Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another Dang Post About Good Theatre

This time there are RULES - rules for good playwriting (or "playwrighting", as I was taught to spell it on an earlier occasion):

  1. A play should never take itself to seriously - it must be self-aware to some extent and justify its own existence through its content.
  2. A play's first job is to entertain.
  3. A play must compel people to continue to watch the whole way through.
  4. Any play longer than two hours must have an intermission roughly every hour.
  5. Any play longer than three hours must mandate catering during said intermissions in the stage directions.
  6. Any play longer than four hours ought to be seperated into multiple plays.
  7. If your play is short enough, you can do whatever the hell you want. Bizarre experiments are always more acceptable when they only last a few minutes.
  8. If there is no dialogue, the stage directions ought to be pretty intricate.
  9. If there are no stage directions, the dialogue ought to be pretty intricate.
  10. One should always be able to glean more from performing the play than from simply reading it.
  11. One should always be able to find something interesting in reading the play that they didn't necessarily glean from a performance.
  12. Be specific; if something in the play matters to you, feel free to describe it in intricate detail - an accent, a prop, a set, a light cue, a costume, a speech pattern, anything.
  13. Don't specify everything; leave enough room so that a production team can keep its job. Once the director picks up your play, consider yourself dead - the play is the living work, not you. Don't direct from beyond the grave.
  14. Specifically forbid directors in your text from doing anything stupid and dumb that you hate. If something is really important, write a few guidelines right into the stage directions. God knows you're more brilliant than them.
  15. Clarity is essential; the audience must know what the hell was going on at all times.
  16. Leave anything unimportant to the imagination - this includes the fantastic elements of the play which the audience must lend to disbelief or what was actually in the briefcase or whatever.
  17. Include elements that don't move the plot forward but create a stronger sense of the world of the play. Before it can move, it must be established. Or by moving, it can establish.
  18. Surprise and intrigue.
  19. Your title will usually be much more memorable than your dialogue: make it good.
  20. If your play is a tragedy, some parts must be funny.
  21. If your play is a comedy, some parts must be VERY funny.
  22. Embrace the cliché. These are tried and tested. Every written work ever is the most cliché, overdone drivel in the history of the universe, and is completely unnecessary. Until you actually read it.
  23. Your play can fit a certain format criteria, but never must fall into one genre.
  24. Have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  25. Always break all of every one of the rules, all of the time in every way.

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