I always fancied writing a play script and after I had joined my local theatre, as a volunteer, the desire grew in me, so I started working on a few ideas.
I joined the theatre as a set builder then, and after a few plays I switched to working in ‘The Box’, the little room at the back of the theatre, as a light and sound technician. This new job involved seeing many performances during rehearsals. It is interesting to witness the development of the play as the actors and directors bring their own thoughts and interpretations to bear. It is a fascinating process, watching a play develop from the first ‘read through’ to the first show night, and beyond.
I was inspired to write more by this involvement in productions, but for somebody new to this environment, and new to the play writing process, it was all a bit daunting. Firstly there’s the script to write and then, even if you think its good, how do you actually get it on stage? Our theatre, like so many others, chooses its five plays per year over a year in advance and they chose proper published plays, not the mad scribblings of idiots like me.
If you are really confident you could hire a theatre for a night or two and hope you get your money back from ticket sales, but that’s a big risk, not just financially, but personally. If nobody turns up where does that leave you and your confidence levels? Occasionally outside groups and troupes hired our theatre for their own performances and they seemed to do alright, but they were always ‘arty’ people, experienced playwrights, actors and directors. I would need greater confidence to do this.
Entering a short play writing competition is a low risk way of getting feedback and gaining confidence. If you don’t get shortlisted then you have some feedback to work with there. Better feedback is if you do make it through the first round. And better still if you make it to the finals as your play may be put on without any expense to you. I started writing a play for a competition but what I really needed was to get some quick feedback on my perspective and style. I thought my stuff was funny but that’s no guarantee anyone else would.
A simple solution presented itself. My theatre has a Christmas Show, one night of eclectic performances by the choir and the orchestra that rehearse in the theatre, plus anything anyone else would like to get up and do. There is a lass who does a short play every year, written for the event, every word in the play starting with the same letter. Folk also got up and did musical spots, sketches, poetry readings, etc. There was a running order but no rehearsals, and as the light and sound man at these events I was forced to make things up as I went along, but nobody seemed to care. It was all very last minute, spur of the moment affair, unlike the normal productions. Everyone is very generous, and appreciative of anyone who gets up and does anything. Exactly the low risk environment I needed, Low risk but an audience which would include actors and directors, people who could give me good feedback.
And so I wrote ‘The 7 O’clock Rehearsal’, a short comedy (in theory) about the experiences of a light and sound technician in a local theatre. I knew all about the subject and my light and sound buddy Ben, an accomplished actor and director, agreed to represent himself in the play, the light technician. I also played myself, the sound technician. Logical you might think but I’d never acted before. It would be my first performance. So, at the age of 63, I would be the playwright, the director, and 50% of the cast. What could possibly go wrong?
I was pleased when Ben and others laughed during the first rehearsal as I’d started to doubt the play was funny. That happens when you revisit a script dozens of times, that initial comedic impact dissolves with each revisit. It happens during rehearsals too, even with very funny plays. The acid test would be an audience, seeing it all for the first time.
So we rehearsed, probably not enough, definitely not enough, and persuaded another volunteer, Hannah the theatre’s set painter, to do the light and sound for us. The first run through was 20 minutes and we had to get it down to 10, the slot we’d been given. Some re-writing was necessary but we naturally got faster with each rehearsal. Once we got it to12 minutes we were happy as nobody was going to quibble over 2 minutes.
And so we did it, to a very small and select audience. I made a few mistakes, lost my way, but my experienced partner pulled me through.
I came off stage muttering things like “never again” and ‘what was I thinking?’ and ‘you made a right arse of yourself there!’. However the immediate feedback was good and a video taken by a friend of part of the performance made me feel much better. I learnt a lot from the little video and wished I’d arranged to have it all videoed properly.
I am lucky that such an opportunity existed at my theatre but I’m sure similar opportunities exist elsewhere. I subsequently learned that there are 10 minute play competitions and festivals. I wish I’d known this before.
And so if you are thinking of writing a play then do it. Don’t allow your age or lack of experience put you off. Be led by your life experiences and write about the things that interest you. Be driven by your passion and enjoy it. Do it for the love of it because it’s not a ‘get rich quick’ venture.
In summary I would suggest you investigate the following:
– Your local theatres for competitions and workshops.
– Local writing groups
– Non-theatres who do performances (village halls, churches, etc.)
– Short play competitions (enter or attend)
– Short play festivals (enter or attend)
– Join your local theatre or AmDram group.
I include here my script for you to read, some production notes, and a video of part of the play.
If you are interested in performing this play at your theatre then I can supply you with the SFX 01 – ‘Breaker Buzz’ sound effect which I made myself. Other sound effects and music are listed in the notes and are easy to obtain.
I am a beekeeper and an allotment grower and this site features articles on those subjects including recipes made from the produce from my allotment and from my bee hives. I have an interest in a great many things (too many actually) and some of those experiences, and the joy and learning I acquire from them, may also randomly appear here.