Ten-Minute Play Tips
May 23, 2012
I like to call ten-minute plays the "the haiku of playwriting." I love writing them. Why? One, it's possible to finish one quickly. Sorry, you probably can't write it in ten minutes, but two or three hours will do if you're on a roll. Two, there are lots of production opportunities for ten-minute plays. Ever since the Actors Theatre of Louisville started the National Ten-Minute Play Contest, the form has been in vogue, and theatres have since recognized that if they have a short play festival, they can include lots of writers, directors and actors, all of whom will get their friends to buy tickets. Three, I genuinely love the form. A ten-minute play isn't a skit. It's a complete play, with a beginning, middle and end, told in ten minutes.
Want to write your own ten-minute play? A few tips:
- Ten-minute plays are usually about one thing. For example, in A-Bomb Wedding, a pair of young twentysomethings are desperately searching for significant others in a convenience store. Or in The Cooking Gene, it's all about what happens when a high school student wants his boyfriend to be his "husband" for a home ec project.
- Economy is key. Begin your play as late as possible in the action, and remember that every word counts. No time for lengthy exposition here--instead, develop story and character at the same time, just like Shakespeare.
- Keep it simple. You're going to be on a bill with other plays, so avoid elaborate sets or tech. Personally, I write all my ten-minute plays with one setting and a single, continuous scene.
At its best, a ten-minute play can indeed be a beautiful haiku for the stage: simple, elegant and powerful.
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