So, my bio says “playwright” evening though I’ve not done much playwriting of late. And most of my plays have been short ones, which is funny, because I don’t think I’m very good at short stories, but I can do short plays pretty well.
For a long while, I regularly participated in the “Out of Ink” project, where we would receive a set of three “ingredients” for a play on Friday evening, and by Sunday afternoon we were supposed to have written a ten-minute play based on those ingredients, and then eight were chosen for a workshop production. Here’s a smattering of my favorites from those plays.
2000: Last Train Out of Illinois My first year with Scriptworks, the rules involved boots, a character directly addressing the audience, and someone performing an “aria”. I had, at the time, had the vague idea of a Tom Waitsish Musical called “Last Train Out of Illinois”, but all I had was Atmosphere and an Ending. Which is just fine for a ten-minute piece.
2003: Danger Girl’s Night Off The rules dictated 1. something involving superheroes and 2. a seduction, so I immediately thought of a grown-up sidekick who just wanted to have a date night. This was a lot of fun.
2007: Hourglass I’m really pleased with this one. The rules involved 1. A physical transformation on stage, 2. a secret and 3. a piece of music connecting to a memory. This may have been, for me, the most synergous set of rules. The discovery of an old hourglass reminds an old woman of the true paternity of her child. Hannah Kenah did really lovely work on stage going from 107 to 20.
2008: Ten Minutes Ago The play goes backwards! That was the rule that had to define this one. The idea I was struck with here was having an innocuous instigation (a woman answering her door) lead to events that had disastrous consequences (her husband and a stranger dead in her living room), and then show it Consequences-Events-Instigation. This one was challenging to stage, but enjoyable.
2010: Entropy “Time is Running Out”, “Use the Beginning and End of Finnegan’s Wake” and “A Ceremony of Forgetting”. How does this NOT say “two people stuck in a time loop”? OK, it does to me, because I’m a sci-fi geek.
2011: Slept the Whole Way Again, the rules sent me to an SF place: the play needed to span 3000 years and have 300 characters. So a cryosleep ship that missed its target and kept everyone in stasis for 3000 years made perfect sense to me.
2013: The Observer Effect This grew out a strange idea of someone being labeled “history’s greatest monster” due to a mistake– and ultimately not even their own mistake. It’s deeply silly.
So, here’s the thing– if you’re in a play-producing mood? You got a need or hankering to put on a ten-minute play? Especially in a science-fictional venue, as most of these are sci-fi plays? HAVE AT ‘EM. Seriously, you want to produce them, go for it. They’re silly, they’re fun, and they tend to be production-cost light. Only rule I have is: let me know. That’s it.
I do kind of miss playwriting. Someday I’ll do another one, or pull out one of the ones I wrote and never produced and give it another polishing pass. But right now, I’ve got enough things on my plate. Back down to the word mines.