06 July 2009

How I Write a Play

I am in the midst of writing a new play, but I'm taking a break for ...

Andrew's Biggest Playwriting Secrets ... Finally Revealed!

1. THE IDEA: People always ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" Sometimes I'll just hit "Random Article" on Wikipedia or type in some random words on Google and hit "I'm Feeling Lucky." If that doesn't turn up something good, I'll either swipe a premise from a far better playwright ("Tracing Sonny" was in fact a rip-off of Glengarry Glen Ross) or just crib a plotline from old episodes of Felicity!

2. THE DIALOGUE: I really suck at dialogue; it's the hardest part of writing plays for me. But plays are 97% dialogue! In the words of Charlie Brown, "AAAAUUUUGGGHHHH!" So what to do? Sometimes I'll just have the actors talk in character until they say something I like, and then I'll tell them, "That! Do that!" Other times, I'll use Babel Fish to translate Spanish language "Novellas" and just change the names. And other other times, I'll dress up like one of my characters, and put myself in the actual situation in the real world, carefully tape recording everything said! On a play like "Pin-Up Girls," I'll use all of these tricks and more!

3. THE SCENE: It's important to describe the scene in painstaking detail, because theatre people have a hard time visualizing how a play should be produced. That's because the theatre is not a visual medium, like the superior art forms of television, film, and YouTube. Also, three to four pages of description make you look like a professional!

4. THE FORMAT: Some people make a big deal about the format of the finished script: Dialogue should run margin to margin, parenthetical descriptions should be indented, blah blah blah. I find it's easier to just use the movie script format. Also, by putting the dialogue in the middle of the page like a screenplay, it takes up more pages! Win-win (win)!

5. THE OPENING NIGHT: As a playwright, it's important to be recognized by the public. That's why I make a point of wearing a sash that says "Playwright" on it, and I always join the actors on stage for their curtain call. Bonus points if you pay someone to throw roses at you when you take the stage! I did that for "Torrid Affaire," and it made all the difference for the reviewers. Nothing says "class and talent" like having roses thrown at your feet! Hey ... it works for Rick Springfield!

6. THE REVIEWS: It's important to listen to everything the reviewers say, and to try and implement their notes by the next performance. One time this reviewer criticized the character of Slappy, the slap-happy ex-boxer turned custodian at the High Jinks Burlesque. Slappy had this gag where he'd stare at the girls while they were changing their clothes and drool into his mop bucket. The girls would see this, puts their hands on their hips and say "Oh, Slappy!" It happened, like, twelve times in the first act alone. After the review came out that called Slappy a "weak, two-dimensional crutch for otherwise humorless moments," I was sure to cut the character and replace him with "Seaweed," a cute creature from Atlantis who aspires to someday strip! Poor Seaweed -- he needs water to breathe!

7. FINAL THOUGHTS: Drink. Drink, drink, drink. Drink some more. You should be so drunk when you write that you're laughing at prepositions. That's how you write comedy.