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Transcript of Playwriting
If you want to change something by Tuesday, theatre is no good. Journalism is what does that. But, if you want to just alter the chemistry of the moral matrix, then theatre has a longer half-life.
- Character names
- Stage directions
- Location in play (page and scene numbers)
The following is from a memo from David Mamet to the writers of The Unit.
Question: What is drama? Drama, again, is the quest of the hero to overcome those things which prevent him from achieving a specific, acute goal.
We, the writers, must ask ourselves of every scene these three questions.
1) Who wants what?
2) What happens if her don’t get it?
3) Why now?
The answers to these questions are litmus paper. Apply them, and their answer will tell you if the scene is dramatic or not.
If the scene is not dramatically written, it will not be dramatically acted.
There is no magic fairy dust which will make a boring, useless, redundant, or merely informative scene after it leaves your typewriter. You the writers, are in charge of making sure every scene is dramatic.
This means all the “little” expositional scenes of two people talking about a third. This bushwah (and we all tend to write it on the first draft) is less than useless, should it finally, god forbid, get filmed. If the scene bores you when you read it, rest assured it will bore the actors, and will, then, bore the audience, and we’re all going to be back in the breadline.
Someone has to make the scene dramatic. It is not the actors job (the actors job is to be truthful). It is not the directors job.
Prompt 1: The day everything changed
Prompt 2: My biggest regret
Get into the scene early; get out of the scene early.
- Conversations, situations and characters we observe in our lives
- Ghosts (those questions that haunt you personally)
- News items
- Social justice issues
- An image or sound
Essentially, the playwright poses a question. The play answers that question.
Watch the following video from National Theatre in the UK.
1. Why do you think some of the dialogue is shown in pull quotes?
2. Which points resonated most with you?
- Fulfills a function: advance plot, reveal character (it has subtext, motive)
- Each character has a distinct voice (rhythms, register, code switching)
- Possesses depth & dimension (avoids caricature)
- Shows what people don’t say
- Is stylised (avoids pitfalls of long winded-ness, repetition, utterances)
- Doesn’t load with information (soap opera style)
by Ins Choi
Appa – Kim’s Convenience owner and father to Janet
Janet – adult daughter of Appa
Alex – police officer
1. What’s the relationship between characters?
2. Who holds the power in this scene?
3. Does the power shift?
Post reading questions:
What are they really saying?
Prompt A: At dinner. Character B is certain his or her spouse, character A, is having an affair. Character A is in fact planning a party for character B.
Prompt B: In a classroom, end of class. Character A says to character B, “We have to talk right now.”
Now let’s share
I believe the way to write a good play is to convince yourself it is easy to do--then go ahead and do it with ease. Don't maul, don't suffer, don't groan till the first draft is finished. A play is a phoenix and it dies a thousand deaths. Usually at night. In the morning it springs up again from its ashes and crows like a happy rooster. It is never as bad as you think, it is never as good. It is somewhere in between, and success or failure depends on which end of your emotional gamut concerning its value it approaches more closely. But it is much more likely to be good if you think it is wonderful while you are writing the first draft. An artist must believe in himself. Your belief is contagious. Others may say he is vain, but they are affected.
What makes for compelling playwriting?
Tom Stoppard, playwright
Where else do ideas come from?
Playwrights talk about dialogue
Let’s look at some sample dialogue:
Now, let’s write:
A final word :
diving right in...
What does a play script look like?