Thursday, November 16, 2017

November 2017 Writing Challenge - #16 - Audience of One

Donald Trump is your audience. He will sit and watch the play completely and alone.

Your performers will be thoroughly screened

And he’s behind some pretty severe protection security measures.

Basically don’t just physically attack him if that’s how you were going to angle.

Cool?

Okay.

So.

Unlimited budget.

Audience of one.

What do you write?

My bias.
Facts don’t change minds.
Truth doesn’t move people.
Stories that generate empathy do.

Creating an imbalance that humans - in this case ONE human - feel the need to return to balance.

THAT’s an effective inciting incident that can carry your audience through to the climactic answer by re-asking the same question -
renewing the same imbalance -
until the final release.

*********

As intriguing a challenge as this is, when I look over the bulk of last November's challenge entries, I see the election traumatized me into plenty of rambling dialogues on the subject already. I feel as if 45 has gotten more than enough space in my brain pan.  So I'm going to hold him at arm's length and keep working on the current play - though like all the challenges, I'm probably diving into this one again later when I run out of steam on something else and want to jumpstart a scene or two.  And speaking of rambling dialogues, I'm still trying to get a bead on where Duncan and Jeffrey stand so -

************

                          DUNCAN
There are so many things wrong with this, I can't believe you'd encourage him.

                          JEFFREY
The heart wants what it wants.

                          DUNCAN
That right there is some bullshit.

                          JEFFREY
You haven't seen them together.

                          DUNCAN
I don't need to.  Auggie is straight, and married, and his wife's pregnant.  Jesus, take a hint.
You want him to be miserable?

                          JEFFREY
No, of course not.  Why do you think I gave him the love potion in the first place?

                          DUNCAN
Apparently because you were too chickenshit to use it on the guy you wanted to, a guy who was at least actually gay to begin with.

                          JEFFREY
So that would have been all right?

                          DUNCAN
No, but currently you're just playing into every conservative religious person's stereotypical gay nightmare.

                          JEFFREY
And which nightmare is that exactly?

                          DUNCAN
That we gay men are constantly prowling around, looking to convert unsuspecting straight men.  Enough guys do what Micah did, they set the movement back fifty years.

                          JEFFREY
Not everything is about gay civil rights.

                          DUNCAN
We don't have the luxury of being careless.

                          JEFFREY
Oh, so as long as we're good little boys, stick to our own kind, they'll leave us alone?  You know better than that.

                          DUNCAN
But why provoke people with a stunt like this?

                          JEFFREY
We are actively working to undo this as quickly as possible.
Micah is not taking advantage of Auggie. I'd be surprised to hear he laid a finger on him.

                          DUNCAN
Damage is done, buddy.

                          JEFFREY
Look, I made a mistake, he made a mistake.

                          DUNCAN
Drugging somebody is a little more than a mistake.

                          JEFFREY
So you're going to turn us into the police.

                          DUNCAN
Right.  Because they'd believe this situation was actually happening.

(to be continued)



 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November 2017 Writing Challenge - #15 - Male Playwrights

Write what a male playwright writes like.  If you’re a male playwright ALSO DO THIS.  I’m not saying to write with the authority of an authentic male who is therefore an example of what a male writes like. I’m saying write by participating in the larger thing called male FIRST and channeling that and letting that be the filter or prism or echo chamber or amplifier or… whatever that colors everything else. Place manhood FIRST. 

Change to posting with an alias if you’d like. Protect yourself. I get it.  
Does this make you get writers block? It’s because you’re trying to be “good” or “correct” and haven’t given yourself any possibility for an decent inciting incident. Create an imbalance!  Or better yet acknowledge that inside of the idea of male there are things that are out of balance. 

Spoiler. We just did this in the idea of female. Or maybe you skipped it to do this first. That's probably what I would have done. 

Don’t like this challenge?  

Write a kids play... a kids play that has a very adult truth... that is candy coated. Make adults cry in a kids play.

**********

Another part of the ending...

**********

MICAH sits alone with his guitar.

He works his way through the chords, speaking as he goes, of the song Auggie wrote for him.  Maybe a stab at bits of the melody in his calling out of the chord names.

                          MICAH
     (sing-song)
C major, A minor, F major 7th, G major

With MICAH still visible, we now also see AUGGIE and SARAH sitting together.

AUGGIE rests his head on SARAH's shoulder.

SARAH runs her hand through AUGGIE's hair.

AUGGIE has a hand on SARAH's stomach.

                          MICAH (cont'd)
     (sing-song)
C major, A minor, F major 7th, G major

With MICAH, AUGGIE and SARAH all still visible, we now also see JEFFREY hanging out with DUNCAN at the wiccan store.

                          MICAH (cont'd)
     (sing-song)
F major 7th, G major, E minor, A minor
F major 7th, G major, E minor, A minor

And now MICAH has hit the chorus, and sings the words.

But it's not quite the perky version that Auggie first sang.

                          MICAH (cont'd)
     (singing)
There was a
hole at the
center of my life.

JEFFREY and DUNCAN slowly fade away into the dark.

                          MICAH (cont'd)
     (singing)
Hole at the
center of my life.

AUGGIE and SARAH slowly fade away into the dark.

                          MICAH (cont'd)
     (singing)
There was a
hole at the
center of my,
center of my life.

MICAH sits alone with his guitar, surrounded by darkness.

                          MICAH (cont'd)
     (singing)
But life's -

MICAH stops singing and playing for a second.

Then, without speaking or calling it out, he plays the last chords to finish the thought. 
D minor,
G major,
C major,
C major.

MICAH sits with the guitar.

The last of the lights around him fade to black.



November 2017 Writing Challenge - #14 - Female Playwrights

Write what a female playwright writes like. If you’re a female playwright ALSO DO THIS. I’m not saying to write with the authority of an authentic female who is therefore an example of what a female writes like. I’m saying write by participating in the larger thing called female FIRST and channeling that and letting that be the filter or prism or echo chamber or amplifier or… whatever that colors everything else. Place womanhood FIRST.

Change to posting with an alias if you’d like. Protect yourself. I get it.

Does this make you get writers block? It’s because you’re trying to be “good” or “correct” and haven’t given yourself any possibility for an decent inciting incident. Create an imbalance!  Or better yet acknowledge that inside of the idea of female there are things that are out of balance. 

Spoiler. We’ll do males next. You can start in on them now if you like.

Don’t like this challenge? Write what someone on the gender fluid or genderless spectrum would write like.

Don’t like THAT challenge?

I hear you.  Then write THAT.

Write from a place of and an end product where all beings are without gender… or age… or race… or culture… or anything that differentiates them from anyone else. They can literally be played by anyone. Anyone? Yes. Please keep them human. Aliens would be cheating.

*********

Still doing my own thing - More new material for a full Spellbound draft - part of the beginning of an ending -

*********

SARAH, AUGGIE, MICAH, JEFFREY, and DUNCAN are gathered.


                          SARAH
Before I get started, Auggie wanted to say something to Micah.

                          AUGGIE
Thank you.
For not letting me do anything.
For not trying to do anything yourself.
You could have really -
And you didn't.
Because you knew.
So, thank you.

                          SARAH
So, going forward.
Obviously we need to have some ground rules.
I can't forbid you to see each other, much as part of me would like to.  Much as any sane person probably should.
It would just make everybody miserable.  Me included.
You're not a bad person, Micah.
You did a bad thing, but I don't believe that's who you are.
But you took something that is very important to me, and I don't mean Auggie -
You took a belief system around which I order my life and you abused it.
That's a betrayal.
And betrayal's a hard thing to get over.
I met both of you guys on the same night.
You've been a part of my life as long as Auggie has.
I thought I knew you.
Never in a million years did I think you'd do something this thoughtless and hurtful.
I haven't known you as long, Jeffrey, but I'm still willing to chalk up what you did to inexperience.  You seem sincere.
But you're not practicing magic again until you've got a lot more learning and experience under your belt in terms of the powers in which you're meddling.
Thankfully, you seem to have a very able and patient teacher here who's willing to help you out.  Duncan, you got us out of a jam as quickly as you could manage and I'm thankful for that.  Keep an eye on this one.  Once he knows what he's doing, he could do a lot of good.
And maybe that can help make up for the damage.  Just a little.
So.
Back to Micah and Auggie.
You're not going to be alone together for the foreseeable future.
I don't have to be on top of you, watching your every move.  I don't even need to be in the same room.  But I'm going to be in the house.
As ridiculously regressive as this sounds, I'm going to be the one to get the drinks and prepare or order the food.
You're going to turn out your pockets when you come in the front door.  You carry nothing you brought with you into a room with the two of you together.
If you go out, we go out as a trio.
Preferably a double date.
If you're not already using an online dating service, Micah, I'm signing you up for one.  Even if I have to pay for it myself as a Christmas present.
You need to meet more gay people.
People you don't have to drug into wanting to kiss you.
As for the baby -
We had actually been talking about it a little but -
I'm sorry, I can't allow you to be the baby's godfather.
Neither you nor Jeffrey will ever be alone with this child.  Which is a shame because we could have used you in the babysitter pool.
Do not test me on this.
Maybe, someday, maybe maybe maybe - right now I don't see me trusting you again, and I need to be able to trust the people who care for my child.
We do want you in the kid's life.
We want our child to know that love and people come in all forms.  We want them to feel like whoever they love, that's OK.
Maybe when they're older - much older - we'll tell them why these two guys who are very important to us never helped with babysitting, weren't chosen as godfather, but that is so far in the future maybe all this will seem like a bad dream by then.
This is horrible.
I feel sick.
But right now, it's the only way I know to move forward.




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November 2017 Writing Challenge - #13 - The Empty Space

Peter Brook’s The Empty Space aside… start a play with an empty stage.

Keep it empty… save one thing. 

Not a human

You can have things, people, sounds, effects etc OFF THE STAGE

But on the stage… only the one thing.

The thing can transform into different or deteriorated versions of itself.

Keep dramatic and theatrical structures.

Stasis

Inciting incident - likely the cause or arrival of the thing…

Rising Action

Climax

Denouement

New Stasis 

Idea for things:

bomb
bra/underwear
Dog
Snake
Ice sculpture
Fire
Water
Stage light.

BONUS:

have a fourth wall.

************

Still casting about for a throughline on this one...

**************

                          DUNCAN
Why would you just wait around for someone to change their mind?

                          JEFFREY
I'm not just waiting around.  He's my friend.  Friends spend time together.

                          DUNCAN
You gave him a love potion he used on someone else.  Take a hint.

                          JEFFREY
So what exactly do you do?

                          DUNCAN
What exactly - ?

                          JEFFREY
When you like somebody, you know, rather than just wait around for them to change their mind, what do you do?

                          DUNCAN
I tell them I like them, I ask for their phone number, I engage them in conversation, I assume they don't need to be hit over the head.

                          JEFFREY
This is new for me.

                          DUNCAN
What?

                          JEFFREY
Being the one someone is interested in.

                          DUNCAN
Well, it's fading fast if you don't get your act together.

                          JEFFREY
And what exactly would constitute getting my act together?

                          DUNCAN
I have to tell you everything?

                          JEFFREY
No.

                          DUNCAN
Well?

They kiss.

                          DUNCAN (cont'd)
Finally.

                          JEFFREY
You could just ask, you know.

                          DUNCAN
Chemistry lessons?  You need chemistry lessons?

                          JEFFREY
Apparently.

                          DUNCAN
If I'm standing this close to you -

                          JEFFREY
Yeah.

                          DUNCAN
Which, in my capacity as a store employee, is clearly unprofessional -

                          JEFFREY
Yeah.

                          DUNCAN
So far inside your personal space as to be uncomfortable -

                          JEFFREY
Yeah.

                          DUNCAN
That probably means I want to lay hands on you.

                          JEFFREY
Oh.

                          DUNCAN
So, you would be within your rights to kiss me.

                          JEFFREY
I see.

                          DUNCAN
Unless I tell you not to.

                          JEFFREY
Are you telling me not to?

                          DUNCAN
No.

                          JEFFREY
Good to know.

They kiss again.

                          DUNCAN
Teaching you how to be less socially awkward is going to be frustrating.

                          JEFFREY
But it's kinda fun, so far, right?

                          DUNCAN
Don't push your luck.

They kiss again.



(to be continued)

Monday, November 13, 2017

November 2017 Writing Challenge - #12 - Cinema Becomes Theater


A large part of my background was studying the essences and differences between screen and in-person dramatic experiences.


I want to focus on types of theatrical energy. I think this list is conclusive... let me know if you think of a new one!

Types of potential theatrical energy:
Physical: unsustainable action (blowing air into a baloon, holding one’s breath); a break in repetition (ba-dum, ching!); acrobatic (dance, contortion, abnormalities); violence; illogical; or the breaking from these things.
Social: bigotry; base acts (nudity, body functions); insubordinance (familial, spiritual, or political); or breaking from these things.
Moral: cruelty; perversion; pornography; and blasphemy; or breaking from these things.

Challenge #12: Cinema becomes Theater.  Due 11/13/17 at 8am

Imagine a scenario where a screen showing a dramatic narrative to ONE person... misbehaves... has mechanical failure... is bait for a larger theatrical force... something
so we have this screen
and an inciting theatrical action that knocks us physically/socially/or morally out of balance
and more people enter (forming an audience)
and the unexpected happens (forming a theatrical experience)
and then a human- attempting a performative action like a politician giving a speech or a musician playing a song- that human does something unexpected to the collective audience... and a moment of THEATER occurs.

Or if you don't like that... 
Write a play where the audience sits on stage.

********

I'm at the point in this new script where the research is getting in the way of doing the writing, while doing the writing is getting in the way of research (which of course you need a certain amount of to do the writing with any sort of useful specifity) - sigh - so, a concept that's not quite a scene yet but is at least trying to meld a bit of the two -

*******

                          DUNCAN
"An it harm none, do what ye will."

                          JEFFREY
What's with the ye olde Englishe all of a sudden?

                          DUNCAN
OK - And if it harms none, do what you will.

                          JEFFREY
I understood you the first time, I just -

                          DUNCAN
If you're ever wondering what you should do, as a Wiccan, hopefully you ask yourself the question, "How can I cause the least harm?"

                          JEFFREY
And - ?

                          DUNCAN
Did you ask yourself any questions at all?  Did you consider the harm you might be doing?

                          JEFFREY
But I didn't do anything.

                          DUNCAN
Not directly, no.  Actually what you did was worse.  You handed off a love potion when you weren't entirely sure what it was going to do, to a person who knew even less about what he was doing than you did.

                          JEFFREY
Are you actually angry with me right now?

                          DUNCAN
Yes.  Because I want to think you're better than that.  I want to think I'm attracted to people who are better than that.  But it seems like every pretty surface just has a moron underneath it.

                          JEFFREY
I am battling right now between being mad that you called me a moron, and thrilled that you called me pretty.

                          DUNCAN
You have irreparably damaged their friendship.  Your friend and his best friend.  There's no going back after this.  The trust has been violated in a way I'm not sure they can ever get past.  Not to mention his pregnant wife.

                          JEFFREY
Yeah, that's bad.  I get that.

                          DUNCAN
Did you get it before you gave him the love potion in the first place?

                          JEFFREY
What?

                          DUNCAN
Did you actually think - this either isn't going to work, or if it does, it's going to end up driving a wedge between them and then maybe Micah will see me as the only alternative he has left.

                          JEFFREY
Wow.  You are way overthinking this.

                          DUNCAN
Which means you're underthinking it.

                          JEFFREY
I just wanted him to be happy.

                          DUNCAN
No, you're careless.  You didn't think it through.

                          JEFFREY
It sounds like if I thought it through and did it anyway, you'd have thought I was an even worse person.

                          DUNCAN
Maybe, but at least then I'd think you were a person who took the time to consider the consequences of his actions before taking them.

                          JEFFREY
I had several days when I was making the love potion to think about this.  And then a few days before that when I was considering whether to make it or not, and get the ingredients -

                          DUNCAN
And the whole time - ?

                          JEFFREY
I was wondering if I could work up the nerve to actually use it on Micah myself.

                          DUNCAN
But you didn't.

                          JEFFREY
I mean, if I did it without telling him, that'd be wrong, right?  But I'd still know.  Even if he said he loved me, I could never really believe it because I'd altered his consciousness to suit myself.

                          DUNCAN
So, instead of doing that, you just set him up to do the same thing to somebody else.

                          JEFFREY
Man.  I suck.

(to be continued)




Saturday, November 11, 2017

November 2017 Writing Challenge - #11 - Farce


A farce is a literary genre and type of comedy that makes use of highly exaggerated and funny situations aimed at entertaining the audience. Farce is also a subcategory of dramatic comedy, which is different from other forms of comedy as it only aims at making the audience laugh. It uses elements like physical humor, deliberate absurdity, bawdy jokes, and drunkenness just to make people laugh. We often see one‑dimensional characters in ludicrous situations in farces.

Slam doors.
Have pants fall down.
Missed connections.
Mistaken kisses. 

A PUNCH LINE EVERY THREE LINES.

The purpose is to make everyone laugh. There is no other purpose. There is no higher calling. Laughter IS the higher calling.

Remember to start in normal stasis realism. Then- with the inciting incident- each problem becomes more and more ridiculous. 

Bonus- Add yourself. What is YOUR version of Farce. In your own life... at the office? With the kids? With coordinating party plans? 

Just last night I tried to get groceries ALONE with my 4 month old baby and 3 year old boy. I forgot my keys to get in the car. I forgot the baby's bottle when I got the keys. I forgot my wallet with a cart full of groceries- drove home and back- and when I checked out... forgot the grocery bags in the car.

That doesn't make a great play, but... it felt like a freaking farce! (not literal definition)

********

Not a farce, but a scene around a song...

********

MICAH on guitar, strumming a bit of a rhythm on the guitar with the chords, tentatively but quite happy.

AUGGIE sings.

                          AUGGIE
     (sings, verse)
I blame
you for
the beat of
my heart.
Hold onto
me like
you were
drowning.
I need
you near
me in
the dark
to help
fill in
that mis-
sing part.
     (chorus)
There was a
hole at the
center of
my life.
Hole at the
center of
my life.
There was a
hole at the
center of my,
center of
my life.
But life's
a whole
lot better
now with you.
     (speaks)
OK, just a strum for each chord in this last verse.

                          MICAH obliges.

                          AUGGIE (cont'd)
     (sings, verse)
I blame
you for
the smile
on my face.
You've cast
the spell I've
fallen under.

MICAH isn't so sure he likes the turn the verse is taking.

AUGGIE sings on, unaware.

MICAH keeps the chords coming but maybe they start being just a little off, as the words hit him.

                          AUGGIE (cont'd)
     (sings)
A mircale,
a tiny thing,
your magic
always
makes me sing
     (speaking)
OK, now kick back into the rhythm pattern.

MICAH can't continue, even though AUGGIE does for a second.

                          AUGGIE (cont'd)
     (sings)
There was a -
     (speaks)
Hey, I lost my band.
Micah?
Hey, are you OK?

MICAH is having a hard time processing his emotions.

                          MICAH
I'd like to say "Yeah, I'm fine" - but -

                          AUGGIE
You don't have to hide things from me.

                          MICAH
You are amazing, you know that?

                          AUGGIE
OK, we're going to have to go back to the first verse about blushing now.

                          MICAH
And I am the absolute worst.

                          AUGGIE
Hey now.

                          MICAH
I am.

                          AUGGIE
Go easy.  You're talking about the man I love there.

                          MICAH
It's right there, in your song.

                          AUGGIE
What?

                          MICAH
Spell, magic, making you do things. 

                          AUGGIE
Those are metaphors.

                          MICAH
Those are your subconscious screaming to be let out of the trap I've shoved you into.

                          AUGGIE
I'll change it.  I'll come up with another verse.  It's just a first draft, buddy.  They don't come out perfect, you know.

                          MICAH
Oh, you've summed up our situation perfectly.
I shouldn't even be touching your guitar.
I'm contaminating it.

                          AUGGIE
Hey.

                          MICAH
I have to berate myself in order for you to get angry with me.  How twisted is that?

                          AUGGIE
You're angry enough at yourself for both of us.

                          MICAH
Damn right.

                          AUGGIE
How can I turn this around?  We were doing so well.

                          MICAH
I've got to stop living in a fantasy.  I'm getting way to comfortable with something I can't have.