The Play’s the Thing

Last night I finished up the first draft of my first for length stage play script. (I’m calling it All Five for now.) This was a major writing goal for me in 2014.

Being an actor myself, I know the importance of a good script. This doesn’t make me an automatic great playwright, but I know from where I speak when it comes to good scripts vs bad in the theatre. Good actors will do their best to give life to any script, nut if the characters are flat and the dialogue forgettable, a play is in trouble. (Unless it’s a jukebox musical with a multi-million dollar budget. Even that is no guarantee.) So from the start of this project, I’ve considered my experience as an actor when writing the scenes and lines.

It’s a first draft, and like that of a novel, it has many flaws which will be corrected during revisions. But the importance of three-dimensional characters that reveal themselves through memorable lines informed this project from the very first word. A script is more than well-drawn characters saying pretty things,  but the more actors enjoy playing the parts and saying the lines, the better the production will be for the audience, trust me.

This particular script is not action packed. It’s character-driven to be sure. But those characters, if I have done my job, are solid, realistic and memorable. Each of them wants something, and they converse pursuant to those desires. This to me has always been enough for great theatre and great fiction in particular.

Writing a play is in most cases all character. Unless you’re a legend, as a playwright you don’t have the luxury of describing settings in poetic detail. Broad strokes. Simple prose. Suggestions. The same with action. Short, to the point, and without sentiment. And of course goals of characters are revealed most often through what they say, no internal exploration or point of view being practical in a play script. While I enjoy writing stories and novels, it’s nice to get away from all of that sometimes and concentrate almost totally on what everyone is saying. (Without the need for constant dialogue tags of “he said, she said” and such.)

Then again, writing in such a character-driven medium, (which theatre is, even when the play is more action-oriented) can be helpful for writing novels and short stories. Vice-versa is certainly true. It’s all about people, in the end for me. Creating people that want and experience things in a way that moves the imagination of readers or viewers.


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