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.
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.
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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