The 24 Hour Project – Peterborough Play Festival – Sat July 6th

MAUGHAM

One of my biggest writing idols is W. Somerset Maugham. Originally, I loved his novel Of Human Bondage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that book. It seems I come across the classics and the lives of the people who wrote them on my own. A kind of self-education if you will. It’s been, at times, a lonely journey, but also an exciting one. Often one title will lead to another to another and to another until I’ve discovered a whole new handful of great writers from the past. With Maugham, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon his ‘how-to’ autobiographical book THE SUMMING UP. I’ve characterized this book as being comparable with Stephen King’s ON WRITING. It has the same feel to it…it talks about writing and the writing process, but it also gives glimpses into who he was as well as displaying his delightful ability to entertain the reader with a great story even when writing and the writing life are the topics he is covering. Much like ON WRITING does.

I read THE SUMMING UP as I was first dipping my toes into the world of playwriting. Maugham was proficient and successful at both novel writing and playwriting. The Summing Up gave me hope that I too could make the transition from page to stage, so to speak. I still don’t think I’ll ever be a great playwright, but I love the 10-minute play format that I stumbled into a few years back. It’s electric, intense and exciting. It summons the same adrenaline rush I first experienced at my first 72hr Muskoka Novel Marathon. That fear that almost paralyses you, even as it propels you furiously forward to create. By the end, you need to have a finished product. The clock ticks, the words build upon themselves, the deadline approaches!

Tonight, I will once again find myself at the starting line of another 24-hour play festival. This will be my 8th. Much like the others, I will have 8 or 9 hours to somehow come up with a full 10 minute play. It needs to be handed in at 5am Saturday morning, along with 4 other plays from 4 other playwrights. At which time, the directors will descend and each will choose one of the 5 plays to direct. The actors will enter and rehearsals will begin.

At 8pm tomorrow evening all 5 plays will be performed for the festival audience.

This is addictive. The fear and anxiety I feel at this moment is laced with regret. WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF AGAIN!? WHAT IF THE NIGHT IS OVER AND I HAVE NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT?! WHAT IF WHAT I WRITE IS HORRIBLE!? WHAT AM I EVEN DOING?!

It’s all so very exciting and terrifying OH MY GOD!

nervous

Here’s a recent article about this particular play festival, if you’re in the area and are thinking about what you could do on Saturday July 6th:

Five Plays in a Single Day: The 24 Hour Project Returns to Peterborough on July 6

I love the anxiety I’m experiencing at the moment. It’s the fuel that will drive me to figure something out, creatively. Hopefully something comes to me. I just picture the audience sitting there the next night…and the riot that would ensue if, in place of my play, there was simply a dark empty stage. I can’t let that happen.

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Come out to THE 24 HOUR PROJECT in Peterborough, Ontario tomorrow!

WORDS, DON’T FAIL ME NOW!

 

From the Facebook Event Page, here’s the details…should you be so inclined:

The 24 Hour Project is Back!!! – brought to you by Arbor Theatre!

(this will also be a fundraiser for Mysterious Entity Theatre!)

taking place Saturday, July 6th at 8 p.m. at the Gordon Best Theatre! – 216 Hunter St. West

Sponsored by Steamwhistle!
Sponsored by Black Honey!

$10 for 5 original works of theatre!

Here’s how it works…
Friday 8 p.m. – 5 Writers begin scripts
Saturday 6 a.m. – 5 Directors read scripts and each choose one
Saturday 7:30 a.m. – 30 actors arrive and audition
Saturday 9 a.m. – rehearsals begin
Saturday 7:30 p.m. – Doors open at the Gordon Best Theatre
Saturday 8 p.m. – 5 new plays!

This year featuring :

Writers: Linda Kash, David Bateman, Christopher Wilton, Nicky Gibeault, and K Thomas Craig

Directors: Kait Dueck, Lisa Dixon, Wyatt Lamoureux, Dane Shumak, Conner Clarkin

Actors: Randy Read, Charlie Earle, Meg O’Sullivan, Lindsay Barr, Johnathan Sharp, Benjamin van Veen, Tom Keat, Aedan Shaughnessy, Sarah-Jayne Riley, Hilary Wear, Anwen O’Driscoll,
Star Slade, Tyrnan O’Driscoll, Ilan O’Driscoll, Mary Alice Osborn, Vasco Silva, and many more….

And YOU!

email – emglasspool@gmail.com to sign up!

THE 24-HOUR PROJECT FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE LINK

How to Write a 10-Minute Play

So, I’ve been writing the ten minute play for a number of years now. I’d like to think I’ve been doing it with a bit of success, too. Though one could never be sure. I can attest to the fact that the audiences seemed to like my work. Being in an audience when they’re laughing during the unraveling of a comedic play you wrote is extremely rewarding. I consider myself blessed to have experienced that. But I’m rather hard on myself, as a writer…so I tend to allow the actors and the directors to take the blame for the laughter. (-: After all, the script is merely the scaffolding. Right?

So, now that I have had seven 10-minute plays produced…I feel I may be able to offer some advice for others considering the 10-minute play market. It is a favourite of mine. A good 10-minute play can contain the world within its rigidly timed existence. You just have to work like hell to contain it.

1. I learned the hard way that there is a world of difference between a sketch and a play. If your characters are not transforming and going through some kind of self-revelation, you could very well have written a sketch. A play is a complete story, whether that play is 10-minutes long or two hours long. You need an arc. A conversation where nothing really happens and no wisdom is gained and no change takes place is simply a conversation. A lot of first time 10-minute playwrights make the mistake of creating a sketch when they attempt a play, myself included. Last year, during the InspiraTO Festival in Toronto…there was a last-minute call for a play in one of the festival’s satellite locations. As I already had a play in the festival, to take place on the Alumnae Theatre stage, I received the call automatically. I jumped on the opportunity. By the end of the day of the call, I sent in what I mistakenly thought of as a play. Fortunately, it seemed to have some good bones. The Artistic Director, Dominik Loncar, worked with me to flesh out my idea and bring the sketch into the realm of play. I think working with Dominik to create this play was one of the most educational experiences I had in the playwriting process. So, always make sure your play is a full story which culminates in a character change.

2. This one is so easy, it seems self-explanatory. But I have often struggled with it myself. So, I know it needs to be said. For those of you who follow guidelines to a tee, this rule should not be a surprise to you at all. For those of you who think it’s perfectly natural to send a 7,000 word story into a magazine whose submission guidelines clearly state ‘stories should be no more than 3,000 words’, please take heed. There are guidelines for a reason. Ignoring them is the first opportunity the publisher/producer/what-have-you has of culling the pack and rejecting you. Don’t make it easy for people to reject you. ALWAYS read and follow the guidelines. I know from personal experience that well over 50% of submissions are sent in by people who prefer to think of themselves as above submission guideline parameters. As a past acquisitions editor, my job was made quite easy by those who ignored guidelines. I’ve gone on long enough. I tend to get ranty when I discuss writers’ inabilities to follow guidelines. #2 of my advice is that you ensure your play is 10-minutes in running time. NOT ELEVEN. NOT TEN AND A HALF. TEN. End of story. I ‘perform’ my plays over and over again to ensure they meet this criteria.

3. Stage Direction. Use it wisely. Actors are brilliant. While developing their character, they soon learn everything about who that character is. From that place, they can see how that character moves. You don’t want to fill your play with minor business (BUSINESS is the term for what is happening within the play that is not dialogue). If there are necessary directions you feel would move your play forward, by all means include them. But please trust implicitly in the actors and director. They’ll know how to include the right business. I’m sure it infuriates these people no end to be told through stage direction each and every step and movement they are to perform.

4. Give your character a WANT/DESIRE. And then put obstacles in her way. This will create tension. Tension is good. Tension is necessary. Your character needs to propel–be propelled–into the heart of the play. Nothing moves a character more than a shiny carrot dangling just outside of their reach.

5. I think there’s a fine line between KEEP IT SIMPLE and GIVE IT PIZZAZZ. Keeping it simple is required. You only have ten minutes to tell a full story, to bring a character from one place in their life to another. This is not a movie. You can’t have extraordinary props. Your goal is to get to the audience’s raw nerve–be it through comedy, drama, fear, what-have-you. Leave the glitz of the movie world on the silver screen. But this is not to say you can’t give your play pizzazz. You want to make it theatrical, larger than life. You can do this without explosions and special effects. You need to find a perfect balance between simple and exciting. Think of simple as budget-related. Often, you’re working with bare-minimum stage props. Think of exciting as character-related. Give your characters great dialogue and a great compelling story the audience won’t be able to tear themselves away from. Make the walk to the climax a dazzling crescendo.

Scene from Perfect Timing, one of my 2013 InspiraTO Festival plays.
Scene from Perfect Timing, one of my 2013 InspiraTO Festival plays.

The best advice I could give someone who aspires to get into the 10-minute play business? Surround yourself with people in the know. Approach theatre groups. Take in 10-minute festivals in your area. Nothing teaches one more about writing than reading. Nothing teaches one more about 10-minute playwriting, than watching 10-minute plays. Don’t be afraid to write a play and submit it. There are 10-minute festivals all over the world, now. You don’t have to have the title of playwright to write a play. That comes after. Just dive in!

Scene from Perfect Timing, one of my 2013 InspiraTO Festival plays.
Scene from Perfect Timing, one of my 2013 InspiraTO Festival plays.

(I’ve had some great opportunities from people willing to take a chance on an unknown quantity. 10-Minute festivals are a great way to get your foot in the door of live theatre. Without people like Jeremy Smith of Driftwood Theatre and Dominik Loncar of InspiraTO Festival, I’d still be dreaming about being a playwright…instead of being a playwright. Go forth and find your way in.)

Scene from Perfect Timing, my 2013 InspiraTO Festival play.
Scene from Perfect Timing, my 2013 InspiraTO Festival play.

Suggested Reading: The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham

Photos are from PERFECT TIMING, one of my 2 InspiraTO Festival plays. Those involved in bringing it to life include:

Dramaturge / MC Thompson
Director / Kim Sprenger
Cast / Liam Doherty (Carl)
Cast / Jennifer Gillespie (Melissa)

 

You can check out my novels at my AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE They are: Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, The Reasons, Burn Baby Burn Baby, and, Half Dead & Fully Broken. The horror anthology Purgatorium, which includes a short story by me, is also listed there.