I am relatively new here, I have enjoyed myself immensely and am amazed at the quality of writing that I have found. This is a 10 minute play that I have just finished the first draft. Not only is it a first draft, it is my first play ever. If you could take a moment or two and look it over I would appreciate it.
Where in NYC? NYC is a big place. Lots of different neighborhoods. Specify.
In the 1960’s East 12th street and East 65th Street were polar opposites. Still is in 2016.
You have a much longer play here if you are willing to do it. Basically, you have written a scene. Not a play.
Right now, you give us three people and one apparently blows her brains out. We do not have time to care about any of them. If someone we do not know kills herself, we can not really care – or even hate – them. If we get to know someone and they die, we have a reason to care.
Also, why do they have a gun?
Just when I am interested...you end the play. Don’t short change yourself. Nor your reader. Look for more possibilities. Let us get to know these people.
What if we hear the gunshot and she has NOT killed herself? Sadie is fine, but now there is a hole in the wall that Bill is going to have to clean up.
Are the police going to come?
You have three people in a Studio apartment….cramped quarters…NOW there is a great setting to start from. But where do you go? Who are these people?
You have some sexual tension between Laurel and David. That is nice beause it is the sister-in-law.
If Sadie is going to off herself, give her a chance to let us know why she does it.
Or, Sadie can off herself as you have it, and then figure out a story for the aftermath. What do they do with a dead body on their hands?
By the way, I absolutely LOVE the title!!!! Write a play that really fits that. It is a great title.
I had a read through of your play and thought I’d share my thoughts with you, for what they’re worth.
Firstly, if this is the first play you’ve ever written you have a great deal to be proud of. You clearly have a natural instinct for it. Congratulations on having the courage to put pen to paper and to share it with world.
I actually think you have the beginnings of a very interesting 10-minute play here. I really like the atmosphere created within it – there’s a sense of menace and dark despair that has an almost Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf-like quality to it, with the drunken, belittling wife and the cowed husband. It has a dark and noirish feel and a great sense of mystery. Also, I don’t think the location is important at all. In fact, it’s irrelevant as written. It says it’s set in NYC in your notes, but as an audience member I wouldn’t know that, since the location isn’t mentioned anywhere in the story. It could be happening anywhere…and that’s just fine since nothing in the text ties it to a specific location.
That said, I do find the ending a little too ambiguous and unsatisfying (ending a play the right way is always one of the hardest hurdles to cross, I find). Aside form the fact that it doesn’t seem very clear what is actually happening, I’m not feeling enough motivation for the final, violent act. I’m assuming that it’s in fact Peter who shoots himself – perhaps I’m wrong – since Sadie is still asleep in the locked bathroom. It appears he’s reached the end of his rope and the incident with Laurel is the final tipping point. But I think you could load (no pun intended) more motivation and up the degree of his despair into the prior happenings to make his suicide seem more logical without making it seem too inevitable. Tricky to do, but I’m sure you can pull it off.
Also, I loved this line:
PETER: Sometimes, what you can’t see is far more revealing then all the things that you can.
Other than being a great line, it has a nice correlation to the hidden gun – and his perhaps his hidden intentions/feelings.
So, hearty congratulations on your achievement! I think you have the makings of a very intriguing short play here, and I’m sure after you’ve worked on a few more drafts of it, you’ll have something that will undoubtedly be picked up for production. Good luck!
The ambiguous ending was somewhat intentional, though with hindsight, probably handled a bit sloppily. I wanted to create a moment, like a dramatic Rorschach test, where each individual reader would draw their own conclusion as to who was shot. Did Peter, kill himself, or his sleeping wife, or perhaps he shot Lauren in the beginning of a murder suicide. I do not posses the skills to pull this off however, and with the hard limit of ten pages I had to tie it up and left too many loose ends about. About the location, you are right that it makes little difference as written, again my inexperience is glaring. I simply could not in the amount of pages I had to work with put it in. I was trying to show how being southerners and all, living in NYC was them like being fish out of water, like Peter is, with himself, being married to Sadie. A subtle and poetic air of isolation. Anyway, that was my intention. I think the root of my problem is that I lack the proper skills to contain all that I want to say in a ten minute play. Like cramming a quarts worth of perseveres into a pint jar. I think I'll try and extend it to a simple one Act, 30-40 pages? Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read my little play, but especially for taking the time to comment so thoughtfully.
I believe you are right in that it is more of a scene then a play. I chose to do a ten minute play because I was under the mistaken impression that it would be easier to to do so. I see now that it takes much more skill that I poses to do so successfully. Perhaps, it is something i can develop in time, but as of now I see that it exceeds my talents. I will try and extend it to a longer 30-40 pages one act. It may not improve, but I'll at least be able to touch on the tings that should be touched on. For instance the setting, NYC. I choose that because it is large, busy and a hard place, not one known to be kind to people who don't fit in. Peter is a 'fish out a' water' there, as he is in his marriage. Also, like the cramped studio apartment, I'm trying to use it co convey a sense of loneliness. How even in that population dense metropolis that there are tens of thousands of lonely souls, that loneliness can not be defined by the proximity to other people but rather by the connection that is forged between them, regardless of distance. I don't know, perhaps it's all rubbish but that was my intention anyway. My respect for people who actually write for a living has grown by leaps and bounds. Much harder than even I would have thought.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this writing of mine, and also for taking the time and effort to comment so thoughtfully. I do indeed appreciate it and will ponder on all that you have said.
Yes, I am indeed winging it. I have mostly read non fiction history type book, which are hardly applicable here. Other than dabiling with poetry for a few month three years ago I haven't done much writting at all. I am ashamed to admit that I haven't been to a 'Play' since Middle school.
I did pick up copy of one of the books you so kindly suggested. The Dramatic Writers Compainion, by Dunne, and plan on learning as much about this craft as possible.
Thank you again, for your time, advice and for your response.
I was in Albuquerque 20 odd years ago living on the floor of a garage. and flat broke. I mean BROKE--shoplifting for food broke. So, I spent the entire summer reading short plays. I wanted to write some. I figured the best way to learn was to read all the short plays I could get my hands on. I read scores of them. THEN, I began to see common elements in all of them. Rhythm, form, how to hone the medium down to a single thru-line and, as always, my interest and most of my work is character driven. I learned much on this forum, some infuriating and most helpful. NEVER explain yourself, BTW. Listen and say thanks.. There may be better playwrights on this Forum; I am sure there are, but I offer you my little website where you can find everything I have ever written sans two earlier lost plays. You'll find plays from one minute to ten to one-acts to full-lentths. I must add that Paddy, a moderator here, is a wiz with helping folks with their writing, as is In Media Res, another of our brilliant members. Pick their brains. There's a helluva lot of good stuff in there those brilliant brains. My website is http://www.edwardcrosbywells.net BTW I'm 71 and though I always fancied myself a writer, I didn't begin seriously till I was in my late 40s/ 50ish. It's never too late and now I, too, am fracking brilliant! Just kidding. Write On! P.S. Welcome.
I have a slight problem with this play; it is how the women are represented. I don't like the male fantasy cliché that a younger woman is interested in an older man.
Why does the sister-in-law begin to undress in front of her brother-in-law?
Women, on the whole, don't behave as simply and as obviously as this.
In a second read...I found myself very fond of it and it's potential for more!
I must confess my first read was while I was recuperating from a knee surgery. I was off pain medications, but was on about 8 others to prevent infections and a host of other post-surgical stuff that I don't even want to THINK of what they do to the body...except prevent infection. So, in respect to you, I went back and looked at the script again. I apologize to all for Critiqueing Under the Influence.
Here are the notes I wrote the other day:
#1 note: Check your spelling. You may not think this important, but it is. It stops the flow of the eye going down the page.
The tone is similar to some of Sam Shepard's stuff. Not bad company.
With that out of the way:
The tone of the play is great. There is an ominous feeling when Bill shows up and we get right into the story.
I like the opening and I like Bill. He has a business to protect, but seems to have some genuine understanding. Waving the panties is a great visual to show how bad Peter’s wife is behaving. It puts us in Peter's shoes.
So, we are now quickly right into the middle of a bad the situation...and then it gets worse! This is the stuff of Drama.
So, he hides the gun. WHERE? THIS IS CONFUSING TO ME.
Stage Directions are important. Plays on the page are meant to be SEEN in
3-D. If the writer can get us to SEE the play and SMELL the play and HEAR the play that is the best. And you DO that in your play by the blinking light, streets sounds of NYC, The booze that has been drunk. If you SEE your play, you can make us see it also.
The abuse heaped upon Peter is awful. Sadie is brutal. WE feel sympathy for him. His restraint is as admirable as it is stupid. And potentially life threatening. But, people DO stick around in real life in bad relationships. What holds him and Sadie together? Did happier times exist at one time? This is something you can explore in the play as you continue with it. We want him to get his ass out of there...but he STAYS. This is wonderful dramatically.
When Laurel asks for a swig, I think it could be more interesting if Sadie were to refuse it by saying “Get your own, goddamnit” or some such thing.Drunks DO fight over booze. I've witnessed it many times over the years. (It seems as if there is a time when booze like this is a unifier and then morphs into a divider. This refusal of sharing the booze could be a motivator for Laurel to start to put the moves on Peter.)
“To take a dump” is a more graphic line than “What a dump!” from the Edward Albee’s great play “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (As Wrighter has referred to.) If you have not read it, you should. Or you can rent the adapted movie with Richard Burton and Liz Taylor. Or it has a sense of Tennesee Williams “A Streetcar named Desire.”
I love the line “It is just so peaceful for once tonight.” There is an exhaustion in dealing with boozers…even from other boozers.
Laurel is a great character. Sooooo much you can do with her.
Your ending leaves you no where to go. You sure you want to end the play here? I WANT MORE. This is actually a great BEGINNING for a play!!!!!!!! What do they do in the next scene? Or what is the following morning and day and night like? You have a million potentials here. or you can jump back into happier times and let us watch the dissolution of a perfectly lovely marriage/relationship into drunken chaos.
Are you implying someone has committed suicide?
Suggestion: What if no one is shot by the bullet? Sadie walks out of the bathroom. And we do not know who actually pulled the trigger on the gun.
Or maybe it was a blank. If a bullet is shot, Bill would probably come running to the room.
No you have a real START of a play!
Now you have an example of what a friend of mine calls, “Everyone was having a good time until somebody gets punched in the face.”
I think you have so much more to say than this brief encounter.
As far as the gun:
What if the gun is never shot? what if Sadie gets ahold of the gun and starts sashaying around with a bottle of booze in one had and a gun in the other?
Or does the gun just go off? Or mayb the gun gets sort of passed around. These are only options to think of...these are not necessarily suggestions to follow.
Wrting is about "What If?" Imagine.
Who shoots? Laurel? Sadie? I am confused here. (And this time not from any post-surgical drugs.) Could Sadie have snuck it into the bathroom? There are sooooo many options for you.
You never actually say who shot the pistol. That may be good. May be bad.
But you have a wonderful dynamic to start with. Congratulations.
Now as to what can be done to improve it - I think you have a strong situation here. A lot of conflict and drama and intensity. I definitely like it. In fact, my main concern is that you have not truly explored each of these characters. I want to know more about each of them. The cowed School teacher, the glorious drunk, the flirtatious yet tired young girl. These are quite wonderful characters and my main advice would be to give them more sapce in which to breath instead of hurrying to finish the piece. This might not even be a ten minute play but something longer. I which case go ahead!