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 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2007 12:06 am
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rune2402
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Mana: 
Hi! my name is Rudy, and I am new here. I introduced myself already and Edd said I could ask questions here.

I am seriously interested in writing a play, but as I have never done this before, I have a few questions:Here is a paste of something I wrote to my professor. I am determined to write this play, and once it is done I will submit it for your enjoyment.

Paste:
I want to write a play and I have many questions. I would like to submit here some of my ruminations concerning play writing in case you see some area you might be able to help me with any of them.

Here is a paste:

My main preoccupation in writing now (specifically plays) is how to
structure the scripts properly. I have a vivid imagination, but I need to know what is acceptable practice and what is not.

For example, is it necessary to specify every single actor name in the script? Including those who do not speak, but perhaps stand around as extras?

At this point the idea for the play is to enact a series of events in the life of Rudy, the main character.

I am not sure if my play qualifies as a full plot, but it is a story in itself. Can one write a play based on a simple set of events?

My play is based on a vivid dream I had.

Another thing is how to incorporate stage props into the script. How would I indicate the tools and objects on my stage? I must discover how to incorporate this into the script.

Also, at this point my scenes would be short.This would mean many a fade to black, and this too has me concerned.

I am using a play writing template I found on the net. I can make it available to you if you need it.

Again, it is an honor to be here.







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 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2007 02:04 pm
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Moon
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Mana: 
Dear Rudy,

Welcome! Although I am no expert, I will offer my two cents on these questions.

There are many different ways to structure your play, and many ways to incorporate props and set ideas into your stage directions. You don't have to name every character. Using a bunch of blackouts can be tedious, but there are many ways to transition between short scenes without using blackouts.

My best suggestion is to get yourself to the library or bookstore and read a bunch of plays. It's the only way to really get a sense of all the options. Plays are quick reads, so you can get a lot of information with a small time investment. In addition to the classics, I particularly recommend checking out plays by Lynn Nottage, Sarah Ruhl, Martin McDonagh, and Jordan Harrison. The recent anthologies from The Humana Festival at the Actor's Theatre of Louisville are also good resources.

Best of luck! I'm sure others on the forum will have great ideas for you.

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 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2007 03:09 pm
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deepakmorris
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Mana: 
I can only echo Moon's advice to read more plays... Read as many as you can. Read plays by German playwrights, English playwrights, American playwrights... Japanese translations, if you can get your hands on them, Chinese, Indian, any and every playwright, in the time you have available.

There is a lot to be said about acceptable practice and it often makes sense to structure plays in the acceptable format. Howevever, the exception does sometimes rule. If your play has a compelling plot and treatment, it may work with unconventional structure.

I'm sure you'll discover the answers to your other questions in the plays you read.

Before I sign off, you ask, "Can one write a play based on a simple set of events?"

My answer to that would have to be that you can write a play based on anything; a single event, a set of events, a lifetime, several lifetimes, a moment in time (you'll be surprised how long you can stretch one second in a person's life by bringing in back story, psychological profile, etc.).

It's your play. Write it any way you want. If it fails, well, write it another way or write another play incorporating the lessons you learned from the first one.

Deepak

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 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2007 04:13 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 
I, too, can only echo what Moon and Deepak had to say, but there is one point worth threepeating:  READ EVERY PLAY YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON TILL YOUR EYES BLEED!  There is no better advice, period.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 12th, 2007 05:23 pm
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rune2402
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Mana: 
Hey thanks. My story involves a guy getting kidnannped and his subsequent escape.

There is no interesting ending except for the fact he beats the crap out of a guy at a service station, steals the car, and gets waya from the kidnappers.

It's basically a story about escape. The protagonist does not know the villains, and there is no historical relevance other than the fact the story takes place.

But some people who have read many plays tell me that you absolutely have to teach the audience something.

I just thought it would be great to recreate the sense of suspense and adrenaline involved in getting kidnapped and then escaping.

The story is left open ended, and I am deliberating on adding some finality to it so it can more appropriately address this issue of teaching or resolution.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 12th, 2007 11:53 pm
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carlblong
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Mana: 
You don't have to teach the audience anything, but keep a few things in mind.

1. This is rule number one of any writing.  Kurt Vonnegut phrased it as "Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted."  There has to be a story worth telling -- if it's not worth telling, it's not worth reading or seeing, either.

A lot of people interpret this as "a story has to have a lesson," which isn't true.  There are tons of great stories out there that are total fluff, but they are not a waste of time.
2. There should be a journey of some kind.  A character has to make choices and change because of those choices.  (That being said, sometimes a character chooses not to change.  Waiting for Godot has a good example.)

 

I hope that helps.  Best of luck with your writing!

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 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2007 01:12 am
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rune2402
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Mana: 
Thank you Carlblong . This is great information. I will surely imbed this into my mind.

I suppose in order not to waste a strangers time. one must perhaps seduce the stranger with something that appeals to him/her. I will ponder these thoughts.Thank you all.


Last edited on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 01:14 am by rune2402

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 Posted: Mon Nov 19th, 2007 11:28 pm
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Steve Patterson
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Mana: 
I'm coming late to this, Rudy, wishing you well with your work.  Two quick observations, and they're from a purely practical point of view and come from my being both a playwright and producer. 

One is: remember the limitations of the stage.  You can actually pull off quite a bit of action, various scenes, etc., onstage as long as you keep it simple, but remember that someone actually has to move furniture, props, etc. on and off the stage, and the more different scenes you have, the longer it takes to play and the more expensive and complex it is to produce.

Same thing with characters.  Remember that every character you write has to be cast, and that's a chunk out of your producer's pocket; so, sad as it is to say, the fewer characters you have, the better chances you have of getting produced.  (The exception to this would be plays for schools, where they welcome a great many characters to give budding actors roles.)

Hope that helps....

Steve

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 Posted: Tue Nov 20th, 2007 01:00 am
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leon
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Mana: 
hi steve, i actually wrote a play where a five eighths piece of plywood needs to be mounted on four pretty heavy wheels.  this is so pieces of furniture can be pushed on and off the stage.  never got produced but definitely doable.  especially since the lead character is a writer that needs to be sitting at her desk for much of the play.  she sometimes gets rolled offstage while sitting at her desk.

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 Posted: Tue Nov 20th, 2007 06:52 pm
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Steve Patterson
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Mana: 
Pretty cool idea and not hard to pull off.  For one of my pieces, the director came up with two huge boxes on wheels that contained all the props and could be wheeled about to form different staging configurations.  I think one of the most elegant stage solutions I've seen, however, was in the 1997 Portland production of my play "Waiting on Sean Flynn."  The play took place at the rooftop bar of Saigon's Caravelle Hotel and had flashback scenes in the field from the Vietnam War.  The set designers, Kyle Evans and Sean DeVine, built the bar so that it would come apart, form rubble, serve as an operating table, and so on.  Genius.

Steve

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 Posted: Wed Nov 21st, 2007 03:16 am
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rune2402
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Mana: 
Can I ask you guys something? What about one's play getting ripped-off?

How does one protect one's work?

I realize there are copyright laws , but I just want to read what you all may  say concerning the issue.

By the way, I wrote a great play.

It is based on the spiritual plane, and I may show it here once some minor issues are ironed out.
 

Last edited on Wed Nov 21st, 2007 03:18 am by rune2402

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 Posted: Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 05:26 am
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Steve Patterson
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Mana: 
It all depends on what Germany's copyright laws are...it depends from country to country.  In the U.S., you techincally own the play the moment you put pen to paper, but you can also register it with the U.S. Copyright Office.

In the age of the Internet, where info flies all over, you really can't insure that someone might rip you off, but, to tell the truth, there are so many plays out there and so many writers struggling to make headway, that theft isn't that much of a problem.  It can be when work is being adapted to film, but, by then you're probably going to need an agent anyway.  If you choose reputable, stable theatre companies that have a great deal to lose by infringing on your rights (and who have a history of conducting themselves ethically), you probably aren't going to face many problems, even if you've written the new "Hamlet."

Steve

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 Posted: Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 12:11 pm
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rune2402
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Mana: 
Thanks Steve. No I am not from Germany. I am from new Jersey. Somehow I couldn't find United States when registering, and just chose a country instead. WoW! That is great information. U.S. Copyright Office aye? I am looking into that right now. Thanks Steve.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 26th, 2007 05:16 am
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nic
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Mana: 
Hi Rudy and welcome To add to all the advice you've been given and it's all good advice can I add see as much theatre as you can.  I've just finished working as a guest actor in a university production of Little Women... they needed a grandfather, The director  did a simply marvelous job of melding  very short scenes together using very carefully chosen music, imaginative direction of actors and  simple lighting techniques. I've been in the business for more than fifty years and he taught me more than a thing or to.

 As my director wife keeps telling me.. you don't steal or even borrow other people's ideas they stimulate you to develop your own.

 The best Nic

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