TO ME BY END OF DAY MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6th.

CLASS #5 - 11/7/17

  • Workshop Production Opportunity Announcement

  • “Finding motifs, symbols, and other highbrow literary things.”

    • My vase theory of writing.  In this case, the vase looks a lot like a Kleenex box.  When you look at the vase from this direction you see this, the arty decoration that the designers from Kleenex have put on this to make it an acceptable thing to go into your house for others to see.  Now if I turn it, you will see that someone with particularly questionable artistic skill has doodled in the outlines of the triangles on the side.  But it remains a vase.  Now if I turn it again, you will see that someone has angrily stabbed a bunch of holes in this particular vase.  And if I turn it one last time, you can see that someone has ripped holes in the side of this vase.  With each facet of it, you have learned more about this vase, but it never stops being a vase.  Which looks like a Kleenex box.

    • When you have symbols in your play, when you have motifs in your play, when you have repeated lines of dialogue in your play, it is my hope that you will make them like this vase: multi-faceted, always revealing something new, but still the thing that it is.

    • If you have a prop or set piece that is solely functioning as a symbol, it will stick out like a unicorn in a glass menagerie, I mean, a sore thumb.  It will demand the audience pay attention to it as a highbrow literary thing.  Is that a problem?  Not necessarily.  The play that I have mocked, even though I find this sort of thing ham-fisted, is quite popular, if you haven’t heard.  It is my feeling, however, that motifs, symbols, and other highbrow literary things, when you put them in a functioning piece of theatre, should also function.  

    • August Wilson wrote a play called Fences, and in it, Troy Maxson is building a fence around his home.  Is it also representative of keeping death away, of the barriers he puts up between himself and the people who love him, of the way he wants to keep what is his and keep others things out?  Absolutely.  But it’s also a real, honest-to-God fence that anybody might build around his or her property were that person so inclined.  Every time he goes to work on it, we learn more about him, and his relationships in the play and to the world.  It lives in both worlds.  The fence is August Wilson’s vase.

    • The bird, the dead bird that is in Trifles, is it representative of the spirit of  Mrs. Wright being crushed by the now late Mr. Wright?  Of course it is.  But it’s also a real dead bird that lived in this house, and had a bearing on the plot.  It is both.  When you are writing The Grapes of Wrath, you can take the time to have a turtle crossing the road and describe it in detail because it is an important symbol of ... something, I haven’t read Grapes of Wrath since I was a freshman in high school, I think.  But if you’re adapting that book for the stage, I think the turtle is the first passage you cross out immediately.  What works on the page doesn’t always work on the stage, and highbrow literary things sometimes are the toughest things to translate.

    • Vases, though, work.  Because a good vase can hold flowers (or be thrown at a cheating husband’s head), and it can be turned every so often to reveal new parts of itself.

    • And your vase need not just be a prop.  We are playwrights, and we often deal in dialogue, and sometimes your vase might be a line of dialogue or a linguistic image.  Zoo Story has the zoo, and it functions as the Central Park Zoo, as Peter’s apartment with two cats and two birds, and as the spectacle Jerry creates with his story and his stabbing.  It is there from the beginning, it is real, but it always revealing new parts of itself.    Edward Albee is a master at this.  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf has it’s title being sung mockingly, then desperately, and then softly, comfortingly.  The words don’t change, but the vase keeps getting turned so you see new parts of it.

    • I am also a big fan of this in my own work.  In my play The Winners, which is about lottery winners hiring an escort, these exchanges are in 3 different parts of the play.


      But back then you, if you wanted to experiment, you were pretty much locked into whatever you chose, at least as long as college or high school was going on. I mean, there were exceptions, sure. 

      There always are for exceptional people. 


      With all this money, we’e got to learn to start drawing the line somewhere, or else everyone will ask for exceptions. 

      And those are only for exceptional people. And she’s not exceptional. 


      We won the lottery, Kurt. We’re exceptional people. This is where we get to make an exception. 

    • I’m using the same language, but it’s changing with each iteration, revealing more about our characters and the world in which they live.

    • The other thing I’ll advise, which is something I mentioned in last class, is use as much of the symbol, motif, whatever as you can.  Find all the nooks and crannies.  You may not need them all, but it’s worth it to investigate.  Beth’s cage, Dan’s book, John’s protest sign, Cindy’s biosphere model, Mike’s seeds, Cori’s propsal.  These may not be your central image, but I wrote those sitting at home as the thing that sticks out, the thing you can explore.  What associations do these things have with you and your audience?  What can you use about them?

  • Homework: Two items

    • Keep writing your play and bring in a section (NO MORE THAN 5 PAGES).

    • Think about what 15 minute section you'd like to use for the reading.


CLASS #6 - 11/14/17

  • “On Submitting and Production”

    • The world of submitting to playwriting contests and festivals is a real mixed bag.  You might have terrific theaters that keep you in the loop, put you in contact with your director, fly you out to a festival, GASP!! pay you, and all those good things.  You might have people that treat your play as content, content they can use for a few evenings, they just need to credit you and put your bio in the program.  As in all worlds, some people in the theatre world are kinder than others.

    • I wanna take you through a quick step-by-step of how this works.  So here’s a handout, with this posting from the Playwrights Forum online.  I want to read it over with you to go through the important details you want to know before (and while) you submit.  Some of it might be important to you, some of it might not matter.

    • Using the following submission call:

      • “B3 Productions strives to showcase unpublished works by rising artists.”  So there’s Detail 1: the work you submit can’t be published.  

      • "Founded in 2017, B3 is helmet by Franc Gaxiola and Ilana Lydia; their goal is to bring unseen works to the black box stage at the SIC Sense Theatre with minimal production.  Detail 2: This is a new company, so if you wanted to do research on the kind of shows they produce, there won’t be much.  And Detail 3: Black box stage with minimal production.  If your work requires a good deal of sets and props, if it’s an expansive work, probably not for them.

      • “CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: B3, Bare Black Box Productions of Phoenix, Arizona, seeks scripts for their night of shorts in May 2018.”  Detail 4: There’s your location.  Not in driving distance from here, so any communication you’re going to have with the production team is going to be over email or phone. 

      • “These will be fully rehearsed shows.”  Detail 5: Not a reading, a full production, which is great. One that they are providing.  Make sure that the call for submissions is not a call for self-production, unless that’s something you want to do.  It’s probably not something you want to do.

      • “Performance dates are May 11, 12, 18, and 19.  The audience will vote on their favorite play each night, and the winning scriptwriter (I HATE THAT WORD) will receive $50.”  Detail 6: No pay unless you win.  You’re not going to be a local playwright bringing people to the show, so you won’t win.

      • “The subject matter is open, although preference will be given to experimental and progressive works.”  That’s Detail 7.  “There should be minimal set, prop, and costume requirements.”  We knew that already.

      • “Entries should be 5-15 pages, including the title and cast pages.”  Detail 8: So that means, no more than 13 pages long. 

      • “The number of slots we will be filling depends on the length of the top contenders, but roughly an hour and a half of theatre will be mounted.”  Not really a detail you need to know.  They’ll choose between 7 to 10 scripts, and they’ll get 300, minimum.  “One entry per playwright, please.”  Detail 9: Send two and you’re dq’ed.

      • “Previous productions are okay.”  Detail 10: That’s very nice of them.  Too many small theaters fetishize the world premiere.

      • “Please scrub your submission of your name and personal information.  Include that information in the body of your email, along with the title of the play.”  Detail 11: They want a blind submission.  Whenever I deem a play submittable, I save a pdf copy of it with my information on the title page, and one without.  Saves time.

      • “The format must be docx or pdf.”  Detail 12: Format of submission.  And to this I say: always submit in pdf.  Word documents can be easily edited, pdfs cannot.  Secure your work.

      • “There is no fee to enter this contest.” Detail 13: The most important detail.  DO NOT SUBMIT TO PLACES THAT ASK FOR YOUR MONEY*.  THEY WILL NOT ASK ACTORS TO PAY TO AUDITION. (With very rare exceptions, but 99% of the time, don't.)

      • "Submissions must be received no later than 11:59pm, November 15, 2017.”  Detail 13: There’s your deadline.

      • “Send submissions to  If you have any questions, you may also ask Ilana at this address.” Detail 14: Where to send it.

    • I chose this specific call because it is incredibly detailed, more than most, and it’s very obvious what to submit.  Should I send my 30 page one-act that has 40 characters and is a model of the well-made play?  Nope, no way, no how.  You may see a call for submissions and it doesn't have things like how long it should be, if previous productions are okay, if they have a problem with "foul language.”  If you’re not sure, shoot them an email and they’ll tell you.  It never hurts to ask.  Sometimes, and it’s not in this one, but sometimes a call for submissions will ask for a synopsis of the play, and usually give you a word limit or something like “one or two sentences.”  It’s not necessary to write a synopsis of your show as soon as your done with a draft, but it wouldn’t hurt.

    • Now let’s say your script gets chosen, not for this one, but for a festival that’s twenty minutes away from your home.  You absolutely have the right to ask to attend rehearsal.  That’s a weak right, I know, but a good director will let you in the room.  Auditions are a different story.  That’s the director’s prerogative.  I’ve never been asked to be in the room for auditions for something I didn’t also produce.  But you can ask to attend if you like.  All they can say is no.

    • So you’re in rehearsal with the director, what do you do?  Well, trick question, because you should have done something before this.  You should have talked to the director privately about your role in the room.  Here is my feeling, and you can do this or ignore me, but I’ve been both the playwright and the director in the room:

      • The director is in charge.  This is her play now.  You wrote it, but she’s running the production.  If you don't like something, wait until there’s a break, and then talk to the director about it.  Speak your mind, absolutely, but the director is in charge.  If actors know that you’re there giving contrary information, they will use that to get what they want.  And that’s almost never good.  
      • The director may ask you questions in front of the actors.  Feel free to speak up then.  She wants your input and is a much more collaborative director, which is great.
      • The actors might take you aside and ask you questions about the script.  Your response should be, “Let’s bring in the director on this conversation.”  Have the actor repeat the question, and give the director a chance to say her peace.  She might say, “We’ve discussed this, Ron, and I need you to cross at that point.”  Or she might say, “That’s a good question.  What do you think, playwright?”  Let the director lead.
      • If you are in great personality conflict with the director about the play, if he is not listening to you at all, if he is changing the meaning with his direction, if this is upsetting to you.  You talk to the producer.  That person might not do anything, but that’s the director’s boss, so that’s who gets an earful from you.
      • If, on the very rare occasion, the director is trying to change your text.  You say, “That’s not what I wrote,” and if they keep it up, you are now within your rights to pull the script.  It means no production, but you weren’t getting a production of your script anyway.
    • Then the show goes up, people tell you how great it is, they compliment you on something an actor thought of and you take credit for it, and they tell you that they thought a line was weird and you say that the actor blew it, even though it's just what you wrote.  From these productions, if you get a good director, stay in contact with that person. Have her read scripts in progress of yours.  Do the same with actors.  Theatre is a collaborative art form, so the more good collaborators you get, the better a writer you become.

  • Homework: Two items


    • Please also send me your synopses (even if you read in class), your character list (in the text of an email), and give me an idea of the pages you want to choose for the reading.


CLASS #7 - 11/28/17

  • “Choosing a sample”

    • Often, theaters, contests and festivals will ask you to send the whole script, but there are times when they just want a sample.  Samples can serve as good calling cards both for your play and for yourself as a playwright.  When you choose a sample, keep this in mind:

      • Make sure it's a contained scene with a beginning, middle, and end.  Cut if you must.  The scene/excerpt you provide need not perfectly match up to a scene in your script.

      • Self-contained doesn't need to mean it has a definitive ending.  Cliffhangers are a good way to get people interested in where your script goes from here.

      • Your sample should communicate either the idea of the play or the style of the play.  Or, ideally, both.  If you have a play with seven fantastical scenes and two realistic ones, choose a fantastical scene.  If you have a play that features sparkling dialogue, don't choose a scene that's mostly action.  Give the people reading it a good idea of what the rest of the play will be.

      • You don't have to start at the beginning.  You are allowed to include, with your sample scene, a few sentences of explanation.  But keep it to just a few sentences.

      • Your sample pages should showcase what makes this play special or what makes you special as a playwright  (Or, ideally, both).

    • You may also be asked to include a synopsis with your sample scene.  For this, or any other synopsis, don't give away the end.  Set it up but don't finish it off, in the hopes that they'll be interested enough to read your whole work.

  • Congrats on completing two playwriting classes!  Keep writing!!
  • Homework: 

    • GET YOUR PLAY READY FOR THE READING ON DECEMBER 9.  Bring copies of your excerpt for everyone who will be reading, including the person reading stage directions, and highlight on all scripts the stage directions you want read.  Send me your excerpt pages by email no later than 9pm on December 8th.  If you have any special casting requests, let me know.  Keep sending me pages for feedback (if you like).