PRACTIAL STEPS IN WRITING a PLAY(drama,mime etc)What Makes a Play
There are basic elements of playwriting which a playwright must be conversant with before writing a ply. Some of these elements are peculiar to the dramatic genre because it is realized mainly in performance. However, some of them apply to other genres of literature as well. You need to acquaint yourselves with them to ensure that you apply them appropriately as you write your play.
You will have to decide what type of play you want to write. Is it a tragedy or a comedy. Let us limit ourselves for now, to these two types. Remember that tragedy presents “an aspect of human suffering that often ends with the death the sufferer” (Maxwell-Mahon 23). However, not all tragedies end in death. The basic issue is that the tragic hero pursues an ideal that leads to a growing irrationality in his behaviour (tragic flaw) which leads him to commit an error of judgment that leads to the catastrophe. It is a serious play. Comedy teaches through amusement and has a happy ending.
A stage play is not expected to last more than three hours. Many plays do not last more than two hours. A play that lasts up to three hours must be action-filled like The Trials of Dedan Kimathi by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. However, here we should aim at writing a playlet that will not last for more than twenty minutes. If a play lasts longer than necessary, the tendency is for the audience to be bored.
There should be a message in your play, the message should be deciphered through the words and actions of your characters as individuals in the play. Remember that your role is to entertain your audience and not to bore them with
slogans and lectures. Your dialogue must therefore be true to life like everyday speech and sound convincing. Do not use your characters to preach a doctrine or advance propaganda.
Make your dialogue as lively as possible. Remember that in real life conversations, speakers interrupt one another with approval and disapproval comments. Sometimes, a person may not allow the speaker to end what he/she is saying before cutting in with counter-arguments. Strive as much as possible to reproduce the life-like disjointed conversation in your play especially at “moments of emotional crisis” (Maxwell Mahon 36).
3.1.4 Stage Directions
This is very important because you cannot represent every detail in dialogue. You therefore use stage direction to “fill-in the gaps”. It is in stage direction that you can give added information on the appearance, dressing, movement and positioning of the actors and actresses (on stage) as the play progresses. You could also include more information on the setting and the general environment of the play through the stage direction. This means that you must be acquainted with the stage geography and see your characters as actors on stage. This enables you to present only possible and plausible actions on stage.
3.1.5 Production Effects
You should be conversant with lighting and sound effects in the theatre. There are many types of stage but let us limit ourselves to the picture-frame stage called the proscenium stage. The use of light and sound effects are also included in the stage direction.
You must create an element of opposition, in which forces come against one another.
3.2. Writing the play
We will now write our playlet of about 3-8 pages. Draw an outline of the playlet based on either of the following:
– Turn a historical event into a dramatic script by identifying one historical event. Study the characters involved in this event and their motivations. Learn all you can about the period it took place in and then write a play to explore this event.
– Develop a personal experience into an original play. In it, explore a philosophical idea like why is there evil in the world or why do good people suffer.
You are free to use a serious (tragedy) or humorous (comedy) tone, but the play must come out of your own experience or research.
I have decided to write a tragedy based on an imaginative experience.
– Man returns from a foreign country
– He joins politics and decides to vie for a senatorial seat in an election
– He is honest and desires to make a change
– Pursues his objective
– Refuses to give up despite attack on him/his family
– Betrayed by his party members
– Option A4
– Slumps and has stroke
2. His opposition: Politics
– Another contestant from another party and who has been a minister before
– Semi-literate dubious man
– Has thugs, kills and maims at will
– Shares money to people and threatens to destroy the town if he is not voted for.
– Voted in, out of fear by the people
– Man, his political associates his wife his opponent(s)
Have you completed your own outline? If you have, congratulations but if you have not, do so immediately.
Drama is a unique genre of literature because it is not only realized in performance but also presented in dialogue. As a playwright, you should have a stage in mind before you can write a good play.
This stage geography will help you to present plausible interaction of characters engaged in plausible actions. This means that literally, you should block the play as you write because part of the blocking during the staging of a play is presented in the stage direction. The playwright indicates the entrances, exits and other major actions of the characters in the stage direction.