Monday, September 10, 2012

I Am Writing a Play

“Playwriting gets into your blood and you can't stop it. At least not until the producers or the public tell you to.” ― T.S. Eliot

I don't think I'd consider myself "only a playwright." As in, I don't think I'd be content to spend all the rest of my life writing for the theater. But I do consider myself a writer, and not one who is stuck in one particular genre or medium.

Which is not actually the reason I'm writing a play. Though I'm not just doing it for fun, either. I mean, it is a lot of fun (especially because I love writing dialogue), and I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't have any interest in it, but that's not primarily the reason why.

Nor is it for practice -- not entirely, at least. This is only the second play I've written, which of course means that I should be practicing, since I don't have a lot of experience. But it's not just for practice in the way that something written for fun would be just for practice. It's something that's actually going to be physically performed, for real.

How do I know it's going to be physically performed, for real? Because I'm the one putting this performance on. As in, I'm the director, producer, designer, coordinator -- scary, I know. But I did it last year. I wasn't really blogging back in December, so I never wrote about it, but last year I put on my church's annual Christmas play. And this year I'm doing it again. But bigger. And better. And quite a bit different.

Last year's play was just a simple adaptation of the Christmas story in Luke. The story you've all heard before. It was fairly straightforward. But this year I've set my sights on a story from a different book of the Bible. A popular story. A story that's unusual for a Christmas play.

I'm writing a play that dramatizes the story of Gideon.

Fun, right? It's an exciting story with lots of dramatic potential. Of course, being a play for my church, and being a play that will be performed by non-professional actors with little to no experience (and mostly under the age of 18), I do have some limitations. But I think that's when it's most fun to write a play (or screenplay).

For one, I have to write a play that can be performed on a traditional church "stage" - one that has the bare minimum of props, very limited scenery, and poor visibility. But this is just creative license to use people and words instead of props, to use movement instead of detailed scenery, and to bring the action spilling out into the aisles.

Another limitation: working with volunteers who are amazingly dedicated, but who don't have a lot of time or motivation to memorize a lot of complicated lines, and who also aren't professional actors who can project lines loud and clear. But this is just an excuse to simplify the Biblical phrases into modern English, to add witty lines or clarifications of my own, and to write dialogue that will come alive to the actors, so that it will also be easily understood by the audience.

Any kind of playwriting is fun. But playwriting on an almost nonexistent budget with a specific set of limitations is tremendously fun because it forces you to think creatively about problems and solutions.

Some professional screenwriters write the action first and then write in the dialogue. That's what I've been doing, using quotes from the Biblical story to stand in for dialogue while I work out all the actions (Judges 6:21 in particular, heh). Now it's time to go back and simplify the dialogue. After that (and after a final edit) I'll be submitting it to my writing group for critique (and another edit after that!) and then to the Elders for a final approval before I start recruiting and casting and the whole crazy project begins. Then I become director, designer, producer, coordinator, etc. etc.

With so many things to consider that I otherwise might not have to, I can't really be "only a playwright." And I like that. It makes it less like work and more like play.

Yes, that pun was totally, shamelessly intended.

Have you ever written a play? Ever performed in a play? Ever been to see a play? 
How do you feel about writing with limitations in mind? 


  1. Have you ever tried the technique of just reading the script? They used to do that with famous actors, all dressed up in formal clothes, sitting in a half circle, reading from individual lecterns.
    You could have a narrator reading from the side explaining or commenting on what was being said. This way the actors could just concentrate on reading the words, slowly and with feeling.

  2. All the best luck to you! I can't wait to see how it pans out for you.

    I've always wanted to write a play (as well as a full screenplay) but just don't have the time. I'll just live vicariously through you. ;)

    Vision of Other Worlds

  3. Really? This is Awesome!!! So Excited!!!!
    When will you be done!!????



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...