Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Long and the Short of It

Every month, Youngblood playwrights write 5 brand new 10-minute plays and produce them at the Brunch series. As a member, I think it feels like we live in some strange theater garden and our tomato plants produce 10-minute plays and it's perpetually August and we've got two canning pots going 24/7 but we still can't keep up. (For those of you who aren't old timey homesteaders, I just mean there seems to be no end to the new short plays that this group produces.)

I think I need to get some tips from everybody else though, because I have a hell of a time writing short plays. I do. It's why in my 3 years of being a member of Youngblood I have written exactly 3 brunch plays. I always feel like I have to do at least one per year, and then after I do that I'm all like "Well, I don't have to do another one this month, because I wrote one x months ago..." and then it's summer and I get to breathe easier till the fall when Asking For Trouble punches me in the face.

The thing with short plays is they're just as hard as long plays. It's so deceptive. You think because it's short it'll be easy. Ten pages? Please. Right? WRONG! You have to do all the structural and character work of a full length but rapid fire and super clear, so you can't cheat or fake anything. It's the exact same amount of stress and self doubt that comes with writing a full length but condensed into a size that lets you look at the whole process at once and see just how crazy it is that you're even doing this because surely other people are more qualified and you really aren't that bad at math and accounting is a very comfortable profession. I cannot tell you how many scrapped brunch plays I have on my hard drive. Seriously, I have a whole folder labeled "Aborted Brunches." I've already scrapped three short plays for the Sloan brunch, and that deadline is today.

Somehow, the other Youngblood writers seem to handle all this just fine. There's never a lack of awesome new brunch plays. Clearly, I am just missing some critical secret. Is it acai berries? Cayenne pepper? Yoga? Tell me!

Anyway, we're going on retreat this weekend, and I'm hoping they'll sit me down for a master class.


joshcon80 said...

Aborted Brunches should be the name of our punk band.

I think the thing that helps me write 10 minute plays is remembering how concise I need to be. I allow myself one point is "what is the one single point I want to make" and maybe one gimmick is "oh, it's the rapture or somebody has stolen the world's largest emerald or massive stage violence" or whatever. Then you have 1) what you want to say and 2) a means of getting here. it may seem gross and formulaic to other writers, but it works for me.

plink said...

I'm with you, Anna. Ugh. I'm with you.

There's certainly pressure. It's almost like somebody is asking, "instead of the full play, just show us the best part."

I try to think of a very simple conflict. Somebody is thirsty....another person has all the water. I add a few jokes and then I try to end it as soon as possible.

Then? I cry.

RJ said...

Crap, they're onto us.

I figure writing Brunches is like an athlete doing wind sprints. Harder than running cross country, but then that's the point. And if you kind of want to barf afterward, then you've done it right...

Meghan Drrns said...

I have a special hall of fame in my brain for the YBers who consistently write superior brunch plays (hint: ALL OF YOU). It is totally a special skill, like one that Jason Bourne might discover he has.

"I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I can get to the heart of a dramatic manner in two pages, craftily convince the audience to be invested in people they've just met, and I am not afraid to turn to complex visual gags in order to win over a drunk audience. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?"

Classic film.