Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of good playwriting by starting to write their own plays.
Playwriting powerpoint in downloads – the information in this powerpoint is included under the Playwriting Activity Header, paper and pencils for each student
Ask: What did you think of the writing in Everyman? Was it good, bad, okay, etc.? Do we have anything like Morality Plays today?
Because Morality Plays were not exactly written to our modern standard (our audiences don’t like being hit over the head with how they should act), now is the perfect time to talk about playwriting.
Get out a notebook or a few pieces of paper and a pencil or pen.
While the students get those items out, set up the projector with the powerpoint. Start on the slide that says Rule #1 (slide 6).
We are going to write our own plays, but we need a few rules to help us avoid beginner’s mistakes.
Rule #1: You only get 2 characters. No more, no less.
Give them a name and a goal – and the goals must endanger each other’s goals (pause to give them time – give an example: Mary and George. Mary wants to go out on a date with George, George wants Mary to go away. If one of them achieves their goal, the other cannot.)
Rule #2: You only get one scene.
Pick the location of your play now. (classroom, subway, gym, home, etc.)
Rule #3: You do not get to plan.
Let go of your ideas about plot. Let your characters be alive and take control with you as the messenger. Discover the characters through their lines and behavior – do not let your own intentions smother their natures.
Rule #4: You cannot exit or end.
You and your characters are in this together. If a character exits, the other remains to soliloquize on the stage alone. If they both die, they continue to speak as spirits or ghosts. Write as much as you can in the time given. There is no length requirement.
Rule #5: You must carefully craft your dialogue
Drop hints and clues to character goals through subtext, vary the length of lines throughout, reveal information bit by bit and do not repeat information.
Give one of the characters a line now. Insert the central conflict in that first line, but use subtext (example: Mary’s first line could be: “Cold day, huh?”)
Give your second character a response (example: George: “Yeah.”)
Write more if you have time.
Give the students the rest of the class period to write their plays, but bring them back together 10 minutes before the end of class
How are your plays coming? What do you think of these rules? Are you frustrated by them, or do they provide a useful structure for creativity? What did you learn about playwriting today that you wish the writers of Morality Plays had known?