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How to Write A Stage Play: Exercise

In this exercise, featured in my Journal, “How To Write a Play’, I have started a play for you to continue writing. It can be a 10
minute play, a full one act play, or a full length play. I have left the story plot ‘threads’ dangling in order for you to choose where the plot goes.
Tip: If you choose to write a longer play you might want to consider writing something in front of these few lines to get more ‘back story’.
Remember the best plays begin, early on, with some tension. 

 

                                                                    Scene 1  ©

At Rise: A hallway in a high school.

              (JASON and ROBIN stand next to some lockers away from the flow of students
              hurrying to their classes.)

                                                                    ROBIN (Hissing.)

You better not hurt my friend.

                                                                     JASON

What are you talking about?

                                                                ROBIN

I know your rep….luv ‘em and leave ‘em.

                                                                JASON

Naw. Not me.

                                                                ROBIN

Yes, you. Just be careful.  Do not start dating Sara, coming on strong like she’s the only girl in the world. Then dumping her.

                                                                JASON

I wouldn’t.

                                                                ROBIN

You would. I’m just sayin’, if you plan on doing something like that, you’ll have to go through me to get to Sara.  

                                                                JASON  (Smirked.)

What if I’m planning on going through Sara to get to you?

                                                                ROBIN

What? You’re crazy.

                                                                JASON

That doesn’t answer my question.

                                                                ROBIN

You don’t even like me. 

(Now try continue writing this play. Make your own choices about where it goes and who does what.)
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A Slice of Time….How to Write a Ten Minute Play

I always see the script (for a 10 minute play) as a slice of time. ‘I Can’t Breathe’ was a slice of time before the event that prompted me writing the play. ‘Parkland Requiem’ was during  the event, that is the massacre that happened at Parkland’s high school. We all know what happened immediately after the shooting and not much before the shooting other than it was a normal day of  families getting ready for the day and hopeful young people hurrying off to school. 

For me, the writer, it’s like walking into a room where people are having a conversation (without you) and you are plunged into the story from there.

None of the rules of writing change when writing a ten minute play, just because it’s short. You must still have a beginning, an arc, and an ending(of sorts). You have to introduce the characters through dialogue quickly and concisely. You must attract the empathy of the audience with record speed. Remember, you only have ten minutes.

How do I know when I have ten minutes? Here’s some tips: The typical rule is a page equals one minute.  If a page is heavy with blocking, (movement) it will usually go longer than a minute. If you have a page that is solid with dialogue and movement you can rely on the 1 page = 1 minute. And leave lots of white space; an actor will need some space to write in blocking, from the director, and notes while in rehearsal. 
 

Check out my many “Motivational Moments for Writers” in past posts. 
Want to try your hand at writing a ten minute play? This journal is a great place to start. 
Want to see more of my ten minute plays? Click here 

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New Short Play, I Can’t Breathe, for Teens

AVAILABLE NOW! 
I Can’t Breathe  ©

I have just completed writing a new, ten minute play for the classroom and teens about the protests in our streets and the murder of George Floyd. 

Synopsis: Jorge, a young black man is asked to teach a social studies class by his teacher. What it’s like to live the black experience. Only to become a victim, himself, later that same day. Driving home from school he is stopped by cops for a traffic infraction. It quickly turns deadly.

Sample:

At Rise: The interior of a car.

            (JORGE is driving HIS small SUV down a   neighborhood street, at a reasonable speed. Blue lights         erupt in HIS rearview mirror.)

 

                                                    JORGE

Oh crap. (He talks to himself.) I wasn’t speeding….was I?

            (JORGE pulls over and watches in HIS side  mirror as a white COP walks from HIS squad car towards JORGE’s car. JORGE starts  reciting everything his mom told him to do in case HE’s  pulled over.)  

                                                                                                                                                           JORGE

Be polite. ‘Yes, sir’, ‘No, sir’. Don’t argue, don’t resist. Be polite whatever happens.

 

            (The COP arrives at the driver’s side window. HE taps on the closed window.)

 

                                                                                                                                                      JORGE   (Rolling down the window.)

Good afternoon, Officer.

 

                                                                                                                                                       COP

Reason why you didn’t stop when I lit you up?

 

                                                                                                                                                  JORGE

I did….sorry, sir. No reason, sir.

 

                                                                                                                                                    COP
License, registration, proof of insurance. Who’s the vehicle belong to?

 

                                                                          JORGE
                             (Scrambling to get the documents out of the glove box.) 

My mom, sir.

                                                                                                                                                   COP

What are ya?⸺a wise ass⸺with all the ‘sirs’?

 

                                                                                                                                                 JORGE

No, s….no, officer. I’m not.

                                                                                                                                                    COP
                                                                                                                   (Grabbing the door handle. It is locked.) 

Step outta the car.

                                                          JORGE
                       (Getting scared. Forgetting everything HIS mom ever told HIM.)

Why?

                                                                                                                                                  COP

Unlock the door and step out…NOW!
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How To Write a Play~~Plot, Pro/Antagonist, Conflict

Whether you are a reader or a writer you love a little conflict and a few antagonists in any plot. So to the writers of stage plays.

It is a challenge to write conflict with dialogue only. There is no description (like fiction) where you can tell the reader how angry and against something your antagonist is. Granted you have the characters right there to tell the story with their body language but….

I am going to use examples from my most recent play. A children’s play but the rules still apply and are not less challenging because it’s a kids’ play. 

Sub-PLOT:  The sooner the plot is revealed the better. If you haven’t engaged the audience in the first three minutes, you don’t have a very good plot. In Emma and the Aardvarks the plot begins on the first page of script. Two Aardvarks, sisters, tumble out of a Time Portal and into the fabled forest. In minutes the occupants of the forest discover them and the audience discovers the protagonists and antagonists. 

Example: (Plot)

                                                         AGNES  ©
(Gazing up into the trees, HER nose switching as fast as possible.)

I think we’re lost, dear sister. This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.

            ANNIE
(Frowning.)

Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid.

                                                            STARE (Owl)

Whooo?

                                                            ANNIE
                                                (ANNIE runs over to AGNES.)

Ekk. What was that?                                                       
                                                            STARE

Who?

                                                            AGNES

What?                                                           

                                                            ANNIE

That.
                                                            AGNES

Not certain. But keep a look out anyway.

                                                           ANNIE

I don’t like this place, Agnes.

                                                            AGNES

You’re such a scaredy-cat, Annie. It’s a simple forest, much like the jungles of home.

                        (DONALD, a fairie, enters.)

                                                            DONALD

                         Don’t go. I mean you no harm.

(With the dialogue, we’ve told the audience that the two sisters are in the forest by accident. That their destination had been Australia. They meet their first friend (protagonist). 

ANTAGONISTS: We’ll return to the plot later but let’s go on…Enter the first antagonist. This character is very selfish and immediately is suspicious of the two newcomers.

Example: (Antagonist)

                                                                  PATSY (Banana Spider)
                                                (Knitting her web very fast.)

Eye–eee! Por favor, who are these ugly newcomers? Dios mío, ¿se comerán mis insectos? The bugs are for me and me alone!

                                                            DONALD

Patsy, where are your manners? Everyone is welcome in the fabled forest, as long as they come in peace.

                                                            PATSY

Dios mio, how do we know they come in peace, pequeño? Se ven como bandidos!

Another Protagonist enters:

                                                             EMMA

Please join us. (Turning to Donald.)  Donald introduce us immediately.

                                                            DONALD

Miss Agnes, Miss Annie, this is my friend, Emma.

                                                            EMMA

Oh! You are so cute. It’s nice to meet new friends.  And such pretty hats. May I? (EMMA reached up and adjusted the frothy thing atop AGNES’ head that had been knocked askew in the mad dash into the forest.) You’re the shy young lady, aren’t you? May I adjust your hat, Miss Annie? There! All fixed. May I ask? What species are you?

PLOT: After a few main characters are established, we  return to the main Plot, (all told through dialogue) which is about global warming and endangered species. 

Example (Plot):  

                                                             EMMA 

Miss Agnes, why were you going to Australia?

                                                            AGNES

Back home, in Africa, we are losing our habitat to humans, farms, and roads.

                                                            ANNIE

It’s terrible. There aren’t very many of us aardvarks left, you know.

                                                            CHEETS

What does that mean? ‘Not many of you left’?

                                                            AGNES

We’re being killed off.

                                                            EMMA 

Oh no! But you’re so cute. And if you’re insectivores, you help keep the natural world balanced.

                                                            AGNES

One would think so. (Beat.) So when our habitat goes, we go. We are threatened.

                                                            DONALD

We must do something!

ANTAGONIST & Protagonists:  The Plot thickens when you have more than one antagonist. And when you can, more than one protagonist.

Example (Antagonist and Protagonists.): 

                                                           CHEETS

I don’t like them. Nope. Don’t like the look of them and they smell funny.

                                                            STARE

Who?

                                                            CHEETS

Those two⸺whad-ya-call-ems.

                                                           EMMA

Aardvarks.

                                                            CHEETS

Yeah⸺them.

                                                            EMMA

Cheets, that’s unkind. You know nothing of Annie and Agnes. They seem perfectly fine to me. In fact, I think they’re cute.

                                                            STARE
                                                           
Who?

                                                            THOMAS

Quiet, Stare. Those two ladies are my friends from the Dark Continent.  As for you, you⸺you scurvy young scallywag you keep yer opinions to yerself.

                                                            CHEETS

But what if they eat someone we know?

                                                            EMMA

Cheets, that’s silly. Do you know any ants? Beetles? Termites on a personal basis?

                                                            CHEETS

Noooo⸺but I might meet some.

                                                              EMMA

Yes, Cheets, you’re judging these newcomers and deciding you don’t like them based on⸺what? Nothing.

                                                            THOMAS

They’ve had a rough go. The place they lived is no more. The picaroons have burned it, then planted it. Some of their family and friends have been killed.

                                                             CHEETS

Don’t care. Still don’t like ‘em. Who ever heard of aardvarks, anyway?

CONFLICT: 5 Ways to Create Conflict in Your Story:
Give your characters clear goals.
Go big, go small. 
Let your characters fail. 
4. Make your characters opinionated. 
Use exposition to your advantage.

The Time Portal is malfunctioning. Some of the occupants of the forest are welcoming, some are suspicious and angry. 

Example:                                           EMMA

He’s very excitable, Miss Agnes. Are you really from Africa?

                                                            ANNIE
                                    (Cuddling close to EMMA’s side.)

Yes, Miss Emma, we were going on vacation and then this⸺happened.

                                                            EMMA

Oh, dear, I’m sorry.

                                                            AGNES

Yes, our travel agent, Time Portal for All Your Vacation Needs, was supposed to send us to Australia. We have distant relatives there. Something must have gone wrong. Someone at the agency pushed the wrong button.

                                                            ANNIE

Where are we, exactly?

                                                            CHEETS
                                    (Poking HIS head out of the bushes.)

You’re in the Fabled Forest. Don’t you know anything?                                                           

                                                            AGNES 

Who raised you? Dogs?  (Beat.) No, not dogs, they are strict with their children. Hyenas, perhaps? Yes, hyenas, our arch enemies. 

More CONFLICT: 
Example: 

                                                          EMMA
                                                    (Steps forward.)

Welcome to our forest. I am Emma and these are my friends. Where did you come from?

                                                            STARE

Who?                                      

                                                            AGNES
                                                         (Sneering.)

Emma, you don’t want to be friends with them. After all they’re just dogs.

Resolution of CONFLICT: The royal engineer enters. Sent to repair the Time Portal so the Aardvarks can be on their way.

 Example:     

                                                                CHEETS
                                                (Jumping up and down.)

The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!

                                                            FERGUS
                                                     (Looking around.)

No. I don’t think so. It’s just me and my toolbox.

                                                            EMMA

Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?

                                                            FERGUS

It’s just Fergus, Miss. Or in more formal settings, Sir Fergus.

                                                            DONALD

And you’re here because⸺?

                                                            FERGUS

To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?

                                                            DONALD

Our portal?                                                     

                                                            CHEETS
                                                     (Whispers in awe.)

We have a portal?                                                           

                                                            EMMA

And the Queen knew ours is broken?

                                                            CHEETS

What’s a portal?                                                         

                                                            FERGUS

Yes. Yes. Indubitably. If you’ll just show me the way, I’ll begin my work.

                                                            EMMA
I’m afraid we have no idea where it might be in the forest. Until the sisters arrived we didn’t know anything about a portal. They arrived from Africa.

More CONFLICT: More animals arrive through the Portal. This results in more conflict.

Example: 

                                                             EMMA
                                                    (Steps forward.)

Welcome to our forest. I am Emma and these are my friends. Where did you come from?

                                                            STARE

Who?                                      

                                                            AGNES

Emma, you don’t want to be friends with them. After all they’re just dogs.

                                                              FERGUS

Blimey. Someone’s coming.

                                    (Out of the entrance to the Portal tumble dog-like CREATURES. The five PUPPIES yip and howl as they tumble to the                                          forest floor.)

                                                            MIC
                                                        (Howling.)

Moommmyy! What’s happening?                                                           

                                                            SERENGETI
                                                            (Howling louder.)

Moommmyy! I’m a-scarrr-eeddd.

                                                            STARE
                                                (Trying to join the howling.)

Whooooooooooooo?

                                    (Two adult DOGS enter from the Portal mouth.)

                                                            MRS. MOSEYALONG
                   Tentatively wagging HER tail.)

It’s all right, children. We’re safe.

                                                            JAX

Stop being such a baby, Serengeti.

                                                            SERENGETI
              (Cowering near HER mother’s legs.)

I’m not.
                                                            JAX

Are too.

                                                           MR. MOSEYALONG

Quiet now, children.                                                           

                                                            SERENGETI

Yes, Papa.

                                                            MIC

Where are we, Papa?

                                                   MR. MOSEYALONG

I’m not certain just yet⸺but I intend to find out!  Yip, Yip, yowwww.

                                                   MRS. MOSEYALONG                                

Goodness, who might you all be?

                                                            ROGER
                                                            (Whining.)

Mama, who are they? Will they hurt us?                                               

                                                            ZEKE
                                                (Yipping and howling.)

I want to go home.

                                                            CHEETS
                                                (Pointing at the dogs.)

Look! Our forest is turning into a jungle of expired animals!

Remember, dialog is simply conversation between your characters. In your story, imagine what your characters would say to each other in a conversation. The more conflict you create in your story, the richer the story will be. Be aware of ‘loose ends’ when you solve the conflict.
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A NEW Children’s Play~~Book Give-a-Way

              CLIMATE CHANGE. ENDANGERED SPECIES have all come to the Fabled forest. In this sixth script in the series, Emma, Donald, Thomas, Cheets and Stare all return (to the story) to meet their visitors and try to help them. 

~~THE FIRST THREE DIRECTORS/TEACHERS THAT CONTACT ME WILL RECEIVE A FREE COPY OF THE NEW SCRIPT. 

Synopsis: 

This is a fable about climate change and endangered creatures. Two sisters Aardvarks arrive in the Fabled Forest by accident. Their travel agent, Time Portals to Your Next Adventure, malfunctions and instead of Australia, they are plopped down in Cheets’ clearing in the forest. Here they meet Donald, the fairie, Cheets, the elf, Emma, the farm-girl and all the creatures that inhabit the fabled, mystical forest. Agnes and Annie are so ugly they’re cute. With their jaunty hats atop their weird heads, with their rabbit-like ears and short elephant type snouts, Emma and Donald are entranced. They set about helping the two aardvarks to complete their trip to Australia while helping other endangered species.

The Aardvarks and the Painted Wild Dogs are endangered species and it is a dangerous lifestyle. In this fable children learn more about climate change wiping out habitat and about other endangered species and how we humans can protect them.

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Emma ~~ A young earthling girl
Stare ~~ A rhetorical owl
Donald ~~ A young fairie

Cheets ~~ a rambunctious elf
Patsy ~~ A large banana spider
Agnes & Annie ~~ the sister Aardvarks

Thomas ~~ the sea-faring sea turtle
Bertie, the bookworm ~~ the resident reading teacher

Fergus ~~ The royal engineer

Mr. Moseyalong ~~ Papa of the Painted Dogs
Mrs. Moseyalong ~~ Mama
Mic, Jax, Roger, Zeke and Serengeti ~~ the Puppies

No child need be turned away, there can be non-speaking roles as forest creatures and fairies.

TS. “We created a book cover representing the future time when our planet dies and everything is black and white. With a spot of color called hope.”
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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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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…..

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