Play size and shape

24 Jul

I was reminded, in conversation with director Dominic D’Andrea recently, that my most recent full length play started life as a one-minute play. (Dominic runs the one-minute play festival that’s gone viral nationally). Sometimes you don’t know the size of something til it emerges–as the mothers among us can ruefully attest! Anyway, I wrote several one-minute plays at Dominic’s request, thinking something like “Humph. How can a real play actually be only a minute long?” and to my surprise, discovered that it can–as a raindrop refracts an entire world in the surface tension that forms its curve.

Of the three plays I wrote, one was a sketch–a simple throw-away reversal/ recognition in a minute: Aristotle 101. Another was a play–it had some extra size held in place by a taut surface–a little mystery; an echo that lingered after The End. And the third, which later became Can’t Complain (full-length) also had a reversal and a story in its one minute, but it was the characters that stamped themselves on my mind like postcards longing to travel the world. They exceeded the size of the play they were in. I could see them very clearly through their tiny page-sized frame, and became curious–obsessed–with the tensions entwining and binding them together. I had that giddy feeling of knowing them very well, and not knowing them yet at all. I wanted them to talk to me, to let me watch, to get under their skin.

And a week of silence later that summer (thanks to Erik Ehn and his Pataphysics) silent writing retreat–they had their own full-length play.

Not bad for a “Humph, I’ll give it a go” moment with a yellow pad. As Erik Ehn says: “You don’t have to know your play in order to write it. You do, however, have to write your play in order to know it.”

Or as I say to myself from time to time: “Shut up and write.”

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