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I dig jazz and single-malt scotch.  I write plays; I direct them too. I love STAR WARS more than is healthy. I walk my dogs every day, unless it's raining or terribly cold.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

That very first page

I read a lot of new plays from a lot of hopeful playwrights. As a reader for a literary department I sometimes work thru 3, 4, sometimes 5 plays a day at the height of the selection process.  What I've noticed is that the most interesting plays begin before the first word of dialogue, before the first scene description, before the words "lights up on..."  The play begins on the first turn with the character page.  Every play that gets my heart going starts the anticipation of the event right here.

How you name, describe, and choose to order your characters on the page -- matters. A lot.

There's minimal info:
Howard, Male, 35
Kent, Male, 29
Miriam, Female, 25
The Face, Male, any age

Ultra-minimal:
howard
kent
a pretty girl
the face

The way it is in Shakespeare, or O'Neill, or Shaw:
Howard, the CEO
Kent, his number two
Miriam, Howard's wife, Kent's mistress
The Face, a man trapped in a mirror, hangs in Kent's office

The way a control freak might do it:
HOWARD: M - 35 - handsome, in shape, a little grey on the side, devil-may-care and charming. CEO of the most powerful company in Thisizit, MO. Gets all of his suits made in USA, tailored to show his physique. He is a carefully constructed man, and this is his Achilles heel.
KENT: M - 29 - ambitious, rogue, a yes-man when it's needed. Went to Princeton, but lies about graduation. His suits are from European designers. He wears slippers in his office. He collects rare books and old wine, he drinks older whiskey.
MIRIAM: F - 25 - beautiful but vapid.
THE FACE: M - 102 but looks 41, trapped in a mirror sailing in the Bermuda Triangle during a hurricane. Can be played by a puppet or a video screen. Should never appear worried. Is Italian on his mother's side.

You are building anticipation on this page. Please don't just copy the format from a 75 year old published play (yes - Williams and Miller are that old.) Instead, create a page that is true to this particular work.

 This first page is the threshold of your play world.  Don't waste a single word of it.  Make me want to understand more of this world, make me want to turn the page.