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The stars on each play indicate the number of times it has been previously produced.

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Characters, Motivations and Consequences

October 24, 2016 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
In reviewing my assignment to list some favorite characters and the results of their motivation for their actions, I realized that their consequences were directly related to their CHARACTER.  And who had a lot to say about that in 500 B.C.?  Heraclitus of Ephesus, a famous Greek philosopher of that time who denied blind fate determined destiny. I've looked at my list of Favorite Characters, their Motivations, and Consequences.  Interesting results I thought!  Then I considered what Heraclitus would say about the outcomes of their actions:  CHARACTER CONTROLS DESTINY.  Not bad for 500 B.C.  that we can relate to carefully crafted characters over the last 400 years and what happens to them. Character                           Motivation                            Consequences Hamlet                               Revenge                                 Successful (but he dies) King Lear                           Retire well                              Failure Antonio                              Validate his Anti-Semitism   Failure Richard III                        Become king                          Temporary success C. Mayon ("The Play…")     A place in the community       Failure Willy Loman                     Success in business                   Failure A. Solieri                            Beat Mozart in music                 Failure Salome                                Seduce John the Baptist           Failure George Gibbs("Our…')     Find love                                         Success Albert ("Warhorse")          Find his horse                                Success "Our Town"  was the big role for me as a teenager and demonstrated to me the power of Theatre.  I returned to "Our Town" as an example of great writing as I began to write.


October 24, 2016 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
My response to audience identification was part of my University of Oxford Drama course. WHO SHOULD WE IDENTIFY WITH AS THE AUDIENCE IN A PLAY?  Here is my take in the famous early 20th century play THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD. In "The Playboy of the Western World" the audience is meant to identify with the country people who frequent the public house.  At first  I was APPALLED.  The country people are shallow, feckless, vacuous, and fickle!   Then I realized we are just like them!  At first the country people are friendly to the stranger Christopher.   By the time he boldly states he has killed his father, they are not shocked at their new friend but call him "a daring fellow."  They banter about what weapon he used and where his father was buried.  The public house becomes his home.  The owner offers him  a job, and Christopher is pleased he will be safe there.  The owner's daughter and a widow flirt with him. After the truth is known that Christopher has not killed his father,  the country people call Christopher "a liar" and  "a good-for-nothing."  The crowd wants to hang him! I see myself in the mirror as  these people from a far away land and a hundred years ago.  I also see these people as those that greeted Jesus Christ on Palm Sunday cheering him as he came into Jerusalem and then yelling "crucify him" by Friday.  Is it any wonder that the stranger's name is Christopher? Synge has done a masterful job in depicting people in a specific place and specific time,  but with universal characteristics that are sad but true.

From The Oxford University Writing Course Forums 2016

October 17, 2016 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
image How I Write: My writing more likely fits the statement:  "Playwriting is an activity subject to the constraints of reason."  First I start with an idea (especially from my journal). If the idea appears dramatic and fit for the  stage,  I will "write" a draft in my head.  Then I will put down a rough draft on paper.  If the draft looks promising, I will develop the idea as I put the draft on the computer.  At that point I have something!  Then begins the process of shaping the idea into a play.  That process takes many revisions to make it interesting and sensible for an audience. The play may look quite different from the original idea, but the original idea is what drives the whole process and is the essence of it. My Favorite Thing: I LOVE Shakespeare.  I LOVE Shakespeare because he puts humanity on stage.  He knows people so well he lets the created characters  speak and act for themselves,  even those of different backgrounds and cultures.  The characters are not mouthpieces for the author.  What happens to the characters in Shakespeare's plays occur because what THEY say and do, not what the author believes.   This is very liberating for me in my writing.   With proper research (through travel, reading, and direct contact with people of other cultures), I can write plays about peoples of other backgrounds and cultures:   I can let them speak, I can let them believe, and I can let act with outcomes based upon who they are.

Giving the audience what they want but...

Characters in a play should be complex like life, not unidimensional or conform to a type.  Characters should have the capacity to change as well as act in unexpected or unpredictable ways.  However they should change and act in ways that are compatible with the character that has been presented.  There must be some logic in what is happening to the character so the audience can relate to the changes and be engaged with the character and the play. Changing the rules: Are plays about language? In (classwork), there are the following statements:  "…the theatre is about language…" and "…writing for the theatre and radio may be primarily about using language…"  Is this really true? I find plays that are about people only talking very BORING and TEDIOUS.  Take LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (very long) and THE ICEMAN COMETH (until he comes).  Plays are  about language AND action.   Shakespeare's plays give us action after action--it is nonstop.  Though the available texts have few stage directions, there is movement all the time that is brought out from the text by capable directors. In my own writing I do write heightened stage language with attention to rhythm with iambic beats (blank verse), but I write plays (even 5 or 10 minute church plays) with ACTION.  It is interesting that the least successful type of production of my plays is a Table Reading where all the stage directions are read.  In that setting the reading of the stage directions takes away from the thrust of the play.  With a Staged Reading, it is better because the actors are doing more of the action.  With a Full Production the audience SEES what theactors do and there is seamless connection of the action to the play. Doesn't Drama mean "to do" and Theater mean "to see"? The Iceberg Principle: In writing drama how do we build a world on the iceberg principle in which only 30% of all the research is actually used but with the confidence that is is grounded in the 70% that the audience never sees?  We build characters and actions who speak and act in ways that are consistent with the research without directly articulating these facts in exposition.    

Revisions and First Presbyterian Church

August 09, 2016 by admin in play revisions, Play Writing 0 comments
I did it! I sent an email to the Costumers and Set Designer at First Presbyterian Church, Bonita Springs, Florida to start planning the November and December 2016 productions of my plays at the church. As I was preparing the email, I reviewed the two plays: ALBAN: FIRST MARTYR OF BRITAIN and THE BEST CHRISTMAS PARTY EVER. Though there were a few typos to fix, more importantly there were some revisions that improved the plays! When is revising a play finished? For me, it's still possible and useful to consider before each production. I want to improve my plays I've written, and revising is the way to do it. ALBAN:FIRST MARTYR OF BRITAIN and THE BEST CHRISTMAS PARTY EVER (with the newest revisions!) are available for your church to produce on my website (

The Pope, Refugees, and Two Coins in the Fountain

August 08, 2016 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
While visiting Poland during July 2016, Pope Francis said this concerning the refugee crisis and the shabby way most of Europe has treated the refugees: "A merciful heart opens up to welcome refugees and migrants." What about us? As writers how can we be part of the solution? BY WRITING THE STORIES OF REFUGEES--ONE STORY AT A TIME! My one-act play TWO COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN explores the risks of travel of two Egyptian young men seeking asylum in Italy and what they might expect there. TWO COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN is available on my website for production at your theater and for a reading at you community group or church.

Social Justice

August 08, 2016 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
Where do I get my inspiration for my plays about social justice? Who/what is my muse? I LIVE FROM ONE HEADLINE TO THE NEXT. A headline gets me started if the story from the headline seems dramatic. Then I put together what I've read, where I traveled, and to whom I've talked as I consider putting the story down on paper. The the fun begins as I shape the story--the process of revisions. I can't believe how the original material for a play looks after re-writes--it can be so different! But that makes it a play!

Costume Development for Alban – First Martyr of Britain

August 02, 2016 by admin in Play Writing, Productions, staging 0 comments
In a couple of weeks, I'll be contacting the Costume Designers at First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs, Florida, to develop costumes for the two characters in my play ALBAN--FIRST MARTYR OF BRITAIN to be produced at the church for the Sunday service on November 13, 2016. Thinking about the upcoming production made me recall the inspiration for the play--reading a pamphlet about the namesake of the cathedral in an ancient Roman town while we were traveling in England. I realized the STORY was DRAMATIC, and started thinking how it could be presented on stage. Before we left for home, I had the first draft written. As playwrights, we need to LISTEN, LOOK, and READ about what's going on around us. There are PLAYS out there! ALBAN-FIRST MARTYR OF BRITAIN is available for your church on my website. It'll make a great 5-minute presentation of early church history for your service. Need help with Drama at your church? CONTACT ME!

University of Oxford Upcoming Visit

August 02, 2016 by admin in play revisions, Play Writing 0 comments
imageIn August I'll be at the University of Oxford studying and meeting with my Drama tutor. I've sent her 5 of my recently written short plays to review. Last year she was very helpful in her critique of my plays. As a teaching tool, she picked up a London newspaper and showed me a photo on the front page. "Is there conflict here?" she asked. "Could you make a play out of it?" "Tell me about the other people in the picture. How do they fit into the action?" What a great exercise! Try it yourself with the Portland Press Herald.

Writing Too Small

April 26, 2016 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
Too many plays deal with small issues. As a result they have little drama and move audiences little. A current play in New York “Skeleton Crew” is more in the tradition of great plays. One reviewer in The New York Times (1/20/16) stated, “Ms. Morisseau works her big themes on a small, closely patterned canvas.” That is, the playwright may be writing about specific characters but the themes are universal. Therefore the play reaches all kinds of audiences with deep drama. That is why Dominique Morisseau is said to be writing in the tradition of Clifford Odets, August Wilson, and Arthur Miller. There is much to write about—let it be about something big.

Using Stories

April 05, 2016 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
Playwrights are storytellers and we look everywhere for stories to present on stage. We can get these stories from people we or know, from newspapers or other media, or books. We can even get these stories from other plays. But we have to be sure the story becomes a play, not a newspaper article or a novel on the stage. In a recent adaption of the novel “2666” by Roberto Bolano at the Goodman Theater in Chicago in February 2016, the reviewer in The New York Times (2/17/16) suggests that the play by Robert Falls and Seth Bockley remains a novel put on stage: “We find ourselves watching an animated diagram of the the novel rather than a fully realized dramatization.” The play appears to violate the adage “show, not tell.” The reviewer further states, “The characters spend most of the time telling us who they are, what they have done—even what they are doing—rather than actually interacting with one another.” This is a good lesson for all of us who write for the stage. As playwrights we have to remember that we are writing plays.

“Smart People” Don’t Write Such Plays

February 28, 2016 by admin in Play Writing, Uncategorized 0 comments
Would you be happy to have the phrase “contrivance alert” dotting a review of your play? If that doesn't bother you, how about “the script is stuffed with academic and psychiatric jargon”? Or “the characters often seem to be mere receptacles for the ideas they espouse rather than fully fleshed-out people”? These and other comments grace a review in The New York Times (2/12/16) of the play “Smart People.” Aren't we suppose to write plays that SHOW people struggling not TELL their struggles? I need to consider this review each time I sit at the computer to write a play, or what I write could become “a marathon series of seminars, not a persuasively drawn drama.”


January 18, 2016 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
I am intrigued about where playwrights obtain inspiration for topics and themes of their plays, hoping that I will know where to go when I sit down to write!  A playwright who has been popular during this lifetime would be a good source of information about inspiration.  Better yet a playwright who remains popular years after his death.  How about 400 years later?  How about Shakespeare?  Such information would also inform us on what topics make exciting and lasting theatre.  The 2015 book The Year Of Lear, Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro offers great insights into how and where Shakespeare found inspiration.  Basically Shakespeare found inspiration in two ways.  Firstly Shakespeare READ voraciously.  Not only did Shakespeare read history such as Holinshed's Chronicles, he read many books about topics and issues of his day.  Secondly Shakespeare LISTENED to what was going on, such as at the Royal Court as well as in the streets.  Without newspapers Shakespeare needed to be engaged in his community to know what people were thinking about.  Shakespeare used truth in his writing obtained through his READING and LISTENING. Shakespeare found and his audiences have found for 400 years that humans acting in real situations are more interesting (and dramatic) than in fantasy. TRUTH'S' STRANGER THAN FICTION...and makes GREAT THEATRE!

The Rhythm Method

January 04, 2016 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
The rhythm method works!  See the current Broadway production of  “King Charles III.”  The play written by Mike Bartlett in 2014 is in blank verse.  The speeches flow from one actor to another in a natural fashion.  When a speech is in prose, it is obvious and for a good reason.  Blank verse is the naural rhythm for the English language, likely one reason why Shakespeare is still engaging after 400 years, and why many are awestruck reading the King James Version of the Bible with its beautiful language after using other translations. I find writing in blank verse very natural.  Its cadence also is conducive to memorizing lines.  Interestingly when I add a segment of prose writing in one of my plays, the actors often have more trouble with the prose lines than the lines written with blank verse.  Actors have said to me, “These lines feel stiff” and “They're hard to get my head around.” Playwrights, look at your lines in your last play.  Are your best lines in blank verse?  Do you use the rhythm method in your writing?


December 21, 2015 by admin in Play Writing, Productions 0 comments
As I was preparing to direct my one-act play THE WRITING OF “I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY” for a performance at the First Presbyterian Church in Bonita Springs, Florida on December 13, 2105, I re-read the lyrics of the carol and was awestruck how the words were as appropriate today as when they were written in 1863 during the Civil War:  “And in despair I bowed my head. 'There is no peace on earth,' I said.  'For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.'”  Isn't that the situation today, especially with the refugee crisis and wars going on?  Great art, no matter what medium, transcends the day it was written.  “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” as one example of great art has lasted because it speaks today's issues—issues that are each generations' issues.

Inspiration Happens

December 14, 2015 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
It can be a sentence, a part of a sentence, or a word.  When it happens, you see a whole play on stage.  All that's left is writing it down on paper...and rewriting it...and rewriting it.  How can a play develop from something so simple?  I don't know. In emailing Charley Nevaril, an accomplished actor in Florida, about a play for which he had been casted for, he ended the email with “When am I going to be John the Baptist playing opposite Salome?”  And then it started for me.  I hadn't any ideas about writing for weeks, but then it happened with Charley's comment.  I started to visualize how I would present John and Salome in conflict in a 10 minute play.  I reviewed Bible passages about John and how and why he found himself in King Herod's prison.  Having seen the Broadway production of SALOME by Oscar Wilde with Al Pacino in 1992, I read again Wilde's play to see how he tackled the conflict and the outcome that became dependent upon Salome.  The whole play unfolded before me on stage.  Rushing to the computer, I put it on paper: THE PROPHET AND THE KING.   And sent to Charley! It's a mystery, a beautiful mystery.  It doesn't take much, but inspiration works!  How?  I'm thankful for it, however it works.

Writing Great Plays Part III

November 30, 2015 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
From the play "Scattered Ashes", performed in Bonita Springs, FL David Ho in a comment to a review of a recent episode of “Homeland” remarked, “In a story the author is free to make up a lot of things, but no matter the time and place, human character and emotion need to ring true.” What wisdom in one sentence! Ho's comment extends our recent blogs on writing great plays and should revolutionize our playwriting. Whether we dramatize something around the corner or around the world, we need REAL characters in our plays. Let's look at what we've written recently. Are the characters flat with only one dimension? Are they authentic with layers of emotions? Even bad individuals can have some goodness in them and be happy some of the time—not like the characters in the current production on Broadway of “Therese Raquin” as adapted by Helen Edmonson. Writing REAL will be writing GREAT.

Writing Great Plays

November 02, 2015 by admin in Play Writing 0 comments
Arthur Miller would have celebrated his 100th birthday in October 2015 had he not died in 2005.  There was much he could have celebrated—his work remains as popular as ever.  A number of his plays in the West End and Broadway are undergoing revivals.  Several notable actors and directors involved in these revivals in the West End were asked by BBC News on October 15 why his plays remain fresh.  Their responses about his playwriting should help all of us playwrights write great plays.  I gleaned 12 characteristics of his writing from these interviews: HE WRITES ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING HUMAN WE RECOGNIZE OURSELVES IN HIS CHARACTERS HE WRITES CREDIBLE CHARACTERS IN ETERNAL SITUATIONS HE HOLDS UP A MIRROR TO HOW WE BEHAVE HE MAINTAINS A WORLD THAT IS REALISTIC HE MAKES TRAGEDIES OUT OF THE LIVES OF ORDINARY PEOPLE HIS CHARACTERS CAN EITHER COPE IN CRISES OR BUCKLE UNDER THEM-- THAT'S A WORLD WE CAN RECOGNIZE THE SIMPLICITY OF WHAT HE DOES IS MASKED BY THE INCREDIBLY CAREFUL PLOTTING HE IS A MASTER  OF STRUCTURE AND STORYTELLING HIS WORK HAS A STRONG SENSE OF JUSTICE AND HONESTY ACTORS WANT TO PLAY HIS CHARACTERS BECAUSE THEY ARE GREAT ROLES, FULL OF COMPLEXITY HE WAS OPEN TO WHAT THE ACTORS FELT THEY WANTED TO BRING OUT IN THEIR ROLES These are a dozen elements of writing great plays.  Master even one and you are on your way.