Prompt for 10-Minute Play
Length: 7-10 pages
Write the play about something relevant to our society today. It can be for example mob or gangster related, or a love story
, a family struggle. Nothing back in the past history.
The play needs to written with stage light stage directions, as in where to enter, when lights cut on and off, or a character laughing or a facial expression that really stands out.
In a moment of comic relief from the melancholic brooding in Hamlet, the Danish prince offers sage advice to the actors performing in the play-within-a-play encompassed by Shakespeare?s tragedy. Though directed at a roving band of thespians, the Bard?s instructions serve as a suitable manual for playwrights:
Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o?erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so o?erdone
is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ?twere, the mirror up to nature. (3.2.17-22)
Hamlet's advice to the players emphasizes the importance of finding appropriate language to convey action while avoiding excess and exaggeration in the portrayal of characters. The purpose of acting, he asserts, is to serve as a mirror image of Nature, with special emphasis on human nature. The same can be said for the objective of the playwright: to emulate human nature through the dilemmas and conflicts dramatized in live performance.
Drama can be defined as a work written to be performed on stage that represents individuals engaged in action that involves a change of fortune and reveals human nature in the process. Furthermore, drama has the capacity to expose and criticize social and political movement/institutions with perhaps more immediacy and impact than the novel, short story
, or poem. Unlike reading a novel, short story
or a poem, where the reader is free to imagine the scene and interpret the text from a subjective standpoint, watching a play is a much more immersive experience that involves the spectator in witnessing the characters? responses to situations that may lead to a felicitous fate or a tragic calamity.
Write a 10-minute play in which you attempt to "hold the mirror up to nature" through the use of compelling dialogue and character development, keeping in mind the essential role of the audience as a participant in the ritual of drama. As guidelines for revision, use the checklists on structure (265-266); characters (271); dialogue (279-280); theme (284); and production elements (293-294).
An effective 10-minute play meets the following criteria:
? highlights unity of action and conflict through the interplay between characters
? presents a beginning that establishes the goals of the protagonist(s), develops the
conflict through a series of complications and obstacles, building to a climax, and an ending that involves resolution of the conflict
allows the conflict to emerge naturally from the situation instead of relying on contrived plot twists (avoid a deus ex machina ending)
? creates believable, authentic-sounding dialogue that reveals character and/or advances the action
? avoids dry and elaborate exposition (having characters explain prior events in the back story
of the play) instead of allowing the background to be revealed naturally through references in the dialogue
? develops well-defined central characters, including a protagonist with clearly defined goals and an antagonist who tries to thwart them (whether that antagonist is internal or external (including other people and social/cultural/political forces)
? establishes a theme that is revealed naturally from the interaction of characters and the central conflict
? provides a strong sense of time and place through creation of scenes
? incorporates basic elements of production (stage directions, lighting, sounds, props, and
costumes) to enhance the experience of the play
The following steps are designed to assist you in developing your 10-minute play. We will be doing some exercises in class and/or as part of your homework assignments. Please keep all your work so you can refer back to it and turn it in along with your final paper.
1. Practice crafting dialogue based on eavesdropping on people around you. Learn to emulate the patterns that are distinctive to speech.
2. Do some initial brainstorming to develop ideas for your play using the ?Kick-Start? exercises on pages 295-296 of Creative Writing.
3. Create a profile of your characters, especially the protagonist and antagonist. Figure out names, goals, character traits, physical appearance, occupations, clothing style, and lifestyles.
4. Decide on the essential plot of your play, highlighting how the play opens, the complications that develop, the climax and the resolution (also known as the d?nouement). 5. Establish the scene or scenes within your 10-minute play, deciding how you will create a sense of time and place through use of set design, lighting, sound, costumes, and props. You don't have to sketch out all this information in the play itself, but you should have a good visual sense of how your play will be staged.
6. Arrange to have people read your play out loud so you can get a sense for the authenticity of the dialogue.
7. Using material from in-class and homework exercises, develop a draft of your 10-minute play. You will receive feedback from your peers and from me on your draft.
8. Taking into consideration comments from your peers and from me, revise your play. Use the checklists referenced in the third paragraph of the prompt as guidelines. After focusing on revision of content and structure, proofread your play for clarity, precision, and grammatical correctness; and create your final version.
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