Sunday, October 30, 2016

10-Minute Play Script Project Draft Due!; Charles Busch & The Vampire Lesbians of Sodom


Plays often start with a conviction, a belief, or some issue that a playwright wants to expose, examine, or discuss.

In the plays we have read, such themes as suicide, HIV, aging or dying, racism, self-deprecation, aging, sexual assault, feminism, etc. have been used.

In your own play, jot down on a piece of paper, an index card, or on your title page the conviction, belief, or issue your play deals with. This is your premise. What did you write a play about? Tell me in 1-2 sentences.

Please complete your play draft this morning during period 1. Print out your play script and attach your premise to your script. Hand in for credit.

If you finish your play script before the end of period 1, please examine/read the material/linked articles below:

Charles Busch:

Please take a look at Charles Busch's blog. He has placed a variety of play video clips here. Take a look at a few of these. His official website is located here.

Please watch a few video clips, read an interview or two with the author, and learn a little about his background.

CLASSROOM: Please finish reading The Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. Get started on homework if we complete the play before the end of class.

HOMEWORK: PLEASE READ (on index card, write a one-sentence summary of each article and 1 important fact or detail you think is essential or interesting):
  • An article about cross-dressing and theatre
  • Since theatre began, cross-dressing has been a common occurrence on the stage. As far back as ancient Greek theatre, male actors acted both male and female roles on stage. Later in pantomimecommedia dell'arte, and medieval theatre the tradition continued. Of course, Shakespeare and his contemporaries also used cross-dressing in Elizabethan theatre. Many of Shakespeare's funniest comedies use the trope of cross-dressing, for example: Twelfth NightAs You Like It, and even the Merchant of Venice.
  • Read the handout articles: cross-dressing and theatre, pantomime, and commedia dell'arte. Write a 1-sentence summary of each article and include 1 important fact or detail you think is essential or interesting for each article. This assignment is due Nov. 2 (Wednesday). 
  • Finally, choose 1 other play in the collection: Psycho Beach Party, Red Scare on Sunset, The Woman in Question, or The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and read it. You will be asked to review the play. This homework assignment is due Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

10 Minute Play Project; Comedy; Vampire Lesbians of Sodom: Day 1


After our quiz on The Mystery of Irma Vep & The Ridiculous Theater Company, please use your remaining time in the lab to continue working on your 10-minute play script drafts. Aim to complete these drafts by end of next class's lab time (Oct. 31).


Dialogue isn't just talking. Dialogue HAPPENS. It happens when your characters' need to speak. It is also how they listen (or not listen), and the connotation, nuance, color and subtext of what they say, how they say it, and why they say it. Good dialogue is the result of well-defined characters in a well-structured plot. They may be compelled to speak (or not), but they should have a REASON for speaking.

Here are some tips to consider:
1. We usually talk because we want to communicate some need. If we want nothing, we say nothing, usually. We also speak when we want to: threaten, teach, explain, tease, joke, murmur, pontificate, defend ourselves, apologize, seduce, evade, pout, challenge, yell, scold, cry, motivate, convince, etc. 
2. Dialogue is action. It is an action taken to satisfy a want or desire. What a character wants or desires moves them to speak and act. This is part of characterization--and the best way to build or develop your character(s). 
3. When we don't get what we want (often immediately), humans tend to become shy, aggressive, or hide our agendas in our words. This is often our subtext (the meaning hidden in a line of dialogue; or saying one thing, but meaning another) and is very important to actors. It is often this subtext that a good actor will uncover in a performance. 
4. Characters have to hear each other. Characters often do not listen the same way. Characters interpret what is being said, ask questions, ignore speech, get confused, miss a meaning and even read special meaning into something that has no meaning. Listening, therefore, will often help build the conflict and drama in your scene. A response reveals something important about the listener. How a character hears, then, is an important point to consider. 
5. When writing dialogue allow your characters to interrupt, talk over each other, digress, or speak in fragments. Keep sentences short. Use imagery and specific details (concrete nouns, active verbs) when writing lines for your actors. 
Use some of these tips in your play draft.

On our way to the classroom, please stop by the library check-out desk and pick up the collection of plays: The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and Other Plays by Charles Busch.


Comedy: a literary genre and type of dramatic work (play) that is meant to entertain, delight, or amuse its audience. It is often satirical or humorous in tone and often ends happily. Characters in comedy triumph over their dramatic or tragic circumstances reminding us that, as humans, we will adapt and survive. Comedies often utilize hyperbole, satire, parody, under/overstatement, irony, wit, puns, and other comedic literary elements. For the stage, conventions such as romance, cross-dressing, mistaken identity, violence, and farce are common. Let's take a look at this example:
Then, let's pick some parts and begin reading Vampire Lesbians of Sodom

HOMEWORK: Complete your 10-minute play script. You will have lab time to work on the finishing touches for your play scripts. Bring your books to our next class so we may finish reading Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.

Monday, October 24, 2016

10 Minute Play Script Project; Adversaries/Antagonists


Please work on your 10-minute play scripts. See previous posts for help fleshing out your ideas. Use your outline to guide you.

Since plays are based on conflict, it is important to make sure your short play includes an adversarial relationship between two or more of your characters. An adversary may be the main antagonist, or may be someone or something that attempts to destroy or defeat a character.

There are some basic types of adversaries/antagonists:

  • Fierce & powerful: this antagonist will stop at nothing to destroy a character. Motivations are hate, jealousy, sociopathic tendencies, revenge, etc.
  • Powerful but restrained: this antagonist could destroy your character, but has other issues to concern him/herself with. Authoritarian characters (people in power) might fall into this category. These characters may cause problems for a character, but may not always mean to destroy, or have other concerns instead of the motivations of hate, jealousy, revenge, etc.
  • Fierce adversary with few resources: While this character would like to destroy another, he/she does not have the resources or power to do so completely. This character is determined, but may not have the power to destroy--but like "fierce & powerful" characters, motivations of hate, revenge, or jealousy are common.
  • Restrained adversary with weak resources: characters who fall into this category cause problems for another character, but they do not cause major harm to the character. Characters like this complain or cause conflict in a scene, but they are not out to destroy other characters. They are often selfish, or acting for their own needs with little regard to the problems they are causing other characters. Teenagers are good examples. 
  • Friendly foe: characters who act like friends but deliberately ruin or cause problems for a character.
  • Beneficial adversary: Motivated by anger, or seeking to cause harm, a character whose actions end up helping a character fall into this category. Also, sometimes a character helps another character get what he/she wants, but it turns out to be a bad idea for that character.
Like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, characters may change their alliances--causing problems, but then ganging up on a weaker target when the opportunity presents itself. We all draw lines and create allegiances based on our beliefs, actions, political, philosophical, religious, personal reasons. 

Use the handout to develop your adversaries and create conflict in your 10-minute play.

If you need a little break to stretch your brain, try reading The Mystery of Irma Vep or watching this preview for the play from the Kansas City Repertory Theater.

HOMEWORK: Complete The Mystery of Irma Vep and read the handout on the Ridiculous Theater Company. There will be a quiz.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf: Day 3; Character Design Exercise

Today, let's finish watching Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Character Design:

For your 10-minute play, you will have 3-4 characters. Let's get to know them.
For each character in your play, do the following:

  • Make sure you have a name for each character in your play. It's also a good idea to give them an occupation: what do they do for a living; how do they survive in the outside world of the play?
  • Describe each one of your characters in one single word. Blanche, for example, might describe herself as "genteel", but Stanley might call her a "floozy." George might be a "victim" but Martha might call him a "swamp". Give your characters a single word that encapsulates them.  
  • Then add a second word for greater meaning. Blanche might be a "genteel aristocrat", or Stanley might call her a "phony floozy." George might be a "misunderstood victim", but Martha might call him a "desperate swamp."
  • Create a metaphor for each of your character. Blanche might be a moth. Stanley might be a brutish bull-headed rutting pig. Martha might be a braying donkey with grand delusions. George might be a slow-burning coal pit or a broken puppet. 
  • Then give your character a positive action: Blanche tries to save Stella from Stanley. In her mind, Stanley is a brutish pig. He's uncouth. Give each of your characters a reason to act in a positive way (with motivations they believe are true--whether they are or not).
  • Finally, give each of your characters a selfish or negative action: Blanche is running away from her past. She invades the small home of her sister Stella. Two's company, but three's a crowd. Her arrival causes a lot of conflict in Stanley and Stella's "happy" home.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Day 2); PSAT

Please continue watching: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)

We will be leaving at 8:55 or something to that effect. Go to your PSAT sites and take that test.

HOMEWORK: None. If you have not yet completed your reading of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, please do so. Feel free to continue working on your 10-minute play project.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

10 Minute Play Project: Day 2 (Drafting); Tips for 10-minute Plays; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf


Take the first few minutes of class to continue reading/critiquing your peers plays. By 7:45 stop and focus on the following writing tasks:

#5: Premise, premise, premise: In one sentence what do you want to write a short play about? Finish this thought: I want to write a play about...

Finally, using the outline from homework and brainstorming prompts you completed last class, make a list of everything you know about this new play you’re beginning. Could be characters’ names, location, time of day, geographical spot in the world or galaxy, a need, a piece of clothing, a desire, a repeated physical gesture, anything that could be in this new world of your play, no matter how far-fetched or banal, put it on the list. Create a working title, a short cast list, and a short description of your setting and time. In other words, create the title page, cast list, and set description for your play today. Plan out your plan and begin writing it.

Follow these restrictions/rules:

  • Your 10-minute play should be between 6-10 pages, written in proper play script format.
  • You must use 3-4 characters and develop all of them.
  • Your play script should include a title page and cast/set list (these are not to be counted in the page # requirement). 
  • Use your outline to guide you if you get stuck when writing. 
  • Spend your time in the lab today working on your 10-minute play draft. It is NOT due today.
CLASSROOM: After our quiz on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, we will begin screening the film (1966) starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Sandy Dennis, and George Segal. All four actors received Academy Award Nominations for their excellent acting. Both Taylor and Dennis actually won them.

The film director Mike Nichols is one of the American New Wave directors. Haskel Wexler was the cinematographer.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) was one of the films that challenged the restricted film code by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Originally, no one under 18 could legally buy a ticket to see the film unless they were accompanied by an adult. The film was also banned and shocked audiences with its content and lewd language. Tame perhaps by today's standards, the film is one of the reasons why films today can be edgy. It was shot entirely in black & white--one of the most expensive black and white films to be made at the time.

Film is not stage. As you watch the play, notice subtle differences between the play and movie.

HOMEWORK: None. If you did not complete your reading of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee, please do so. You'll learn a lot about writing really good verbal fight scenes. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Workshop; Generating Ideas Prompts; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf


Take the first few minutes of class to continue reading/critiquing your peers plays. By 7:45 stop and focus on the following writing tasks:

5 prompts to jumpstart your writing by Winter Miller (and Brad Craddock)
Use the prompts below to prepare your 10-minute play script for our next writing project. Your project should follow these rules:

  • 3-4 characters. That's all. As we read the next few plays, notice how the playwrights use 4 characters to create a pretty complex and character driven play.
  • Write your play in the standard play script format for writers.
  • Your play script should be between 6-10 pages in length.
  • Use the prompts below to get an idea. Please generate ideas first--instead of just sitting down and typing. In fact, instead of typing these prompts, use a journal/notebook and a pen/pencil. Write by hand. If you skip this step you will get stuck and then...well, I told you so. Yes, you may get stuck anyway. Generate ideas first. Then worry about shaping them into a well written play script.

Let's mix the ingredients first. Then I'll show you how to bake them...

Prompt #1: Write a letter to yourself from someone in your past (or present) who has said kind words to you. A favorite teacher, a family member, a best friend, and just have them say some things they love about you, some words of encouragement. Spend only 3 minutes or so on it. First name that comes to you, just go. Surprise yourself. 1-2-3: go!

#2 (10 minutes total): Give yourself TWO MINUTES (time yourself) for each of the next tasks. You must keep your pen moving, do not stop to think. If you run out of ideas, just repeat the last word you’ve said until a new word enters your mind. So if all you can think of is peanuts, keep writing peanuts until the next word comes out of you. Make these lists:

  • Make a list of at least five things you’ve never seen on a stage before that would totally floor you if you did. (For instance, very elderly people skiing; a baby wrestling a snake, an elephant on a skateboard, etc.)
  • Come up with as many lies as you’ve ever told a friend, parent, sibling, or teacher (you can lie about your lies if you want, I’m not looking over your shoulder) (For instance here are some lies: I have horns; I will always love waffles; I didn’t see you there; I love you).
  • Make a list of machines to replace people in the future and what they will do. (For instance a robot that cleans your oven and tells you a bedtime story, a cell phone that absolves you of your sins, a headset that fills you in on all the gossip you missed that day, etc.) 
  • Make a list of at least five things you never want to see on a stage! (For instance: a beautiful sheep who tramples teenagers for sport; an actor removing her liver with a knife, a train wreck, a falling chandelier, a helicopter landing on stage--the last two have been done before!)
  • Remember to keep your pen moving, repeat if necessary, or make up a new word, just keep writing until your two minutes is up.
Reread your above lists and circle any words or phrases that excite you. You don’t have to know why. Next, choose of the many things you’ve circled and write them down. You have your last 2 minutes to complete that.

#3A.Stretch break. Take one minute and goof off. Stretch. Relax. Stretch. Relax. Now get back to writing you next prompt:

#3B: Spend 15-20 minutes on this next part. Really push yourself to keep going, even when you want to quit. See if you can remain open and focused on this task.

  • Take your three things from your list above. (For me that might be, very elderly people skiing, I have horns, and a person in performance removing her own liver).
  • Take the first character who jumps into your head, give that person a name (ie JUANA).
  • Now, write a scene in which JUANA witnesses another character (ie FRANKIE) doing any of the above things you circled WITHOUT being seen. Then have JUANA make her presence known to FRANKIE. What happens?
    • Somewhere in the scene, one of the other things on your list comes to pass during the scene—what happens? How do they both react to this event or revelation? Are they surprised? Did they know it? Are they angry? Do they respond by force? With love?
    • Take this scene as far as it goes and if need be, bring in more characters to engage with the two you have. Let them have real connections to each other, real conflict and real emotions and see where they take you.
    • It’s okay if surprising things come out of their mouth—maybe they’re sexist or racist or have a Martha’s Vineyard accent or curse a ton—whatever idiosyncrasies these characters present to you, let them have it. Trust your impulses.
    • Do not go looking outward on google for confirmation that such a person could exist, could make those choices. Just go with your gut and see where it leads.

#4: Make a list of things that absolutely terrify you. (For instance, Nazis; an angry bear). Write continuously for one minute. Now, take one of your characters from the scene you just wrote a few minutes ago (JUANA or FRANKIE), preferably the one that is least like you. Write down this character’s name. Take that character and have a character most similar or like you approach this first character.

  • Begin to insult the first character for his/her beliefs, or appearance, or actions.
  • How does your first character respond to the second character’s insults? Do they fight? Is it verbal? Physical? What happens?
  • Let your impulses dictate whatever the conflict is, but do not shy away from it. See if you can get as down and dirty with these two people. See if you can go somewhere that feels IRREVOCABLE with them. Then, at some point in the scene, one character will turn to the other and reveal an important secret. Then what happens? (10 minutes)

Take a pee break/water break. Do NOT check your phone or your email Stay in this burgeoning world you’re creating. Go to the library and return with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf by recently deceased superauthor Edward Albee.

With the rest of our time in the lab today or when we move to the classroom, please complete:

Finally: #5: Before you pack up your stuff for the night, make a list of everything you know about this new play you’re beginning. Could be characters’ names, location, time of day, geographical spot in the world or galaxy, a need, a piece of clothing, a desire, a repeated physical gesture, anything that could be in this new world of your play, no matter how far-fetched or banal, put it on the list. Create a working title, a short cast list, and a short description of your setting and time.

Between this class and next, please outline your play. You only have 6-10 pages to tell your story. You must use 3-4 characters and develop all of them. Outline the following (page # suggestions are based on a 10 page play script; adjust for a play that is a little shorter or longer as you see fit):

  • What is your inciting incident? (page 1)
  • What is your major dramatic question? (pages 1-10)
  • What is your crisis or complication? (pages 3-4)
  • What is your play's event? (pages 3-7)
  • What is your character's major decision? (pages 2-8)
  • What is each character's dark moment? (pages 1-10)
  • What is each character's enlightenment? (pages 5-7)
  • What is your climax? (page 8-10)
  • What is your denouement or resolution? (page 10)
  • What startling and interesting image will you end your play with?

Bring your outline with you next class to begin working on your play. Or see homework below.

DISCUSSION: Compare & contrast How I Learned to Drive with Driving Miss Daisy.

READING: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Pair, Stand, Perform. We will read as much of the script as possible in class.

HOMEWORK: Complete your reading of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. As you read, take particular note of the interactions between the 4 characters. How do each become the protagonist and antagonist as the play unwinds. Look for the horrible secret! You'll never guess...

And complete your outline using the brainstorming exercises you did today in class. Bring your outline and your play scripts back with you next class. Maybe there will be a test.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Driving Miss Daisy; Play Scene Workshop

Today's class will be held in the library.

In your small groups, please complete your reading of Driving Miss Daisy.

With time remaining, please workshop your play scenes using the handouts as guidelines for discussion.

HOMEWORK: Please complete Paula Vogel's play How I Learned to Drive for Thursday's class. Be prepared to discuss the play along with Driving Miss Daisy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Character/Scene Exercises; Driving Miss Daisy & How I Learned to Drive


Exercise: Complete the following character exercise this morning in the lab.

Looking at pictures and watching people can be a goldmine for character building. As a playwright, one of the most important tasks you will have to accomplish is creating interesting characters. Boring characters make for boring plays, so it's helpful to have a few ideas about character design before jumping into the pool of monologues, scenes, and plays.

Task #1: Brainstorming Characters:

IN YOUR JOURNAL or NOTEBOOK please complete the following exercise. DO NOT TURN THIS IN. Instead, you may use it for a writing assignment.

Please take a look at the photos of people below. For each photo, give the person a name, age or age range, and 1-sentence physical description. Follow this up with a 1-sentence goal or major decision.
For example:

GEORGETTE MINSKY, female, age 25-30. Georgette always wears a baseball glove (even to church) and too much lipstick. She wants to witness a miracle first hand or at least win her minor-league softball team's championship trophy in memory of her dead grandma.

Create a character for any 3 of these pictures (you may do all of them, if you'd like):

Now find some pictures on your own (or use your own photographs) and continue your list.

Task #2: Please turn in your homework from last class: (see post below for details). Interview with Paula Vogel at the Playwright Center in Minneapolis. (Please view at least 15 minutes of the interview. You may watch more, as your time allows. Please make sure you let me know which section you watched or how long you watched by indicating the time code on your homework draft. 

Summarize the section you watch by summarizing the key or important points she makes (or important points for you to hear as a beginning playwright). Complete your summary paragraph with your own reaction to what Paula Vogel's key points were in the section(s) you watched. Turn in for participation credit today.

Task #3: If you have not yet turned in a draft of your play script, please do so. It is now late.

Task #4: Please begin reading your homework: How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel.


#1: Please get the play Driving Miss Daisy from the library.
#2: When we return to the classroom we will complete a scene exercise. We will use the exercises we wrote today later in the course.
#3: In small groups of 4, begin reading the play Driving Miss Daisy in class. Please bring your play scripts back with you next class to complete the play reading in your group.

HOMEWORK: Please read Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize Winning play: How I Learned to Drive (aim to complete the play by Tuesday of next week!)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Baltimore Waltz; Paula Vogel Interview

This morning we will spend the class reading The Baltimore Waltz together. If there is time at the end of class, we will begin watching the interview with Paula Vogel at the Playwright Center in Minneapolis. If we do not finish reading Baltimore Waltz in class, please complete the play for homework as well.

HOMEWORK: Please view at least 15 minutes of the interview. You may watch more, as your time allows. Please make sure you let me know which section you watched or how long you watched by indicating the time code on your homework draft. 

Summarize the section you watch by summarizing the key or important points she makes (or important points for you to hear as a beginning playwright). Complete your summary paragraph with your own reaction to what Paula Vogel's key points were in the section(s) you watched.

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...