Perfect Timing – A 10-Minute Play… (from InspiraTO Festival 2013)

This is the 2nd of my two InspiraTO Festival plays. This one was performed on the main stage of the Alumnae Theatre. (please contact me at kevintcraig @ hotmail dot com if you wish to use this play. Thank you)

TITLE: PERFECT TIMING

©Kevin Craig 2013

GENRE: DRAMEDY

ONE LINE SYNOPSIS: Melissa needs to cool off while Carl just wants love.

CHARACTER LIST:

MELISSA: 40-something. Wearing workout clothes, hair in a bun…looking a bit perspired.

CARL: 40-something. Wearing incongruous dress shoes. Lonely.

DESCRIPTION: Melissa, the new neighbour, comes over to borrow an egg-timer. With Carl, she may not get what she’s looking for…but maybe she didn’t know what she was looking for.

SETTING: CARL’s apartment.

[Carl has a noose in his hands and he’s looking between it and the ceiling.]

[from offstage, knock at the door]

CARL [starts. looks at the noose and then at the door.]: [to self] Shit. This better be good news. [tosses the noose behind the couch. beat] Coming.

MELISSA: Hi. Melissa. From next door. I just moved in. Can I come in?

CARL: Um. Sure… I guess. Carl. [they shake hands]  

MELISSA: [barges in. looks around] Hmmm…interesting décor.

CARL: What can I do for you?

 MELISSA: So, I was hoping I could borrow your—oh! Argh! Oh God. Not again.

CARL: I’m sorry, what? Not again, what?

MELISSA: Don’t listen to me when I’m talking to myself. That’s personal.

CARL: Don’t talk when I’m listening. I can’t exactly turn these off [gestures towards ears].

MELISSA: Sorry. It’s just so goddamned hot in here. I can’t take this heat another second.

CARL: It’s March. We’re in the middle of a cold snap and the heat’s not working properly. It’s so cold, the landlord’s probably in violation of the Human Rights Code.

MELISSA: Your point?

CARL: Never mind. Soooo, you workout?

MELISSA: What does that have to do with anything?

CARL: Sweatpants. Hair in a bun. I recognize the uniform.

MELISSA: Not even close. Kick-boxer. Give me a reason. [darts forward, causes CARL to flinch] Two for flinching.

CARL: Hey! Settle down. Just making conversation. I don’t have a beef with you…yet.

MELISSA: You want conversation? Ask me what I do for a living. Don’t point out my sweatpants.

CARL: Sorry. I’m a little rusty. Don’t usually talk to adults. I’m a high school English teacher. Or, at least I was. What do you do?

MELISSA: I’m also in-between careers right now. Left my husband. Trying to reinvent myself. Thought I would start over here. You know… near the bottom.

CARL: And here I was depressed about my lot in life. I thought this was the absolute bottom. But today… you give me hope.

MELISSA: I’m sure this is a nice place. Ack. It’s this damn heat…makes me crazy.

CARL: Right. Maybe you’re having hot flashes? You should see your doctor. You know. “Men-o-pause” [air quotes the word].

MELISSA: You’re about six words away from a kick in the face.

rDCm4vNnuMagtfb1h6DMRXW5wDghWdBnWT3pNTdaxlYJennifer Gillespie as Melissa

CARL: Feisty. I’d try a different pick-up line, though. That one’s not really doing it for me.

MELISSA [wipes brow]: Can we start over?

CARL: Sure.

MELISSA [makes a big show of taking a deep breath, pulls folded hand down in front of her face in a show of centering self]: My name’s Melissa. I’m a personal life coach. And I’m not the least bit hostile.

CARL: Life coach, eh?

MELISSA: Yeah. I thought I would get the kick-boxing down pat before I started working on the supportive personality. Once that’s done, I’ll be ready to coach the best of them.

CARL: Maybe I’ll be your first client. Since my life has recently taken a dive into the toilet. [beat] My name is Carl. How can I help you, Melissa?

MELISSA: I came to ask if I could borrow your egg-timer. [he looks at her, somewhat surprised and she reacts] Try not to look at my gross and sweaty self, though. I was just jumping rope.

CARL: So that’s what I was hearing. I thought somebody was getting killed over there.

MELISSA: Oops. Sorry ‘bout that. I was hot.

CARL: You were hot [thinking through it], so you decided to…

MELISSA: Jump rope, yes. It was either jump it or hang myself with it. I couldn’t decide.

CARL: [looks incredulously at her mention of hanging] Well, I guess you made the right choice. [looks toward the place where he hid the noose].

MELISSA: I thought so. A little less painful on the neck. Egg-timer?

CARL [hands unconsciously go to his throat]: Hmmm?

MELISSA: Look, if you could just grab it for me I would be forever grateful. I’ll return it when I’m finished. If we don’t all melt first. Any chance I accidentally stumbled into the fourth circle of hell? I am a strong woman.

CARL: O Canada and forty Mississippis. Although, Hail Marys may also work in place of the anthem? If you’re more religious than patriotic, that is.

MELISSA: I beg your pardon? Are you on crack?

CARL: It’s easy. It works every time. Family secret. And no, I’m not on crack.

MELISSA: What works every time?! What are you even talking about? I think we got off track somewhere. I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.

CARL: Sing O Canada and count out forty Mississippis.

MELISSA: You’ve totally lost me now. Believe me, you do NOT want to get between me and my morning eggs. Look, I know we just met, but I need you right now. An egg-timer could literally save my life. All my stuff is in boxes. I don’t own a watch and I’m going crazy without my cell phone, which I lost it in the move. I’m lucky I found a pot and my egg poacher… I need your timer.

CARL: To time eggs.

MELISSA: An egg-timer. Yes. That’s what I’m here for. Pretty sure we’ve established that.

CARL: You. Don’t. Need. One. If you were listening, you would know that by now.

MELISSA: Eggs cannot time themselves. Though if my heat is any indication, my eggs are doing a damn fine job at it.

CARL: Pay attention. This ‘heat’ [air-quotes the word] you speak of appears to be melting your brain cells.

MELISSA: Please. I’m at the end of my rope. I need—

CARL: The perfectly boiled egg comes out of the water after one sings O Canada once and counts out forty Mississippis. Works every time.

MELISSA: Well, I’m not really in the mood to trash your apartment in a hunt for your egg-timer. I may just have to try your whacked-out theory.

CARL: My work here is done.

MELISSA [looks skeptical]: Perhaps. I haven’t tried it yet, though, so don’t go getting all euphoric or anything. How does your family cook a roast? Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall?

CARL: Cute. Speaking of euphoria, how would you like to go across the street with me for a Starbucks? After your breakfast? We could talk…

MELISSA: I should have known you were a hipster. It was the shoes that threw me off the scent.

CARL: I’m not a hips—hey, what’s wrong with my shoes?

MELISSA: Far too 1940s tap for Starbucks. They’re not exactly hipster M.O.

CARL: So is this how you repay all your knights in shining armour? Insults to their sense of fashion? Maybe you should just give me back my egg-timing secret and be gone.

MELISSA: Sense of fashion? That’s what you call it? I thought you fell into the Goodwill bin and came out with those things accidentally on your feet.

CARL: Says the dripping she-man kick-boxer in sweats.

MELISSA: A she-man who could have you tasting floor in about five seconds flat.

CARL: Whoa. How did this go so quickly from me sharing an ancestral egg-timing secret to you wanting to deck me?

MELISSA: For starters, a man should never mention the M word to a lady. That’s your first fail right there.

CARL: Yeah, sorry about the hot flash comment. Probably went a little too far.

MELISSA: You think? Look. Thanks for the egg-timing advice. I think I’ll be going now. Hey, we’re neighbours. I might need to borrow an ancient family duct tape secret from you one day. No need to burn bridges.

CARL: Sure. Okay. [Looks dejected] Nice meeting you.

MELISSA: I’ll try to keep it down over there, okay. Can’t promise anything, though. What, with the dying of the light and all. [cradles her womb] I may just be in for more of those hot flashes you speak of. You know what that means.

CARL: No. What?

MELISSA: More rope jumping.

CARL: You may want to research the opposite of rope jumping, and try that out.

MELISSA: As long as it’s not [mimics hanging from a noose] you know. Thanks for the…help.

CARL : Hey, are you sure I can’t interest you in that latte? Maybe a biscotti? Anything? My treat.

MELISSA: Listen, you seem like a nice guy. I just don’t do Starbucks. Nothing personal. Really.

CARL: It’s just…I don’t get a lot of people knocking on my door around here. You know, what with it being the fourth circle of hell and all. 

MELISSA [Clues in to CARL’s advances]: Um. Oh. I’m not usually this crabby. Honest. Maybe I can I interest you in a plate of eggs?

CARL [lights up]: Sure. I can help you time them. You know, everyone sings at a different pace. It’s all about timing—

MELISSA: Let’s just take it one step at a time, shall we. I’ll go get things started. Could you maybe bring over a couple plates? I haven’t found the dishes yet.

CARL: Sure. See you over there.

MELISSA exits stage left. CARL goes off stage right, comes right back with two plates in his hand. Goes to noose, picks it up, shakes his head and throws the noose. Smiles. Goes to stage left. Before he exits, he pauses, looks down at his shoes. Slips out of them and goes barefoot. Exits stage left.

[a couple beats]

MELISSA/CARL [from offstage, in unison]: O Canada, our home and native land. True patriot love, in all our sons’ command [the singing fades out]

END PLAY

Walk-Ins Welcome – An InspiraTO Festival 10-Minute Play (From 2013)

Here’s one of my 2 InspiraTO Festival plays from their 2013 festival. As always, I welcome others to use my plays. All I ask is that you email me for permission, so that I know it is being produced. Thank you! (kevintcraig @ hotmail dot com)

TITLE: WALK-INS WELCOME

©Kevin Craig 2013

GENRE: COMEDY

ONE LINE SYNOPSIS: Cherie has an emergency hair crisis. Her name is not in the appointment book.

CHARACTER LIST:

CHERIE: Disheveled hair. Frantic.

WANDA: Has attitude. Questionable intelligence.

DESCRIPTION: Cherie comes to the salon for a much needed but unplanned hair setting. She has to get past the centaur at the gate before anything else can happen.

SETTING: CURL BAR BEAUTY SALON (This was a site-specific play in the festival. It took place at an actual hair salon, but could be easily adapted to stage)

CHERIE (bursts into salon in a panic, heads for the counter): Please. Help me. I’m having a terrible hair emergency. (She holds her hair awkwardly, as though it may fall from her head)

WANDA: Sure, sweetie. My name’s Wanda. Name?

CHERIE: Cherie. Cherie Reynolds.

WANDA (hopelessly scours appointment book): I. Um. Hmm? Is that with an S?

CHERIE: C. Cherie. Cherry, hold the second R and switch the Y to an IE. (pulls at her hair in frustration, attempting to save it)

WANDA: Oh. Yes. I like that. Still. I don’t see it in the book.

CHERIE: Sorry?

WANDA: I cannot. Find. Your. Name. In the appointment book. CH, S or otherwise. You sure you’re not Violet? Because Violet would be early, but I could probably fit her in.

CHERIE: I’m sorry, but do you recall what I said when I rushed in here?

WANDA: Something like, (raises her voice in faux-alarm and waves her hands in the air above her head) “Please! Please! Help! Help me, help me. Emergency hair thing!”

CHERIE: Not quite. But that’s the gist.

WANDA: So, your name is Violet?

CHERIE: No. I told you. (fusses non-stop with hair) Cherie Reynolds.

WANDA: Your name’s not in the book.

CHERIE: Is that not what emergency means?

WANDA: No. I’m pretty sure emergency means a serious, unexpected and possibly dangerous situation requiring immediate atten—

CHERIE: Bingo! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.

WANDA: Well, I said your name wasn’t in the book and you said that’s what an emerg—

CHERIE: Please. No. My name’s not in the book. You can look all you want.

WANDA: Well, why didn’t you say so?

CHERIE: I’m having a hair emergency. You can’t book an emergency. They just happen.

WANDA: I know that.

CHERIE: I’m in desperate need of an emergency appointment. I need a hair medic now, as you can see.

WANDA: (looks at CHERIE’s messy hair) Do you have an appointment?

CHERIE: I’ve lost you again, haven’t I?

WANDA (puts a hand to her chest): I’m right here in front of—

CHERIE: I was hoping I could get in without an appointment.

WANDA: I’m sorry, ma’am. We require an appointment to see—

CHERIE: Oh good lord.

WANDA: Wednesday afternoonish sound good? Wednesdays are ideal for emergency appointments.

CHERIE: I. Don’t. Want. An. Appointment. Put your book away before I—

WANDA: You’re confusing me now, Violet.

CHERIE: My name’s not Violet! It’s Cherie. If I said my name was Violet, would you help me out?

WANDA: No, ma’am. At this point, we both know you’d have to show me I.D. to pull that off. Cherie.

CHERIE: Now you know my name.

WANDA: Hold the second R. That’s right (narrows her eyes at CHERIE).

CHERIE: (stomps her feet) I. Need. My. Hair. Fixed! I have a big night ahead of me. Have you ever had an ex, Wanda?

WANDA: (sudden change in personality. piqued) Well…yes. But I don’t see what that’s got to do with—

CHERIE: I mean, like, a real ex? Not some jerk who took you to the movies once and spilled an extra-large Coke in your lap. I mean a man you lived with, made a life with? Maybe married. That kind of ex.

WANDA (looks sympathetic. comes around to Cherie’s side of the counter): Yes, honey. I believe I have. You’re talking about a Mr. Right kinda ex…but the kinda Mr. Right that got away and left you flat.

CHERIE: Exactly. The man you picked out curtains and sheets with. Paint colours. Him. Tall…dark. Never-gonna-give-him-up.

WANDA: (stares off into the middle distance, remembering, and stage whispers dreamily) Terrance. (puts a hand on CHERIE’s shoulder and squeezes sympathetically) I’m there. I gotcha.

CHERIE: Imagine you have to go to a dinner party and your ex is also going to be there. With his new and strikingly beautiful fiancé.

WANDA: (gasps loudly) No! (puts a hand to her mouth)

CHERIE: (yanks at hair) Yes.

WANDA: He’s gotta see what he’s missing! Regret leaving. Beg you to take him back. So you can tell him, ‘uh-uh…you had your chance, Mr. Man!’ You get yourself into that chair over there (points to one of the stations). We’ll fix this up nice.

CHERIE: (elated) What about the rules?

WANDA: Rules are for times of peace, Cherie. They go out the window in times of war.

CHERIE: And Violet?

WANDA: Don’t worry about her. (she goes and locks the door, puts up the ‘Closed’ sign) You have a man to devastate, missy.

CHERIE: You saved my day.

WANDA: (goes to work on CHERIE’s hair) Don’t worry about that. Tell me what happened. Wait. (passes CHERIE her implements) Hold these. I’ll need my hands on my hips for this. (puts her hands on her hips while CHERIE looks on, perplexed) What’d he do?! (takes back her implements and continues to fix CHERIE’s hair)

CHERIE: The girl from the corner store by our condo.

WANDA: No!

CHERIE: Yes. I thought I could count on Marlin. (WANDA stops fiddling and has a look of shock on her face) He seemed so perfect. I was ready to—

WANDA: They’re aren’t many Marlins in this city that I know of. Only ever came across one myself. 

CHERIE: No. Impossible. You know Marlin?

WANDA: There can’t be two of them, could there? I cut that man’s hair last Tuesday. Yes, and he was here with his sugar. Ooh. I would have slit his throat had I known. 

CHERIE: (shrinks into her chair a bit) Well, maybe it was a different Marlin.

WANDA: Big ears, mole under his bottom lip looks like a—

CHERIE: Half-moon.

WANDA: That man’s been coming in here must be ever since he hooked up with that willowy little girl he’s with. They always come together.

CHERIE: (Slinks further into her chair) This is doomed to fail.

WANDA: No, now. You sit up in that chair. We can do this. No man wants the bacon strip when he can have the pig.

CHERIE: What!

WANDA: No, no. That’s a compliment. Sit down. That girl’s skinnier than a credit card. He’ll have some fun with them bones, but they’re too sharp to keep a man like that happy. He’ll want those curves of yours in no time. Just remind him you’re still there.

CHERIE: (nods her head, as though she sort of understands. sits back down.) What happened to ‘you had your chance, Mr. Man’?

WANDA: You’ll want to land him completely before you drop him like a glass doohickey. You’ll hurt him more if the hook’s set.

CHERIE: You’re being so nice.

WANDA: Well, I like fixing hair. And I like fixing hair for a purpose even more. If I can fix you enough to break this man’s heart, my work here will be done.

          They both laugh.

CHERIE: I feel better already. Thanks.

WANDA: Hell with it. We have to look out for one another these days. You’re gonna step into that place tonight, and ole Marlin’s heart is gonna burst his chest. Mark my words.

CHERIE: I don’t think I could afford that kind of makeover. I just don’t want to look like a total wreck. Fix this mess and I’ll be forever in your debt.

WANDA: No. That’s not enough. We have to lay. Him. Flat.

CHERIE: (looking worried) No, no. Honestly, I just want to look like I’m keeping it together. Really…I’m fine.

WANDA: I should come. (starts to get a bit rough with CHERIE’s hair) I’ll put that man in his place. (reflexively takes some anger out on CHERIE’s hair) I’ll just keep scratching her name out of that book. She won’t get in like you did. I only break that rule for friends and no one messes with my friends.

CHERIE: Your what? Friend?

WANDA: He did not treat you right, sweetie. We can’t have that, now, can we? (looks unstable, ready to kill)

CHERIE: You know…if you could just quickly finish up here—

WANDA: (stops working on CHERIE’s hair) Oh my. I’m sorry. (looks into the mirror, so she can look CHERIE in the eye). I’m so sorry. (looks like she may burst into tears) I don’t know where I went there.

CHERIE: (relaxes noticeably) It’s okay. Clearly, you know what I’m going through. (smiles at WANDA’s reflection) You said something about Terrance earlier.

WANDA: Yes. We all have those men who break our hearts to cookie crumbs, don’t we? Terrance was mine. But I’m okay. Just lost my senses for a moment. (pauses and takes in CHERIE’s reflection) You’re looking better already. Why a little dweeb like that Marlin fellow would ever let you go, I do not know. Don’t try to understand men, sweetie. Soon as you do, they’ll change.

CHERIE: I didn’t mean to bring up—

WANDA: Old trash. That’s all you drug up. Old trash. No bother. Just do me a favour, once I’m done with you. You go to that dinner party head held high. You crush that man with your good looks. Make him realize his mistake. You’re a beautiful woman.

CHERIE: Thank you. (smiles) I’ll do my best.

WANDA: And then you’ll do better. (they share a laugh and WANDA continues to work at CHERIE’s hair.)

END PLAY

 

 

 

Toronto Playwright Debut Approaches!

As May begins to wind down, I realize I am mere days away from my Toronto debut as a playwright. This makes me both anxious and excited. I was born in Toronto. In my head, it is still my city. Though I have been in the suburbs for far longer than I ever actually lived in the city, it seems you can take the boy out of the city but you cannot take the city out of the boy. I still identify as a Torontonian. Yet, with all my wild and crazy writing accomplishments in the past 10 years, none have been Toronto-centric. Until now!

I have 2 plays being produced in the upcoming 8th Annual InspiraTO Festival at the Alumnae Theatre. Well, actually only one is AT the theatre. On the mainstage, as part of the YELLOWSHOW in the festival. The second play is actually in a hair salon in the neighbourhood surrounding the theatre. How cool is that?! It’s reminiscent of my Trafalgar24 play experiences…where the plays take place in different rooms of a 19th century castle in Whitby, Ontario (yes, out here in the suburbs of Toronto!). There are 4 site-specific plays in this year’s InspiraTO Festival. They take place in; an alleyway, a lounge, a furniture store and a hair salon. Mine is called Walk-Ins Welcome. These plays are organized as the WHITESHOW. The audience gathers at the Alumnae Theatre box office and is escorted throughout the neighbourhood to the various plays. Sounds like a blast and I can’t wait to see this show!

My first InspiraTO play is titled PERFECT TIMING and it will take place at the theatre itself.

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I got into this festival as one of its MENTORSHIP recipients. This gave me access to seeing every step of the play creation experience. I’ve been to a workshop, I worked with a dramaturg and I’ve been to rehearsals. It’s been a wonderful experience. And I was lucky enough to squeak that second play (Walk-Ins Welcome) into the festival at the 11th hour when a call for the hair salon play went out to the playwrights involved.

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We’ll see how this goes. I’ve never seen my work on such big a stage. I’m as excited as I am nervous. The best part is that these plays take place in my hometown! Can’t wait.

THE FESTIVAL TAKES PLACE MAY 30th – JUNE 8th

FOR INFORMATION AND TICKETS CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE INSPIRATO WEBSITE!

Hope to see you there!

Don’t forget! Buy any of my 3 novels during the remainder of May, 2013 and all royalties are donated to Male Survivor’s Weekend of Recovery Scholarship Fund!

To the Castle! Driftwood Strikes Again!

Just a few shots from inside and out of Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. These are shots I took while staying in the castle to write plays for Trafalgar24, the yearly play creation festival put on by Driftwood Theatre. I wrote in the castle for the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 festivals. This year, I will be purely a spectator.

Six playwrights will be locked in the castle on Thursday, March 7th. They will each be sent to a particular room in the castle—in which their plays must take place. They will each be given photos of their actors. Then they must write their plays! When they are released on the morning of Friday, March 8th, there will be 6 freshly written plays left behind. Like the Elf and the Shoemaker!

On the morning of Friday, March 8th the directors and actors will arrive at the castle. They will rehearse the newly penned plays and on the evening of Friday, March 8th the audience (MYSELF INCLUDED!) will arrive to see performances of all six plays. The audience will then vote on our favourites.

Winning playwright gets to develop his or her Trafalgar24 play into a full-length play through Driftwood.

This is a yearly event…and I guarantee you it is the VERY BEST that Durham Region has to offer! If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, you better do so before they are sold out. Happens every single year! Here’s a link:

http://www.driftwoodtheatre.com/event/trafalgar-24/

A hearty (and heartfelt) thank you to Jeremy Smith and the Driftwood crew for giving me my first opportunities to write for the stage. I feel like Trafalgar24 was one of my biggest gifts as a writer. Without Driftwood giving me a chance to dip my toes into playwriting, I would not have found this passion I’m so crazy about. I can’t wait to see what this year’s crop of playwrights come up with for Trafalgar24. Guaranteed we’ll be entertained.

 

The Play’s The Thing

One of my favourite quotes about playwriting is one from W. Somerset Maugham, from his autobiographical book on writing, The Summing Up.

“Thank God, I can look at a sunset now without having to think how to describe it.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

Out of context, this appears to have absolutely nothing to do with playwriting. But with a quick explanation of the context, playwrights would quickly understand the grand meaning behind the quote. I imagine novelists would too.

He said those words when he decided to put novel writing down. He was thrilled at the prospect of being done with narrative. His future was filled with dialogue.

I love writing novels. I can’t lie and say I don’t. But there is something about writing plays that just ignites me. I love the conversation. I love exploring the entire package of the story in nothing more than movement and dialogue. Ever since I first begged my way onto the Trafalgar24 stage (as a playwright…NOT literally onto the stage!) I knew that playwriting was a home for me. I felt so comfortable giving words to breathing characters. It just made sense. AND…I would never have to put into words the descriptive narrative to help give scene and place and emotion and setting and all those other non-character things that help paint the story’s picture.

I could get my characters to create the entire picture. I could allow others to create the set, to SHOW what everything looked like. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. That is pure story. I will never give up writing novels. I have a passion for creating a fictional universe. I will continue to write that necessary narrative. I won’t turn my back on describing the perfect sunset. But I will always have a special place in my heart for writing plays.

My immediate passion is the 10-minute format. This is truly an art-form I can get behind. When you segregate 10 minutes from a lifetime, it is nothing…or gives off the appearance of being nothing. But 10 minutes is enough to change the outcome of that lifetime. In ten minutes, the universe can change. The beauty of a great 10-minute play is in choosing the ten minutes of a particular life to zero in on. Not every ten minute interval is exceptional, or life-changing, or stage worthy. The playwright’s job is to discover a character. The character need not be exceptional, special, brilliant, charming, beautiful, intelligent. The character could be Joe Everyday. But…when the playwright chooses that character to write about, they must choose an exceptional, beautiful, intelligent, charming, brilliant, special ten minutes of that character’s life. We all have exceptional moments. We all have life-changing moments worthy of the stage. The trick is to capture the right character at the right time.

This is what I like about the format. The urgency of getting the right glimpse into a person’s life. The novel could take place in an afternoon, in a week, in a month, in a year, in a lifetime. The span of a novel is completely open to artist interpretation. But the 10-minute play…it’s a camera eye moving into a moment in a character’s long life. It’s one glimpse. The playwright gets to zoom in and get comfortable with his characters only long enough to thrill at their ability to create them. Before too long the camera eye is zooming back out and leaving those characters behind. The audience has to be moved by what they see in that short window of time. It’s a difficult task for the playwright, but it is also a gift. That is the brilliance of the art-form.

One other thing W. Somerset Maugham had to say about playwriting?

“I think the secret of playwriting can be given in two maxims: stick to the point and whenever you can, cut.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

NEVER has this maxim been more relevant than when discussing the art-form of the 10-minute play!

In June, I will have a 10-minute play performed at the InspiraTO Festival in Toronto, Ontario. This will be my 6th 10-minute play. It will be my first one performed in Toronto. Four Trafalgar24 plays and one Uxbridge Festival of the Arts play behind me, I am thrilled to have this opportunity! I will always love the 10-minute format. Every opportunity I have to explore it is another golden opportunity to glimpse into a moment of time, chance and change and redemption.

Like InspiraTO on Facebook for festival information and ticket availability!

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Acronyms for Happiness – A 10-Minute Play!

Another of my 10-Minute Trafalgar24 plays. This is my fourth Trafalgar play. For the past four March’s, I’ve taken part in the Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival at Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. The playwrights get locked into the castle overnight for 8-hours. Each of the 6 playwrights must write a 10-minute play which takes place in the room in which they are placed to write them. Each playwright gets head shots of their actor(s). After the 8 hours are up, the actors and directors come into the castle and the writers leave. The actors and directors then rehearse the 6 plays for 8 hours. Later in the evening, the audiences arrive at the castle and they travel in groups to see each of the six plays throughout the castle. So, each play is performed 6 times. This is a wonderful event…always a perfect evening of entertainment. After doing it for 4 years, I am still gobsmacked seeing the actors perform these plays to perfection. Amazing time! Mark your calendars…it’s a NOT TO BE MISSED event.

Here’s my 2012 Trafalgar Play!

TITLE: ACRONYMS FOR HAPPINESS

GENRE: COMEDY

SYNOPSIS: To attain happiness, Ann is willing to do anything…while Kelly will stop at nothing to save her.

CHARACTERS:

ANN : Flighty, New-Agey, Dreamer.

KELLY : Realist, Skeptic.

DESCRIPTION: Ann is a career dream-chaser. Her co-worker, Kelly, has a healthy dose of skepticism. Can Kelly save Ann from falling into this newest bottomless pit of false hope she is getting herself into?

SETTING

The Lab

ANN: [Sitting on a stool by the island sink, head down on the desk][Sings…dreamily, hopeful but trailing off] …why then, oh why can’t I?

KELLY: [At the microscope, examining. Looks up.] Because. You’re hopeless. You’re about as useful as angels in a bar fight. That’s why you CAN’T.

ANN: [Lifting her head. Pouty.] You don’t believe in me. You shoot down every single ambition I ever have. You’re a killer of dreams.

KELLY: [She has been mimicking Ann the whole time. Looks back into microscope.] Yeah, well. That may be so, but at least I know how to dream.

ANN: What’s that supposed to mean?

KELLY: It means you’ve always been impractical, Ann. You always believe in the impossible just long enough to get your heart ripped out when you discover that it actually is impossible.

ANN: But this time—

KELLY: It’s different. I know.

ANN: This time [Gets up and moves toward the other sink] This time I have a flawless plan! If you can dream it, you can be it. If you can dream it, you can be it. [Picks up mortar and pestle and starts walking towards audience.] Guru Les says mantras can change the universe! If only one believes.

KELLY: Oh, you mean Guru Les-is-More? Guru Les-Money-in-Your-Pocket-is-More-Money-in-Mine? That Guru?

ANN: Guru is not about money, Kell. That’s how much you know! Guru Les is about peace. And love. And reaching for your dreams and catching them in the palm of your hand. [Voice raises higher and higher. Standing in front of audience, looking off into the distance, hands spread] Rejoice, rejoice, Ema-a-an-uel—

KELLY [Dings the bell beside microscope several times.] Whoa, girl! Slow down. Rein it in.

ANN: [Stomps back to Kelly’s side.] Squasher. Of. Dreams.

KELLY: Let’s think this through. Break it down, shall we? What’s your dream this time?

ANN: Wellllll. It’s not really a particular thing. Per se. I mean, it’s a thing, just not really a specific, you know. Thing. [Wildly gesticulating.]

KELLY: And this Guru Les-is-What-You’ll-Get-if-You-Follow-Me, this guy you’re always talking about like he’s God’s gift to, well, Gods. He’s helping you to attain this…this…nothingness that is a non-specific-ish dream?

ANN: Wow. Yeah. You got it! Wow, Kelly…there’s hope for you yet. [Picks up the green box by the island sink.]

KELLY: Really? I was mocking you. Somebody needs to tell you there’s nothing behind curtain number one.

ANN: Somebody needs to tell you that those are blinds! [Opens the green box, looks inside. Smiles.]

KELLY: What is that?

ANN: It’s my dream box. Guru Les gave it to me. Isn’t it beautiful!

KELLY: What’s in it?

ANN: Why, nothing. Duh! It’s for my dreams. To collect them all in one place.

KELLY: [Rolls eyes. Shakes head.] So he gave you an empty box? Wow. Luck y you! How much did that cost? Two hundred? Look. I’m happy you dream. Really, I am. How long have we worked together?

ANN: Six years. Why?

KELLY: I’m just saying, I’ve known you long enough. Maybe you’re going about things the wrong way, is all. Who’s this Guru Les-Insightful-Than-a-Doily guy, anyway? I mean, who is he really? He’s just a guy in pajamas tryna get all your money. Right? Am I close?

ANN: Well, I’m not one to nitpick, but casual comfortable yoga gear is not really the same as pjs.

KELLY: Okay. Whatever. This Guru Les-Clothes-Allows-Me-To-Take-Advantage-of-You guy. He charges money, right?

ANN: Oh, Kell. You’re so…innocent. You’re so gullible. Naïve. It’s sad, really. Money! What is money when you compare it to the fulfillment of your every dream? [Voice rising hysterically again]

KELLY: Oh, right. The dreams again. Well, if you’re going to be barking at the moon in pajamas, you might as well be dreaming too, right.

ANN: Stretchy yoga wear.

KELLY: Pardon?

ANN: Not pajamas!

KELLY: You’re splitting hairs.

ANN: One does not sleep in one’s yoga wear.

KELLY: And yet one can dream in one’s yoga wear. Interesting. Let me ask you this. If you were to pinpoint one dream. Just one, mind you. What would it be? What is your deepest desire?

ANN: Oh! You mean ‘Dream it—Be it’.

KELLY: Huh?

ANN: Visualization of your wildest dream. That’s what Guru Les calls Dream it—Be it. It’s so funny. He always says TM after he says it. You know, with air quotes and all.

KELLY: Riiiiight. So this Guru Les-of-a-Guru-Really-Than-a-Fortune-Cookie guy, he tells you that if you could dream it you could be it? Simple enough. What’s your biggest dream?

ANN: Duh-duh-duh-duh [Hums the wedding march and dances dreamily out in front of the audience.] Oh, you know. Kids. A husband—A striking, handsome husband. I’d say Prince Charming, but you would probably laugh at me.

KELLY: No. No. I wouldn’t laugh. [Picks up the heart from the shelf above sink.] I do have a heart, Ann.

ANN: Cute. I get it. A heart. Cute. [Still lost in wedding dream, still pirouetting and dancing] I guess this would be a really bad time to tell you that Guru Les held his Name Choosing Ceremony last night.

KELLY: Name, what?

ANN: Choosing ceremony. [Stops dancing] I told you it was coming up soon. You don’t listen, do you?

KELLY: I do try not to get any of this Guru Les-of-a-Nutbar-Than-a-Fruitloop guy on me, if you know what I mean. Sounds like he could be catching.

ANN: Well, anyway. Before we can focus on our Dream Retrieval Therapy—DRT—we need to choose and own our new names in the Name Choosing Ceremony. NCC.

KELLY: Dream retrieval, what now?

ANN: Don’t give me that look. I chose Penelope-Beatrix. I feel it lifts me. [Pirouette.] Prepares me for my dream.

KELLY: Sweetie, if your dream is a month-long vacation in a padded cell with all the noodles you can eat with a nice soft spoon, then you may be in luck.

ANN: Guru Les warned me there would be doubters. People who wouldn’t believe in his theories and methods. For those people, he gave me the Dream Stealer Mantra. DSM. I just didn’t think I would need to use it on you!

KELLY: So this Guru Les-Brains-Than-a-Shoehorn guy, he gives you mantras to ward off the sanity of friends? Does that not sound somewhat flawed to you?

ANN: Penelope-Beatrix does not need to listen to this negativity. Stealers never dream and dreamers never steal. Stealers never dream—

KELLY: Whoa, whoa! Don’t hit me with that mighty mojo! Don’t know if I can fend this powerful stuff off!

ANN: Penelope-Beatrix just wants to find a husband and have a family. That is her dream. Why must you kill it!

KELLY: Ann, I have no intention of killing your dreams. That’s a good dream to have. But how is pinching off bliss loaves with this Guru Les-About-Dreams-and-More-About-Schemes guy going to help you achieve this particular dream?

ANN: You have to stop doing that!

KELLY: Doing what? What am I doing now?

ANN: You’re making fun of Guru Les’s name. It’s disrespectful.

KELLY: Sorry. Sorry. But Guru Les-Than-Stellar is not impressing me much. I’m afraid you’re being taken advantage of. You’re always trying to chase the next thing. This guy is leading you down the garden path.

ANN: [Waves hands through the air around Kelly, mumbling inaudibly.]

KELLY: Whoa! What are you doing now—are you smudging me? Stop it. Back off!

ANN: I’m doing the Naysayer Cleanse Ritual. NCR. Your negativity may metastasize to me. I need to protect myself against your chi.

KELLY: What’s gotten into you? I’m concerned now. Seems you’re riding the crazy horse with this Guru Les-Functioning-Than-a-Rock guy. What’s wrong with just being you? Just letting nature take its course? You’re going to find someone, Anne. You’re a wonderful person.

ANN: Don’t you see? I need an edge. I don’t want to be a lab tech forever. I want to meet Mr. Right.

KELLY: What happened to strong independent woman?

ANN: SIW? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that one?

KELLY: Jees, Ann…it’s not an acronym! It’s what we are. It’s what we used to be. What I still am!

ANN: I have a dream. I want more. Guru Les could be the answer I’ve been looking for all this time.

KELLY: If you ask me, this Guru Les-Answers-and-More-Questions guy is just that. A great big mother of a question. You need to get away from him.

ANN: When I close my eyes I dream of fishes.

KELLY: Pardon?

ANN: Fishes. I dream of fishes. Do you understand how disheartening that is!

KELLY: What does that have to do with Gurus and dreams and husbands? What are you talking about?

ANN: Don’t you see. I don’t wanna be alone. I don’t want to be the girl who only ever dreamed of fish. I want to close my eyes and dream of birthday parties and sandboxes and runny noses and doctors’ appointments.

KELLY: Guru Les is not going to get you there.

ANN: I need to be fulfilled. I need to belong somewhere. If wishes were fishes I’d be dreaming of babies.

KELLY: Pardon?

ANN: You know what I mean.

KELLY: It’s time to go home. Time to call it a night. Please. Do me a favour and stay away from your Guru tonight.

ANN: But we’re supposed to be Deep Dream Channelling tonight. DDC. It’s the last step before our Dream Retrieval Ceremony. DRC.

KELLY: Oh, I’m sure it is. Come on. You’re coming with me. We’re going to try a little GNO. Tonight, we let go of the guru and take back the power.

ANN: GNO? I don’t think that acronym is Guru Les approved?

KELLY: No. But then again, Girls Night Out isn’t really something that would benefit this Guru Les-Appropriate-Than-a-Meat-Dress, now is it? Now let’s get out of here.

ANN: But my dream. I must follow the procedure set out by the Guru. I’m not even in my yoga gear. How can I attain my dream if I can’t stretch comfortably.

KELLY: Save the pajamas for bedtime. We’re going dancing! [Puts an arm around ANN and leads her to the door.]

ANN: [Gives up and allows herself to be lead to the door.] Oh! Just wait a minute. [Runs back to grab green box while KELLY waits at the door.] [Opens the box and looks into it hopefully. Pauses. To the audience.] Birds fly over the rainbow, why then, oh why can’t I! [Holds the green box to her chest and runs to catch up with KELLY.]

[Exit]

END PLAY

Don’t Let Your Playwright Get in the Way of Your Novelist!

Do you ever find yourself blocking your novel? Positioning everything in your scene either upstage right or downstage left or right centre or upstage centre? Do you ever hold your thumbs together to form a block with your hands in which you envision your scene…so that you can ensure it’s visually pleasing and correct as you imagine it?

Do you ever accidentally write in a character leaving the stage? Entering the stage? Stage whispering?

Do you ever write END SCENE at the end of a chapter or SETTING at the beginning of one?

You may be suffering from playwriting fever. A novel is NOT a play and a play is NOT a novel. This advice is more for myself than for anyone else. I tend to work the play of my novel in my head while I’m writing the novel. It makes me consider every single word of my dialogue—which is a great thing—but it also slows me down at times and makes me forget to write the prose between the dialogue.

Stage blocking can help when writing a novel. Truly…it can. You should try it sometime. It allows you to see if the picture you’re creating is going to work, if everything you’re writing is possible/viable. But it can also get in the way. You can’t cross that line where you forget you’re writing a novel. Things get stifled if you actually write your scenes like you’re blocking them. There is no poetry in the act of stage blocking. That’s probably why it’s all parenthetical in a script. In a novel, you have to make sure everything flows…not just your dialogue.

Again, this is advice for myself. I sometimes forget this…as I enjoy playwriting almost more than I enjoy novel writing. Sometimes it’s hard to turn the playwright off.

By all means, position your characters properly within your scenes. But remember not to spell it out. You’re not telling actors where to stand…you’re carrying your characters through an imaginary world which your readers have to reconstruct effortlessly. Readers are not going to read the stage directions. They’re going to float through your novel…see what you tell them to see. The trick is to get it into their heads without them knowing it’s there. Effortless scenes…not—character A is here and character B is here, okay go…read.

This concludes today’s lesson/reminder to self. Next I should tackle – If you’re going to fling your characters off of tall buildings, there is no need to fling yourself from such precipices in order to write the flinging accurately.