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The Playwrights Forum > General > Question & Answer > 10 min play v. skit

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10 min play v. skit  Rate Topic 
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 Posted: Thu Feb 4th, 2010 12:10 am
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spiny norman
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Mana: 
several times now, a friend of mine has gotten the feedback that her 10 minute plays read more like skits.

so what advice would you give her?

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 Posted: Thu Feb 4th, 2010 12:18 am
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Edd
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Mana: 
tell her to be true to her characters and her characters will be real and true to the audience. it is difficult to see a 10-minute play with honest characters, no matter what the situation, as a skit.

my best.

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 Posted: Thu Feb 4th, 2010 08:31 pm
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in media res
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Mana: 
This is always a tough one. Because it is indefinable, but you know it when you see it.

Usually a skit involves comedy. But all short comedy is not a skit. Just because something is funny does not make it a "skit."

There is an element to any play through character and action and general tone that makes it more than a skit, whether the play is drama or comedy. A depth of soul for lack of a better phrase. No, I don't think that is for a lack of better phrase. I think it is the phrase.

I go to Second City and I see skits. Was recently there and sort of enjoyed myself. Though you are cramped in tighter than a sardine can without the oil and sit on uncomfortable chairs that seem picked out of the alley and lean on wobbly cocktail tables the size of a paper plate. The performers were for the most part excellent at what they did. And one could see several were capable of serious work. So many wonderful actors and writers have come out of there. Their training is rigorous. But the work itself did not allow them to show that in Performance. They just "had it." It is indefinable. But, not once was I moved.

I would ask your friend to look first at the essential puropose of the event being written about. What is so important about this time and this place that these characters must be there at that time in the universe? And edd hits it on the head. Look at the characters. What do they want and need? If it is only about the moment in front of us - and what immediately confronts them - then that is not satisfying as a play. If the event of the play is important to the well-being of the character(s) or disaster to the character(s) or to others outside the play after the play ends, then there is a resonance that is larger than the play, whether comedy or drama. What do the characters emotionally take out of the situation after the situation has ended?

Skits will seldom accomplish this because that has never been their intention.

One of my writing workshop teachers once said to look for "the moments after which everything is different."

Which I have translated for myself into, "Only write about moments after which everything will be changed/different forever."

Nothing will be changed forever in a skit. You "wrap up" a skit. In fact in improv you still see the moderator give a signal or even say, "okay let's wrap it up." To "wrap it up" - like a fish in butcher paper, and put tape on it.

In a play there is life's breath spilling over the edges of the stage.

But to your friend's credit - if she trusts the people reading her stuff at those theatres - and who knows who they could be? - she would seem to already know how to progress something to a conclusion and maybe with some surface conflict. Which is truly a big deal and a compliment. So look for a bit more depth of soul and afterglow in her work. And trust your choices. And keep writing.

And, if all the above sounds like it makes any sense, remember I usually have no idea what I am talking about.


best,

in media res

Last edited on Fri Feb 5th, 2010 04:08 am by in media res

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 Posted: Thu Feb 4th, 2010 09:32 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
This comes up so often, I've come up with my own - how can you tell the difference between a play and a skit.

First - if you delete the last line of the play and it makes no sense, it's probably a skit. 

If you delete the last line and it's better - it's probably a play.

If, in your head, you hear a ba dum dump ching...drum rift...it's a skit.

I've actually recieved submissions where the playwright has taken a popular joke, and written it as a play...but it's a skit.

My two cents...almost par.

Paddy

Last edited on Fri Feb 5th, 2010 03:54 am by Paddy

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 Posted: Fri Feb 5th, 2010 03:36 am
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tobias
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Mana: 
Just saw this in another play in a One Act Festival I was in. Edd, In Media and Paddy(all much more qualified than I) covered it well, but I'll add:

Why did she write it?

If it was just to be funny, it might be a play, but it may be a skit.

If she changes one character radically, are the jokes still working the same way? Then it might be a skit.

Will the audience remember a great line or will they remember why they cared?

 

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 Posted: Fri Feb 5th, 2010 01:09 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 
Paddy,

The way the dollar is going here in the US, your two cents is quite a chunk of change!

~edd

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 Posted: Sat Feb 6th, 2010 02:51 pm
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spiny norman
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Mana: 
great answers, everyone - thanks!

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 Posted: Tue Jun 12th, 2012 12:57 pm
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Proboscisbunny
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Mana: 
Krikey! Looks who's here :)

I googled "What's the difference between a skit and a play" and it brought me here.

I have a short play that I wrote and it was called a skit in feedback - I, of course, am greatly offended.

If the characters change, and learn something about themselves or their place in the world, isn't that enough to elevate it to play?

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 Posted: Tue Jun 12th, 2012 02:22 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
But you are assuming 'they' know the difference.

Paddy

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 Posted: Tue Jun 12th, 2012 02:24 pm
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Proboscisbunny
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Mana: 
Ha ha ha, good point. This just happened to come from a Tony Award winning actress...but everyone can be wrong once in a while :)

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 Posted: Tue Jun 12th, 2012 07:52 pm
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Bob
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Mana: 
Here is the definition of a "skit" from Miriam Webster online

Definition of SKIT

1
: a jeering or satirical remark : taunt
2
a : a satirical or humorous story or sketch
b (1) : a brief burlesque or comic sketch included in a dramatic performance (as a revue) (2) : a short serious dramatic piece; especially : one done by amateurs

Note that the second definitions define a skit as a sketch.

My understanding of the difference between a sketch and a play is this: a sketch is the presentation of an interesting incident-- a beginning without a middle or end. A vignette. (Many of these are common to musical reviews, vaudeville, SNL, etc.)

A play, on the other hand, will have a beginning, middle and end, with a proper structural climax. (To reiterate: there have also been successful SERIOUS theatre pieces that can be classified as sketches: "Krapp's Last Tape" for one.)

Just tossing this out.

Last edited on Tue Jun 12th, 2012 08:01 pm by Bob

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 Posted: Tue Jun 12th, 2012 08:39 pm
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QuixotesGhost
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Mana: 
There's also this sense that a play is somehow preferable to a skit, which is a notion I don't agree with in the least. It's possible to have brilliant sketches just like brilliant plays, one doesn't need to go farther than "Monty Python's Flying Circus", "Kids in the Hall", or "Mr. Show" to find evidence of that.

If you're facing resistance from companies because they write back saying "Well, my good sir, we only stage plays at this fine theatre, not mere skits" instead of trying to rewrite it as a play, simply submit it to other companies.

Part of the problem though, is not really one of taste, but of demographics. Theatre, as a medium, has older audiences, while sketch comedy as a format, mainly appeals to younger crowds. So if you're writing sketches, you want to target companies that are targeting younger audiences. That mainly means companies in big cities, since they have a large and vibrant enough theatre community that they can actually find younger audiences.

I go to Second City and I see skits. Was recently there and sort of enjoyed myself. Though you are cramped in tighter than a sardine can without the oil and sit on uncomfortable chairs that seem picked out of the alley and lean on wobbly cocktail tables the size of a paper plate. The performers were for the most part excellent at what they did. And one could see several were capable of serious work. So many wonderful actors and writers have come out of there. Their training is rigorous. But the work itself did not allow them to show that in Performance. They just "had it." It is indefinable. But, not once was I moved.


I've seen a show at Second City as well as some of their shorts online and found it pretty mediocre as far as sketch comedy goes. Their improv was pretty solid, but that might have been the result of a particularly gifted performer the night that I saw it.

Though I will admit, one of my favorite sketches of all time is from "SCTV" when they had the old guard of John Candy, Rick Moranis, and Dave Thomas. It's called "The NASA production of 'Murder in the Cathedral'". A very strange and inspired concept, and particularly funny if you've ever seen a production of "Murder in the Cathedral".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYR9k8hFZHY

Favorite line is "Requesting coordinates to Beckett, traitor to the King, Requesting coordinates to Beckett, traitor to the King." (Which is a parody of the line that opens the second half: "Where is Beckett, Traitor to the King?" - meant to be delivered with fiery anger, that juxtaposes how it's delivered here)

Last edited on Tue Jun 12th, 2012 08:57 pm by QuixotesGhost

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 Posted: Wed Jun 13th, 2012 01:35 pm
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in media res
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Proboscisbunny,

All Google searches lead to Rome.

Vanessa Krikey look who's here!

Good to see you visit.

Hope all is well,

Best, IMR

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 Posted: Wed Jun 13th, 2012 05:12 pm
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RTurco
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Mana: 
I was just at a playwriting workshop last week and they read and critiqued three new plays done by the group's members. The last one, a 10-minute play, recieved a similar comment: it was too "skitish". I agreed. I especially felt, like others, that it was a piece based on coincidences and a highly contrived scenario. So maybe that has something to do with the difference between skits and plays: plays are born out of natural, believable occurences (unless you're not going for some brand of realism) and feel natural without any suspicious coincidences.

Example: the play was about a terminally ill man having just escaped the hospital after a fatal car crash, that killed his wife, in search of his biological father who, as he later finds out, is a barman who has just died. The father's other son, who never suspected he had a half-brother, is now the owner of the bar and thus he pushes away the man as if he was the plague. The play ends with the the terminally ill man dying on the spot just as the barman is about to put on his favorite song. All that. And to me it felt like a skit.

Last edited on Wed Jun 13th, 2012 05:13 pm by RTurco

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 Posted: Wed Jun 13th, 2012 05:29 pm
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Proboscisbunny
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Mana: 
Krikey, that's a lot crammed into 10 pages!

I understand where you're coming from, and the premise of my play is "sketchy" LOL - two red hat ladies mistaken as gang members by an inept cop...but, like I said, I made sure all the characters were fleshed out and they all underwent a change... Ah, well. This is an interesting discussion!

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 Posted: Thu Feb 7th, 2013 06:55 am
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suelange
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Mana: 
I'd like to read examples of successful ten minute plays. Anybody know where to get examples of ten-minute plays that have seen a professional production? Also examples of non-comedic "skits" would be helpful. I'm well aware of the SCTV, SNL, Second City (Chicago and Baltimore) skits. I've also studied with Groundlings so I know the process of Improv. What I'd like to see is a "skit" not meant to be jokey. Is there even a reason to write a serious skit? Wouldn't you rather write a play?


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 Posted: Thu Feb 7th, 2013 11:11 am
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Proboscisbunny
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Mana: 
Ha! I forgot all about this thread. My skittish play is being produced in San Diego at North Park Vaudeville and Candy Shoppe next month. So it all works out in the end :)

V

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 Posted: Thu Feb 7th, 2013 12:09 pm
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suelange
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Mana: 
Congratulations on that Proboscisbunny. It must have some merit, then, whichever it is.

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 Posted: Thu Feb 7th, 2013 06:05 pm
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in media res
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Mana: 
WOW! This is such an old post..I feel old!

Vanessa, congratulations.

best,

IMR

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 Posted: Fri Feb 8th, 2013 06:46 pm
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timmy
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Mana: 
Have been to North Park. Nice folks there. The guy who directed my play picked me up at the airport and let me stay w/him. Had a wonderful time.

They will treat your play w/respect.



timmy

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 Posted: Fri Feb 8th, 2013 07:07 pm
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Proboscisbunny
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Mana: 
That's great to hear :)

Thanks everyone!

V

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 Posted: Sat Feb 9th, 2013 03:44 pm
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Doug B
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Mana: 
The Actors Theatre of Louisville has published dozens and dozens of professionally produced plays form their long lived ten minute festivals.

Here is a link:

http://www.samuelfrench.com/catalog/search?keyword=actors+theatre+of+louisville

Doug

Last edited on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 03:45 pm by Doug B

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