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I Don’t Like Ten Minute Plays


I tried really freaking hard to find an appreciation for them this semester when I took a course all about the form, but alas…

I feel like ten minute plays are primary used for theatre fundraisers, 24 Hour festivals, and summer festivals. Just recently we heard how Actor’s Theatre of Louisville will discontinue their beloved National Ten Minute Play Contest––so sad.

Not to say those things don’t have merit to them, because they do and they provide playwrights an avenue for production (sometimes money). I myself have been involved with a handful of great festivals for ten minute plays and I find that the greatest thing I walk away with is a gift of community rather than a solid play I feel good about.

Who knows, maybe it’s just not my cup of sweet tea?

Maybe ten minutes should be used as exercises or warm ups for playwrights?

Maybe we need them. Maybe we don’t. I’m not entirely sure…

I feel like anytime I commit to a story and to characters and to a question for a ten minute play, I find myself wanting more time. I leave wanting a one act or full length.

If plays were sexual encounters, ten minute plays would be quickie hand jobs. There’s no time for fore play and where’s the fun in that?!

But, if you do choose to take on a ten minute form, here are some take aways from this semester worth following or worth rebelling against–you do you.

  1. Does your play ask a question? (It should, so what is that question?)
  2. What is your play about? Why do we care to watch it?
  3. What is the dramatic action of your play?
  4. By page one the audience should have a clear idea about who/what/where/&why.
  5. Make sure your play is more than an interesting scenario or characters.
  6. Specificity is your greatest weapon. Focus narrowly versus being broad or general.
  7. Once you’re done, walk away and come later. Edit it with fresh eyes.
  8. Don’t go over ten minutes.

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