For our February PlayLab 1, the participants shared the first drafts of their 10-minute plays based on the theme “THE MOON”. All I could think as we read through them was “WOW”. It has been so inspiring to see these women develop into playwrights–their plays were creative, fun, and interesting. It will be hard to choose amongst the submissions–I wish we could produce them all-but alas. We have only 10 slots for this particular festival.
Even though the participants had a great start to their plays, there were some notes that kept cropping up–these notes are fundamental for any playwright, beginner or experienced to follow:
1) Be sure to HEIGHTEN and EXPLORE the CONFLICT inherent within the scene. Remember, conflict is what drives drama, so having two characters agree on a point is not as exciting as having the conflict with the scene between the characters. That’s not to say that they
argue throughout the scene…but that they are in conflict with the situation or the other character.
For example–two sisters talk about the death of their mom and both agree that they miss her very much. Nice scene, could be loaded with humor to make it fun and interesting. BUT–how much more interesting would it be if one sister had an unresolved issue with her mom, and is
glad the old bat is gone? Or if she was going to tell it to her domineering older sister that she has always cowed down to? All of a sudden, the scene is more intense because of the conflict between the two sisters.
2) BE AWARE OF THE ACTION WITHIN YOUR SCENE. Remember, there should be events that led to action. Be sure to look for passivity with the characters–are they moving forward to the next action, or are you just writing to write?
For example–best friends meet up in a coffeehouse, and one confides that she’s leaving her husband. The passive way of continuing the scene would be to have the other friend just listen to the wife’s complaints like any good friend would. Truthful, but boring! What’s the next action? Will the wife decide to kill the husband? If yes,
then make sure that the trigger is there that leads to that action (the friend suggesting the murder, or the friend admitting an affair with the husband, etc).
3) What do the characters WANT?-again, this is about heightening the scene, to make it more intense and dramatic. Be sure that your characters are there in that scene for a reason. If needed, give them a secret that only they know about and write with that secret in
mind…if you’re in a tough spot this might sharpen the focus of the character.
For example–two people at a laundromat, one accuses the other of stealing her clothes. Fun, intense, action-filled, but what if you’re lost on the motivation of the thief? Give them a secret–they are the mother of the accuser and wanted a memento of her lost daughter…it doesn’t need to be said within the play but now you have motivation driving the thief to the action of stealing.
4) TODAY IS THE DAY–we use this phrase all the time, to emphasize that THIS is the days of all days that the characters chose to act, and the scene written is a result of that action.
For example–a scene with a married couple at dinner. Eh…so-so. A scene with a married couple at dinner and the husband tells the wife that he’s leaving her for his Starbucks barista–TODAY IS THE DAY! Insta-drama!
The thing is, you can be an excellent writer–but can you be an excellent playwright? Can you write dialogue that leads to action? Can you write dramatic conflict that actors can flesh out, without bogging it down with exposition?
As we continue our labs, the participants will be writing a one-act play that should be completed by the end of the program. I’m looking forward to reading what these ladies have to write!
Please feel free to reply with comments, etc…looking forward to updating you with more on PlayLab 1 in March!