For the past 13 years, I’ve participated in Austin Scriptworks Out of Ink ten-minute playwriting “fling”, as it is called, which basically works like this: Every year in November, on a Friday evening we receive three “rules” for a ten-minute play. The deadline is 48 hours later (give or take, since it’s usually by 6pm on Sunday). Then eight of those ten-minute plays are selected for production in April-ish. (It varies from year-to-year, but it’s usually April.)
It’s a process I really enjoy, and it keeps various tools in my toolbox sharp. This is a key reason why I participate every year.
2000: Last Train Out of Illinois (Selected) 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.
2001: Dead Air On The Open Road (Not Selected) I don’t remember all the details, but one of the rules here was an “incongruous element”. So the story involved people in a car breaking down in the desert, and then a foul-mouthed puppet shows up to save them. When we did the reading, it was actually pretty hysterical, but I can see that as a script, it’s rather thin.
2002: Freaks of Nature and Acts of God (Selected) The rules aren’t quite in my memory, save “only one chair” as set. I came up with three young women stuck in a near-empty beach house during a hurricane, who are then rescued by a pizza-delivery guy who has the wrong address. It’s probably the weakest of mine that was chosen.
2003: Danger Girl’s Night Off (Selected) 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. Elements of this story ended up fueling the core ideas behind my story in The Protectors, which you can still purchase on Amazon.
2004: Triangles and Broken Circles (Not Selected) The rules had something to do with chalk and a ceremony, but what I wrote was pretty much weak sauce. Can’t blame it not being selected.
2005: No Entry. This year, for budgetary reasons (I think, I could be wrong) the format changed, asking for a 5-minute radio play. I was at something of a loss with that idea, so I didn’t enter this time around.
2006: Alignment of Celestial Bodies (Not Selected) Of the “not selected” ones, this is probably my favorite. I forget the details of the rules, but it was a sweet romantic story of a couple going stargazing, with an interconnecting Creation-of-the-World Myth of my own creation.
2007: Hourglass (Selected) 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 (Selected) 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.
2009: The Q (Not Selected) Here, I think I bit off more than I could chew. The core idea was about people being smuggled out of a quarantine-zone after a biological attack. I think it ended up too dense and too vague. I like it, I may revisit it at some point, but I’ll admit in the writing, I wasn’t quite “feeling” it. So when it wasn’t chosen, I wasn’t all that surprised.
2010: Entropy (Selected) “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 (Selected) 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.
2012: I Asked My Friend Art, And He Said It Isn’t Him. Given that I just sent this, and don’t know what it’s fate is, I won’t talk about it too much. I will say I enjoyed writing it a lot. I found myself cackling and grinning much of the time, and I’m hoping that’s a good sign.