Submitting your play to a new-works festival: some hopefully helpful hints (How do you begin your play?)

It was going to be a marathon reading day, but then I realized that nobody had cleaned our kitchen since the last time I cleaned our kitchen and some liquid of an ungodly color was congealing at the bottom of our refrigerator. So three hours of cleaning later, my morning had disappeared into early afternoon. And then we had a bug party to go to. What, you may ask, is a bug party? It is a party where bugs are on the menu. Yes, bugs. One of Rachel’s colleagues at school has been experimenting with cooking with bugs, and a number of dishes were served. I must say, I prefer the meal-worms over the crickets.

So what was going to be 10 hours of reading turned into 4. Still, I noticed an odd pattern with three of the plays I read today. I think I have been noticing this over the last year or so, but it was the first time I started to wonder how it came to develop. Three of plays I read today begin with a lengthy monologue explaining what is about to occur. It is like an introduction. It is like an excuse. It is like a reluctance to dive right in. A hesitation. And it is very weird to me.

This is not to say that plays cannot start this way. Equus. Three Days of Rain. M. Butterfly. They open with a speech from a guide. But for them it makes sense. This devise is used well. When I wrote my first review for our college paper (seconds before I became the Arts Editor because nobody else wanted to do it), our adviser told me that I had a “clearing-my-throat” problem: the first two paragraphs sounded good, but they were useless. I was clearing my throat. It seems like many of these emerging playwrights are doing the same.

So, don’t not start your play with a monologue, but know why you are doing it. Know why you are delaying the active dialogue, or why you aren’t opening with an image. Know why you’re breaking the fourth wall because doing so lost its novelty long ago.

Exercise:

Step 1: Write an opening monologue to a play and the first scene that follows it.

Step 2: Take out the opening monologue and begin the play with what was the second scene. Write a new scene two which incorporates all of the necessary information from the opening monologue into a dialogue.

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