Hello other playwrights, I'm back! (*People gasp and some confess to not realizing he was gone*) And as a result of a week-long playwrighting conference in New York, I have a new, short, five-minute play! It's a comedy (:O) and in order for all the jokes to be truly understood, here are the rules of the commission:
1. Up to seven minutes of playing time.
2. The work must have been created during this Urban Retreat.
3. Each play was alotted up to three actors.
4. The plays are being presented as a staged reading: without a set, with actors carrying scripts and wearing street clothes.
5. The play must be communicated entirely through dialogue and action: no stage directions will be read.
6. Required to use at least one of the following props: a spoon, an empty mason jar, a baby bootie, an onion, a conch shell, or an oversized flashlight (torch).
7. Any sound required for the play could only be generated by the actors.
And now, I bring you without further bullshit...
The Five o’clock Shadow by Raymond A. Turco
(MAN 1 speaks with a British accent. MAN 2 is clearly American.)
What are you doing?
Looking for a way out. You?
Reading this book.
Really? Because I don’t see you turning the pages.
I can’t… It’s one of those goddamn commission rules.
Oh… Is it any good?
I like it. It hasn’t any words though… So why would you want to get out? It’s so cosy in here.
Hey Claustrophobic, I’m Antisocial.
Don’t you wanna know…? You know? If there was anything out there?
I didn’t think there was. Because there’s that fourth wall over there. I always thought this was--
MAN 2 (AND MAN 1)
Pretty much. We’ll just have to try and--
MAN 2 (AND MAN 1)
Yeah… Don’t finish my sentences, okay?
(An OFFICER sounds in from above.)
Attention, attention. Today is Random Selection Day! We will be arbitrarily selecting one of you to hang by the rope. Have a nice day.
Oh my god! We’re all going to die.
Great Scott! Grab that unnecessarily huge torch over there and make it integral.
I’m integrating… I’m integrating… I’m not integrating!
Fuck it then.
Okay now what?
Put it down. And anyway, every day is Random Selection Day and I’ve never been picked. And technically, we’re not “all going to die”. Just me. Or just you.
(MAN 2 groans.)
You might want to clean up a bit. You never want to hang by the rope with a five o’clock shadow.
It just doesn’t look proper is all.
I don’t wanna die.
Oh but… It’s like… Commit to your beard or don’t. Either go smooth as a baby’s arse or all out. There can be no intermediate facial hair.
You gonna elaborate?
But I’m so interested.
That’ll go away in a second.
It’s nothing; I can just hear footsteps coming down the hall.
Raymond, congrats on attending the conference, wish I had the time to attend those types of thing :D
I was a bit confused at the beginning but I understand that for these types of shows you usually have to headbut right into the action.
Aside from that, I liked it as a whole. I especially loved the whole "Do we have time?" portion. It's always hard to put conflict in such a short duration of time and you parodied wonderfully. I also like how you made fun of the commission rules. I often dislike a lot of the absurd rules they have. I think it helps some people gain strength as playwrights but for some people it's not exactly the cup of tea. (Really, my only pet peeve is character limitations)
Sorry to introduce a negative note here, but this sketch did nothing for me. I'm sure it would get very knowing laughs from a very knowing audience, but such in-jokes may be lost on the general public. For example, I still don't know what a "fourth wall" is, and I'm a playwright. (Maybe I should know, but it is only a technical phrase, after all.) Secondly, nothing happens in this sketch: it's just five minutes of clever-clever dialogue. I wouldn't want to sit through it.
Absurdist, I totally understand where you are coming from; this was one of the problems I was concerned about going into the whole thing. You see, this whole skit (I would not even truly call it a "play") is based upon the limitations of the Commission I was handed. I knew that this piece would inherently have no point and no conflict. Then I started thinking, "well, could the search for a conflict and struggle with the limitations of the Commission become a conflict?" Then I went ever so much deeper into meta-selfreferentialism and ended up confusing myself. It was just a little piece that I was forced into doing, I have no real intentions to market it, because as you said, the jokes are mostly in-jokes.
It's great to know that someone is interested in my work! Actually, if you are interested in serious drama maybe you could take a look at a play I'm still sort of working on from a while back: http://www.stageplays-forum.com/forum6/3136.html. It's changed a lot from what you will see in the post but I could send you a new copy if you'd like.
This is the first time I make a contribution to this forum, I guess I have to start somewhere, I have read a lot of plays on this forum. Some I liked, some I did not like, so far seem pretty logical ! I wanted to make comments on a lot of plays, but I guess I was shy and careful, I am always waiting for someone to tell me "How can you critize my play ??? English is not even your language !!!" So I have been reading but stayed silent.
I liked your play, the flow of the dialogue and the sharp sentences. I did not like too much all the references about theater technique or practice, as I think (but this is only my opinion) it hold back the play, if that is a right expression. When I read the first time, it felt like being on an express train, but then it stops at every single station, so every time I got side track by the theatre references. Also I had more like a question than a comment : Why did you make the difference between two accents, American and British ? What do you want to say about that ?
Well, Christine, I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. To answer your question, I have no idea why I chose those two accents. I knew I wanted each character to have his own voice so I picked the two most accessible accents in English. Plus, I had a couple jokes in the original draft about there not being any water in the water closet, but they are no longer there. I kept the accents anyway.
Like I said in previous posts, this piece was written for a very specific audience under very specific circumstances; the commission presented obstacles that could easily be turned into jokes.
Oh and by the way, don't ever think that anyone around here would rebuke your critique on the basis that English is not your primary language.
I've been very hesitant to comment on peoples stuff lately (walking on eggshells a bit) but when I read yours I just had to. I recently was commissioned to write a play in 768 words on a particular theme. It actually did help clarify my work but at the time oh how I lauded the rules. I think you have a very witty piece here for a very specific audience. I like the "in jokes". Sometimes I have to think what the heck is wrong with writing for a specific group.
I, for one, thought you took a very intuitive approach to this piece. While the imposed rules might have limited another playwright's creativity and reduced their hope, you used them to your advantage and created a play that was actually more creative than anything I have read in a while.
However, you should ideally try not to take that approach too much. It worked brilliantly once, but the second time around may be different.
Glad you all enjoyed the piece! It's not like anything I've ever done before, and because it was written for a specific audience and situation, I don't think I shall be doing anything like it again, at least for mainstream theatre. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy doing it, it's just that the play's comedy depends on the rules of a comission. A lot of my other works are generally less absurd and more realistic anyway.
But through writing this piece, I gained some more insight into myself as a writer and discovered my capacity for writing comedy. I'd always thought I'd been a straight-up dramatic writer, but it seems that I do have a funny bone somewhere
Liked it, favorite bits were; 'Turn it over - with your mind," and the precise scream.
If you wanted to rewrite this for a more general audience, it would seem to me that you need to supply alternate explanations for all the arbitrary rules these characters are subject to. For example, Why is Man 1 reading a book but cannot or is unwilling to turn the pages - that to me is a question that could have all sorts of interesting answers besides the meta-theatrical. Is he a reading addict and so has limited himself to a single page per night to curb his addiction? Was he attacked by a flock of birds as a small child and the rustling of pages remind him of the rustling of wings? Is the book simply so good that he doesn't want it to end and so reads the same page over and over again?
There's already this theme of these arbitrary rules that the characters are subjected to but don't really know why - through the commision rules, but also through the officer.
Also, certain things in this piece are already general meta-theatrical instead of specific to the commision rules - so you could either make the meta-theatre more general, abandon the meta-theatre and just explore arbitrary rules, or introduce the commision rules somehow in the script itself (and the commision rules don't necesarily have to be related to theatre, they might be incorporated as the whims of a prison warden, for example.)
QuixotesGhost, I like the idea of finding interesting explanations for the rules or even attributing the rules to the "prison" that they habitate. Now I've just realised a number of ways to revise this piece for regular theatre. Woohoo!