All in the Subtext

subtext
subtext
A play is a poem standing up. -Lorca
The first assignment for my Short Plays class was to write 3 one-minute plays. I've tried to do this before, but I don't think it clicked for me until the quote above from Lorca resonated with me. The point of a one-minute is to create a story in one-minute, and I don't think I would have been successful without being exposed to this quote and I think I will carry it in my writing from this point onward. So, we all had our plays read, and I might say, that I'm so proud to be with the group of playwrights we have in our program. Side note: I'm not nervous anymore about having my work read, as I was before. Still processing this if this is a good thing or not. The cool thing about reading and hearing other writer's work is getting a little insight into their process. I loved seeing plays in different formats, i.e. more than one page, plays written like a poem and hearing how the actor reads the spaces and line breaks, plays with multiple characters speaking at the same time (more than 2), experimenting with different actors reading random lines and see where it leads... which is how the play was written in the first place, hearing the voice of the playwright and what they gravitate towards, and all the other good stuff. Getting back to Subtext: in such a limited amount of time, I like to use it to fill in more of the story beyond the time limit. Example: my first line of one of my plays: "C'mon, Bestie. We did this at last year's retreat." I've loaded the play with a relationship and an action that took place before at an event that some people will hopefully relate to--a retreat. One of my BIGGEST problems when I started writing was my use of exposition. I remember writing something loaded with so much information in the text, but would NEVER realize I did it until I heard it read (hence, one of my apprehensions about submitting anything without a reading first.). What I'm running towards is that I'm starting to use my flaw (and I have tons of them still. that's why i'm going to school.) and have worked hard at getting better at not making my plays sound like a "wikipedia" entry. Actually, it's to the point where, when I hear or read exposition in a play, I cringe. I'm just so attuned to it now. The drawback of that though is that I'm starting to criticize the entire work because of it. And that sucks, because what if the story is really good--good conflict, established inciting incident, know the needs of each of the characters, different voices, etc.--and I sabotage all of that just for the overuse of exposition? That's not cool, Conrad. But I digress, I'm starting to use my flaw as a writer to think more about how I can load information in as few words or in an action as possible. I think I'm a better writer for it as it forces me to dive into the heart of my story faster and hopefully more effectively. My one-minute: AN EXERCISE IN TRUST Conrad A. Panganiban MEL stands behind TONI. TONI has her arms crossed with a hand on each opposite shoulder. She has her eyes closed as MEL stands ready. MEL C'mon, Bestie. We did this at last year's retreat. TONI I can't believe you told her, Mel! MEL Can't we talk about this later? Everybody's watching us. TONI Is Amanda looking? MEL Of course she is. They all are! They're waiting for you to fall first. TONI Not after you told her. MEL Toni, she was bound to figure it out. TONI Now, every time she asks me for a report or when she needs me to order post-its, she's going to know that I'm drooling over her. I could've lost my job because of your big mouth! MEL It's not that bad. TONI What's bad was when you took her out to lunch. MEL It was so that I could ask her if she was interested. TONI In me or you? MEL In you! TONI opens her eyes and drops her arms to face MEL. TONI Then why does her calendar say you have a date with her tomorrow night?! TONI storms off. THE END (Process: I wrote this on my iPhone, emailed it to myself, and reformatted it to script format after pasting it Word.)

Article by Conrad

Conrad's a San Francisco Bay Area Playwright. He loves long walks upon the concrete and rainy days. Aside from writing words for actors to regurgitate into an audience's ears and eyes, he loves sports, 90's R&B, and learning.

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