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Saturday, March 26, 2011

How do you write a good 10-minute play, Part 2

go here to see part 1

NOTE: The three plays for this article were selected by Nancy McClernan based on recommendations by NYCPlaywrights members Bruce Barton, Alice Anne English, Michael Giorgio, and Diane Quinn. Thanks team.

Here are my guidelines for what works best in a ten-minute play.

  • Does the play pull me in right away?

  • There are only 10 minutes - the play has to pull you in right from the start.

  • Does the play surprise me?

  • If the play is about something I've heard a hundred times already, I'll be bored. Or if it unfolds in predictable ways, I will be bored.

  • Does the play make me laugh or well up? Or both?

  • Art must have an emotional impact.

  • Does the play have a dramatic struggle?

  • People sitting around bickering is not a dramatic struggle. So many people don't seem to understand that.

  • Does the play have vivid characters in compelling situations?

  • People sitting around bickering is not a compelling situation. Especially if the characters are called "man" and "woman." If the playwright can't be bothered to come up with a name for a character, it's usually a sign that the character is as generic as the label. This is especially true of a 10-minute play where you really don't have time for generic supporting characters.

  • Does the play show more than tell?

  • "Show, don't tell" has been said a million times and yet maybe about 20% of all the people who write plays - including lionized, famous playwrights - seem to get this.

  • Does the play blow my mind through sheer funky originality?

  • This is the Holy Grail of ten-minute plays. I've seen only a handful of ten-minute plays that have blown my mind. Here are three 10-minute plays that I believe work very well. Each play is available to download and read. Each play is copyrighted by its respective author and may not be printed or performed without the author's permission. (See the article page for links.)

    FORGET ME NOT by Myra Slotnick
    HOT APPLE PIE by Michael Jalbert

    These three plays are very different, but all balance dark subjects with humor: FORGET ME NOT covers serious subjects - old age, decay, bullying, suicide, leavened by sweetness and gentle humor; WE APPEAR TO HAVE COMPANY approaches catastrophic circumstances with absurdist humor; and HOT APPLE PIE is a darkly humorous look at violence and intolerance with a hopeful ending.

    FORGET ME NOT by Myra Slotnick

    In spite of its gentle humor, FORGET ME NOT has the most action of the three pieces under consideration. First the playwright sets the scene for actors and directors with a detail-filled opening stage directions:

    POPPY, an exuberant, yet mousy, 16 year old girl, with a flair for thrift-shop-chic, is, at once, listening to her IPOD and text-messaging on her cell phone as she swivels in her tall chair behind the counter...it is probable that a large wad of bubble gum is involved in the scenario. Enter IVY and ROSE, both in their 70's, respectfully; they are a spry pant-wearing duo. Ivy not so much guides Rose, as accompanies her in rather close fashion, from behind, as Rose is wearing quite conspicuous protective- sunglasses, yet is trying to manage on her own (thank you very much!). Poppy jumps up when she sees them.

    The opening dialog ensures that we know that Poppy is not only acquainted with the two women but has a playful affection for them.

    read the rest of the article here

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