Opp: The page is your stage: Can you write a winning tiny play?

25 Sep

Ever dreamed of having a play produced by a professional theatre company? ‘The Irish Times’ is supporting an exciting initiative aimed at broadening the range of voices in Irish theatre. JIM CULLETON , artistic director of Fishamble: The New Play Company, has some tips if you’d like to enter the Tiny Plays for Ireland competition, and, to act as inspiration, we have two examples of what can be done

FISHAMBLE IS LOOKING for tiny plays that explore contemporary life in Ireland. We want to create a discussion, through theatre, about our country, so we are inviting new, emerging and established writers of any age – in other words, you – to submit plays that capture moments and offer glimpses of Irish life. Fishamble choose the winners and pay each selected writer a fee of €250. We will work with you on the development of the commissioned plays and produce them in March 2012 at Project Arts Centre, in Dublin. A selection will be published in The Irish Times leading up to the production. If you’d like to enter, here’s what to remember.

1 Write about what you know or feel passionate about. Don’t be afraid to state the obvious, if you think the obvious needs to be stated, or to take us somewhere unexpected, if you think something needs to be made public.

2 If in doubt, keep it simple: a tiny play can have a big resonance but can also be confusing if it is crammed with thoughts. The play need not deal with a big issue: write something that benefits from the 600-word limit rather than squeezing a bigger play into too tight a timeframe. Simple encounters that might capture a turning point in one of the characters’ lives, or during which a character is changed by the experience, can work well.

3 Write a fully formed play. Even though it is short, it should not seem like a sketch or an excerpt from a longer play. Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw are both credited with saying “I’m sorry to have written such a long letter, but I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Whoever said it, it is a good reminder of the unique challenge a short play poses. Your tiny play should feel satisfying and complete.

4 Don’t stretch the play to fill the word quota. Plays do not need to be as long as 600 words – and need have no words at all.

5 Read other short plays and stories, not so you can copy another writer but to consider what is possible within the genre. Fishamble has already commissioned a small number of tiny plays for this project; two of them are published here.

6 Think theatrically. A play is not just about words: it is about how the actors and audience connect, so consider this relationship. Think of yourself as the first audience of your play. There will be many tiny plays in the production, so staging will be simple, but plays can be set anywhere, and there are lots of ways to create environments on stage through the design of set, lighting, sound, costume, projection and so on. So think as imaginatively as you wish – and don’t be afraid to break the rules. A lot of great short plays do not necessarily follow the suggestions I’ve made here

Go to fishamble.com for an online conversation between Jim Culleton and Fishamble’s literary manager, Gavin Kostick, about the project

Tiny plays: The rules

Plays must be original to the writer and run for no more than four minutes – as a guide, no more than 600 words, including stage directions.

Plays should be performable by a cast of no more than three actors.

Plays must be in English or Irish – or, as long as the writer is based in Ireland, in another language.

Monologues are accepted, but dialogue plays are preferred.

Plays should have a title and should be submitted with your name to fishambletinyplays @irishtimes.com by November 11th, 2011.

If you are under 18, please include your age.

No more than two plays per person will be accepted.

Winners will be announced in The Irish Times and on fishamble.com.

The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.



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