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Write Your First Play

Over the many years writing my blog the stats report a recurring key phrase,  How  to write a play’, and I thought my readers might find it interesting to read about what inspired my play scripts. 

The short answer is:  A true story…. something that caught my attention that was someone else’s story.

The long answer:  My first play ‘Lost Child back in 1994 was based on a true story of a Dad dealing with his gay son.  Back then HIV and AIDS was a death sentence.  The father was homophobic and macho.  He rejected his son.  To make the story complete I added another set of parents that were  totally supportive of their gay son.  Sadly this story did not end well and the script was lost on my hard drive  ….someday, I may finish it.

Next came ‘Cook County Justice‘ based upon a fifteen minute segment offered on one of those TV magazines like 20/20. Bill Heirens had been incarcerated for over 40 years (even though his sentence included parole) for a murder I came to believe he didn’t commit.  This story took me on a six year journey; letters from Bill (inmate), support from his team trying to set him free and several productions of my play.

While visiting Bill in the Illinois state Prison for Men early one Sunday morning,  I sat in the reception area waiting to be WOW.play. cover4_20march2014‘processed’ through into the visiting room.  I was surrounded by women of all ages and their children.  Mothers, sisters, wives, daughters….as I sat there they figuratively took me by the nape of my neck and shouted….’you must write about us…tell our story!’   That was the birth of ‘Women Outside the Walls’ a full length play and later a novel.

 

 

book_shop_BillieScent of Magnolia A Tribute to Billie Holiday was conceived in 2001 when a very talented jazz singer/actress out of Chicago asked me if I would write her a one woman show as Billie Holiday. I used, as my inspiration, the early years of Billie’s career before she succumbed to alcohol and drugs. 

 

NEXT! A Hollywood Tale  was based on my own experiences as a young actor in Hollywood and all the story swapping we would do in the green room, waiting to ‘go on’.  There was nothing worse than going to a cattle call audition and in the midHollywood, actors, stage play, actors playing actorsdle of your monologue or reading have the casting director yell:  ‘Next!’  That was your cue line to exit right.   The razor sharp teeth of the machine known as Hollywood chew up aspiring actors and spit them into the gutter.

 

I grew up on my mother’s stories about growing up in the forests of Tumwater, Washington with her 13 siblings.  Back at the turn of the twentieth century life and its entertainments were simple.
Alaska, sisters, adventurers, gold rush,

‘The Guyer Girls’ is a cross between Little Women and I Remember Mama.  The first act is almost all based upon her stories.  The second act was my creation of what happened when the six sisters come back home fifteen years later. With this age of technology I didn’t want these stories to die with her or with me.

 

‘Sins of the Mother’ was also partly biographical.  Again stories told by my mother of her years in San Francisco (1920’s) as a bar owner, women’s basketball player, flapper, and mother.  She used to say,  “I’d work all day and dance all night!”  This full length play developed into a novel, ‘Wild Violets’.

There’s more but this is where I will stop. Every play plot has conflict. The trick is to solve it within two and a half hours.

This post is a re-run from 2014 but well worth the read. 
Want more? Click here for Part 2 

 

A Journal/Handbook to Start YOU writing! 275 blank pages for your work; each margin with an inspiring quote from a famous actor, writer, playwright, or poet.  Sections on ‘how to’ will get you started.

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Dust Off that Play and do Some Rewrites…

Don’t be shy about looking at something you wrote a few years ago and rewriting and revising it. Most reputable publishing platforms will allow you to change the interior files and upload a revised, improved edition. I reviewed this children’s play of mine and in doing so found some editing and new writing. 

It’s October, Halloween is right around the corner. So I hauled out a play script that I wrote in 2013. Wow!  Did it need work. So I edited, did some extensive rewrites, gave it a new, more contemporary cover and then re-published. 

Synopsis: A young family rents a deserted lighthouse so that their critically ill daughter can enjoy the sea breezes and beautiful countryside. Little do they know that, for centuries, the lighthouse has been the home and is in the ‘possession’ of four outrageous spirits.  
 
Ben, an eight year old boy, has no trouble whatsoever making friends with two of the spirits, Baubles and Chaos.  The story climaxes as Claire, ill with cancer, slowly fades toward death. Baubles and Chaos have no intention of letting that happen! 

Available now!

 
While this play has it’s serious moments, for the most part, it is a comedy and makes for great fun as the spirits romp around the stage. The adults can neither see nor hear Chaos and Baubles as they converse and play with the children and terrorize a ‘Man of the Cloth’! All in innocent fun, of course!  4f. 4m. 2 children

If you’re an aspiring playwright you might want to take a look at >>>>>>>>>>>>>

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Available now!

New Ten Minute Play ~~Climate Change

The  actual activists that are seated before Congress this very minute inspired this new play for the classroom. Mother Earth is dying and we have little time to correct the destructive path we, as a species, are on. Young people across the globe see, with a clear vision, what is at risk, while the ‘grownups’ dither and argue and get nothing done. 5f. 5m. 

My Planet, Your Planet, Our Planet is #35 in the series of ten minute plays for the classroom.  “G” rated and appropriate for middle school and high school. 

 

Available at all book stores and online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see the entire Collection

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Available now!

 

 

 

 

Monologues for Women

I woke up one morning and thought, “I’ve got some soliloquies tucked away that would make good monologues.  This book is unique because all the contemporary monologues are original.  Directors get bored and tired of the same old shoes like speeches from Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Barefoot in the Park, Streetcar Named Desire, Pygmalion, View from the Bridge and others. Make them sit up and listen when you use something they have never heard before!

And that brings me to the point that I want to share with my readers out there who are writers or want to be writers.  Previously I was talking about my digging out some old and new work and turning them into a book of monologues.  Never, never throw anything away.  Open up that dusty old box of your scribbles that you have hidden away on the top shelf of the closet.  You might be surprised what you find and how much you like it after a year, five years or ten.  “Note from a Watery Grave” which I scribbled down back in 2002?….turns out it was pretty good with some additional editing on my part.  The end result was a new book.  My motivation: as an actor, I know how hard it is to find that perfect monologue for an audition.  How difficult it is to get the director’s attention and keep it.

While compiling this book, I remembered how I would go to an audition and announce that my classical piece was going to be Anne from Richard III.  The director (or audition panel) would roll their eyes and yawn in my face.  The ‘Anne’ that they were thinking of was an old tired thing that’s been done to death, when Richard confronts Anne over the coffin.  My ‘Anne’ was a conversation that I pieced together into a soliloquy and I was certain that they had never seen.   I got the same reaction from the director every time;  they sat up and listened!  And afterwards, they laughed and told me they were expecting something else and how refreshing mine was.

A final note:  I have included not only some classics (so that your audition will show contrast in your acting ability)  but also some original monologues for the African-American actress.

Sampling from Monologues 4 Women:

MARY ELIZABETH

(The Waltz, comedic)

My first dance! My first grown-up dinner dance since I got my job in the typing pool. I haven’t been asked to dance yet…no surprise… but I don’t care. My dress is only second hand, my hair is dressed and my nails are clean. I’m just happy to be here, watching the couples twirl around the floor to the most wonderful band I’ve ever heard. Never mind it’s the first band I’ve ever heard in person.

Ooo, look at that tall handsome man walking towards me. He’s probably getting something to drink for his date.
My mother always told us girls to stand near the refreshment table so more gentlemen would notice us and ask one of us to dance. But it was always Violet that they asked; of us six girls, she’s the beauty in the family. Wait! He’s looking right at me….he caught me staring and day-dreaming. I looked down and stared at my shoes; maybe he will ignore my bad manners and continue on….oh no, he stopped! His shoes are standing right in front of me.

He speaks. ‘Excuse me, Miss Guyer?’ My chin resting on my chest I mumble, ‘yes’. He tells me his name is Arthur. Wouldn’t you know he was a namesake for a great king? He then asked, would I like to dance. I forced myself to look up, just a tiny peek before I declined. Looking into the most beautiful eyes…hazel I think it’s called, sometimes green, sometimes brown. I am lost. He’s holding out his hand and without speaking I put my hand in his and he led me to the dance floor.

The band had begun playing a waltz and Arthur smoothly led me into the dance. I guess we chat about small things. He asked where I worked in the company and then tells me he’s part of the law firm that my company retains. He tells me about his mother and four siblings. Suddenly he asked me if I intended to look at him at all before the dance was over. I realized I had been staring at his crisp white shirted chest the entire time. My eyes snap up to his face to find he was smiling…..

To purchase: click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs, September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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NEW Journal…How To Write a Play

My newest Journal created for aspiring and established PLAYWRIGHTS has just been published and can be found in your favorite bookstore. 

245+ lined, blank pages for your writing PLUS Sections with instructions on ‘how to‘. 

Section 1……How to Begin… 
Section 2……How to Write a Play… 
Section 3……Creating Rich Characters…
Section 4……Story Telling 
Section 5…… How to Block… 
Section 6…… Snappy Dialogue… 
Section 7…… Set Design… 
Section 8…… Formatting your Play… 
Section 9…… Terminology..

To Purchase 

Other custom journals for your journaling pleasure: 

 

 

 

 

How to Create a Tantalizing Book Cover 

 

What Other Writers are Saying…

TS. I am currently developing a new journal for creative writers who are or want to be writing plays. If my fans and readers are familiar with my journals, it is traditional for me to embed quotes from other writers, authors, actors, directors, etc., into the blank pages of the journal. These are meant to inspire the owner of the journal with their own story writing.

Louis L’Amour

So I am always looking for new quotes as I hand pick every one when considering them for my journals. Here are what other writers have said about the joys (and heartbreak) of being a writer.

 

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Ernest Hemingway 

Mary Y-Arr

“What would you write if you weren’t afraid?” Mary Y-Arr

 

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult

“The desire to write grows with writing.” Desiderius Erasmus

“I must write it all out at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“As a writer you try to listen to what others aren’t saying…and write about the silence.” N.R. Hart 

MJ Bush

“Step into a scene and let it drip from your fingertips.” MJ Bush 

“We write to taste life twice. In the moment and in retrospect.” Anais Nin

Anais Nin

“I think new writers are too worried that it has all been said before. Sure it has but not by you.” Asha Dornfest 

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” Stephen King

Stephen King

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.” Holley Gerth

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August: My interview with Susan Wiggs and in September: Alan Dean Foster (sci-fi)
 
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New 10 Minute Play, ‘Parkland Requiem’

Requiem: an act or token of remembrance…

Mass shootings are a part of our current culture. Not until now did I have something to say (write) about the mass murders that plague our nation. One day after the horrendous mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal building did I begin writing. 

Synopsis:

This ten minute play for teens (in the classroom) is to honor and memorialize the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. It focuses on a small class of students hidden away in safety by their English teacher and what happens while they wait for the shooting to stop. But the question begs will they ever be safe again?

The murdered victims:

My character, Mr. Hale is fashioned after Scott Beigel, 35, a geography teacher and the school’s cross-country coach. He was killed after he unlocked a door to allow students in to hide from the shooter,

Alyssa Alhadeff
Aaron Feis
Martin Duque Anguiano
Nicholas Dworet
Jamie Guttenberg
Chris Hixon
Luke Hoyer
Cara Loughran
Gina Montalto
Joaquin Oliver
Alaina Petty
Meadow Pollack
Helena Ramsay
Carmen Schentrup
Peter Wang

Want to see more one act plays? Click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   April: Poet, Joe Albanese, May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde
 
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New Short Play: Drop the Phone

Newest in the collection of ten minute plays for teens and the classroom. 

                        What would happen if you put down your phone for a half an hour and had a real conversation with another human being? Now lets mix it up further; sit down and talk to someone in your class who you don’t really know that well or at all. Are they who you thought they were? Were they surprised about who you are? This one act play, styled for the classroom (no sets, no costumes, no props), has a group of teens who do not tweet, email, Facetime or chat on their mobile devices for one half hour. They must TALK to each other, face to (real) face.  What did you learn about the person? What did you learn about yourself? 

5f. 4m.

To Purchase

Click here to see all 40 short plays

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Film Maker, Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Best Seller

 

Jackpot!! My Children’s Play Produced in Ontario, Canada

Euphoria!!  My full length children’s play, The Exciting Exploits of an Effervescent Elf is being produced in Ontario, Canada! 

In this stand alone sequel to “Emma and the Lost Unicorn”, Emma is held captive in Patsy, the Banana Spider’s web.  No one can see her except the irrepressible elf, Cheets.  Everyone in the forest has been searching for Emma to no avail and given his reputation, no one believes Cheets when he claims to have found her. Cheets can see Emma but not hear her through Patsy’s web.  Emma must “act out” vital news concerning the enchanted forest.   Hazard, the Lord of the Underworld is selling the forest to developers.  Emma must not stand in his way!    This fable tells of greed, ecology, friendship, enduring love and justice. 

Most of the characters from “Emma and the Lost Unicorn” [Published by Samuel French] return to this new fable.  New characters include: Thomas, the sea turtle, pedantic but loveable.  Laughter erupts when the audience realizes that he speaks only in nautical expressions and sayings.  Patsy, the spider represents greed.  Rose, Emma’s mother emphasizes maternal devotion and the ability to believe when the magical creatures of the forest reveal themselves to her.  Hazard, Lord of the Underworld reunites with a lost love.  Roles for every child who auditions! fairy tales, children's plays, scripts for kids,riddles for children,unicorns

Returning characters:        
Emma, the earthling girl
                                                Cheets, the elf
                                               Stare, the rhetorical owl
                                                Donald, Emma’s faerie best friend
                                               Cleo, Queen of the Faeries
                                               Handmaidens of the Queen
                                               Assorted faeries and woodland creatures

New characters:                  Patsy, the spider
                                    Hazard, Lord of the underworld
                                    Thomas, the sea faring turtle
 Rose, Emma’s mother

To Purchase                                   

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Join My Blog for the Latest in Books, Writing Tips….

It’s easy. Use this link  http://www.writeratplay.com/ to sign up for my See the box on the right hand side? 

You’ll receive (in an email) weekly posts with the latest book reviews, tips about creative writing, and once a month an in-depth Interview with a best selling author or a new, upcoming writer.  Generous folks, famous and not so much (yet) have given of their time to answer my probing questions about their writing process. Fun and interesting candid photos, of the author, are sprinkled throughout the interview. 

Sometimes a post about something I thought was interesting…..But, ALWAYS to do with books, authors, writing, words, and live theatre.

My best selling post (over the past six years) has been my free tips about ‘How To Write a Play’. Thousands of people have Googled this phrase and come to my website to begin to learn this craft.

When I’m not busy with my blog, I am writing….every day. I practice what I preach! 
Short plays for the classroom, general fiction, children’s plays and fairy tales,  poetry and a true crime mystery series. Diversity is the
spice of life!  
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz. March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese

 

To Purchase