Friday, January 14, 2011

the short play report

Well since I last blogged about the submissions for the NYCPlaywrights 10-minute play challenge I've gotten a higher proportion of 10-minute plays from women writers, so that's good. The down side is that very few of the plays seem very good at all. I will have to read them more carefully, but a quick glance at most of them gives me a bad feeling.

I very specifically said what I wanted to see for submissions:

  • 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.

But few of the plays pulled me in right away, or surprised me, or had much emotional impact. But the most common problem by far was no dramatic struggle. I guess I needed to be more specific - I only mentioned that people sitting around bickering is not compelling. So I didn't get alot of plays of bickering. Instead I got alot where they are just HAVING A CONVERSATION.

And then there are the plays, usually written by male playwrights, that use what I call the Zoo Story Template. Here's how that goes:

talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk SUDDEN VIOLENCE!!! the end.

I think Edward Albee is hugely over-rated. I think his most famous, produced piece WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLF is incredibly boring and silly. And so is ZOO STORY. I wrote a 10-minute parody of it, called POOH STORY. Here is a clip from my 2009 STRESS AND THE CITY production. That's Bruce Barton, Nick Fondulis and of course, Winnie the Pooh.

Did I ever mention the time I got a tour of Edward Albee's place?

JULIA & BUDDY reading today! I will be videotaping and posting excerpts here.