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Mystery & Drama

I managed to get in under the submission deadline, but is the play any good?


List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean phrases (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Deadline for Submitting a Play for the Maine Playwrights Festival has Come and Gone. I was so preoccupied with social media activities that it creeped up on me before I knew it.  When I finally woke up, I had about ten days to come up with something to submit. Who says I have to submit anything at all?  Me.  I have been writing plays long and short for the Festival for the last several years with the specific idea that I would test them out there.

English: Cumberland Mills, Westbrook, ME; from...

English: Cumberland Mills, Westbrook, ME; from a c. 1907 postcard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Acorn Productions, Located in Westbrook, Does a Lot of Things Related to Theatre.  Mike Levine and his associates teach acting and playwriting, stage full length plays at their black box theater, perform what they call Phyzgig (physical comedy), and perform Naked Shakespeare scenes at several local venues, among other things. In short, they have a lot of energy.  I look forward to the Maine Playwrights Festival every year because it is designed specifically for new plays.   It is a place where your new work can get on its feet, and show you if there is enough potential there to keep working on it.

With Ten Days to Create a New Play, I Decided to Concentrate on the Ten Minute Play Format. I started out by trolling my mind for scene ideas that I have used in the past and which have been a part of other, often longer pieces. There was a scene at the end of a play I called A Green Balloon that had some promise, I thought.

The Play is about a Man and a Woman in a Long Term Relationship with Little Commitment, Especially on His Part. They jointly run a rather shabby bar and grill.   He decides to take a break, and go on the road, leaving the bar to her to do with what she may.  She takes the bull by the horns, and completely re-invents the place into an upscale barbeque restaurant, by “blowing out walls” and other similarly radical procedures.

I Proceeded to Take the Four Page Scene and Make it into a Ten Minute Play. I had five characters: the man and woman, two remodeling experts, and a former lover. I wrote furiously, dreamed about the play and was quite happy with it when I suggested that my beta reader (wife Jan) and I read it aloud together.  We did. It was awful. Jan informed me that she didn’t understand it and that it wasn’t up to my standard.

Now, I’m not a very confident playwright.  If someone (you know who)  says something negative about a play of mine at any stage of development,  it’s going to be taken seriously, and probably will result in a massive re-write.  I trashed the new ten minute play and started all over.

Comedy and tragedy masks

Comedy and tragedy masks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I Kept Three Characters, showing the re-modelers the door. I carved up the entire scene, throwing out most of the stuff dealing with the remodeling details, which incidentally,  I had thought provided tons of opportunities for the main male character to react comically to the  chaos. I kept the tension between the original pair of relationship-ees, and made the ex-lover a major character.

With no scene to stretch out or re-write, I Just Put the Characters on Their Feet, so to speak, and let them go anywhere they wanted to. It starts out with the ex-lover calling the guy and suggesting they get together over drinks.  This harked back to an incident my brother experienced where an old high school girlfriend got in touch with him twenty years later.

I Worked Furiously on the New Concept, used the geography of Maine, and finished the new script  with only a day to go until deadline.  I gave it to my beta reader to look over. She read it twice and reported that she didn’t understand it.  This time, there would be no massive re-write.  I basically looked at it some more, tweaked it here and there, and sent it on it’s way to Acorn.

Is It Any Good?  I Don’t Know.  I never know if anything I write is any good. Usually, I finish a piece, set it down to marinate for several weeks or a month and then look at it again. If I still like it, good.  If not, it’s re-write time again. With this ten minute play, there is no time for it to marinate. Acorn promises entrants that they will announce the plays that have been selected for the Festival by January 15.

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  1. The standard response to this would be “you are being way to hard on yourself.” But that just comes across as patronizing. Instead, the better response is with the harried way of pushing this one out, there is a chance that you didn’t get in the way of it all and something good may come of it. You become so used to refining your voice and polishing it that anything else sounds off to your own ears. Sometimes it is in that rough space that you can find something you completely missed.
    Jon Jefferson recently posted..Video: Bulgur Wheat Stuffed Pork ChopsMy Profile

    1. Thanks for the wisdom of your reply, Jon. A very good aspect of the Maine Playwrights Festival, in addition to it’s being one a few places I know of to show off your work, is that you can try all kinds of things — that is you can try all kinds of things if you can just release yourself from worry that “it’s not up to your standard”. We need to be free enough to experiment and that’s all well and good but I mean experiment in the stuff that you’re submitting to places like the MPF. Put yourself out there. What do you have to lose? You won’t be selected? So what!
      Larry Crane recently posted..I managed to get in under the submission deadline, but is the play any good?My Profile

  2. Very interesting. I think I might like your play after reading this blog. The best advice I’ve received is that if you want to write, go ahead and write. I’m glad you finished your play and I wish you the best.
    Edward Reid recently posted..This Public Enemy is LovedMy Profile

    1. Thanks for your comment Edward – I couldn’t resist going to your blog and the post about Public enemy. I have to say, I’ll need to listen to a lot more rap before I know what’s going on there.
      Larry Crane recently posted..I managed to get in under the submission deadline, but is the play any good?My Profile

  3. The feeling of not knowing if what we write is any good must be one of the most common experiences writers share. The important thing is that we keep writing. Some things I’ve written very hastily have received great comments. Readers can be fickle, that’s one thing I know for sure.
    Jeri recently posted..Author Interview: Troy Aaron RatliffMy Profile

    1. In this regard Jeri, the Maine Playwrights Festival readers who select plays from the submissions give you a thumbs up or down right away. We have to be strong to stick with what we’ve written in the face of rejection, but at the same time I think we have to be open to suggestion. The theatre world has accepted the idea that plays are collaborations through and through. And the more I hang around blogs and what bloggers are saying about novels and short stories, beta readers and writing groups and the like, the more I have come to see that this isn’t a whole lot different from what goes on in the rehearsal process for a play.
      Larry Crane recently posted..I managed to get in under the submission deadline, but is the play any good?My Profile

  4. I really like this idea. Perhaps I am biased since one of the characters leaves his job to wander the world. I love the theme of rebirth or reinvention. The bar is re built, both the woman and man are seeking change in their lives. A warm and intimately relatable tale with the reader.

    1. Hi wanderlustng. Thanks for your insights. The ‘tearing apart’ of the bar theme is still alive in my cerebral cortex, but the revision process on the original idea sort of eviscerated it, It was long and had a lot of details about how the rather shabby bar would be reinvented (complete with veiled jabs at the ‘set in his ways’ proprietor folded in). This guy and the re-inventer are lovers who are parting ways, with him magnanimously giving her the shabby bar, fully expecting that she’s not going to be able to handle it without him. Obviously, he gets a quick education in humility, and immediately begins to think that maybe he’d like to stick around after all. So, I was thinking that the new ‘bar and grill’ acts as a new suitor coming into the female lover”s life.
      Larry Crane recently posted..The baby on our doorstep – a video rescue story.My Profile

  5. I must admit that a writer is their own worse critic. Don’t be to hard for yourself. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted..Twas The Night Before Christmas: Story/PoemMy Profile

  6. Loved how shared your process Larry. With auch a tight deadline u have my vote just for finishing. And the photo in the blog is great tho it’s significance was lost on me. Good to see your post after having had such a long back from soc. Media. Edging back slowly from my new home in California:-)
    A.k.andrew recently posted..5 Books made into Films – Which Version is a Modern Classic?My Profile

    1. Hi AK – The photo of The Bard at least gives some indication that I’m talking about the theater in this post (admittedly lame). Good to hear that you’re back on this side of the pond. Looking forward to more of your wisdom and energy.

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