There’s a trend lately. Well, maybe it’s just the shows that I’ve seen, so maybe it’s a trend that’s unique to my theater going experience. But, it’s beginning to make me mad.
Playwrights aren’t writing plays anymore. They are writing collections of scenes. These collections of scenes run for about 90 minutes and then there’s either a quick resolution or simply a strange image, followed by a black out.
Over the course of those 90 minutes there will be some good scenes, maybe some interesting observations of humanity, but the scenes aren’t connected to each other, it’s almost like each scene is happening in isolation. I find more and more often I’m watching a series of ten minute plays with the same characters, sometimes in the same situation, just behaving slightly differently. It’s fucking boring.
It’s because the scenes aren’t adding up. Aren’t building on top of each. Aren’t moving us forward to a climax.
They just exist.
Let’s be blunt: how often have to seen plays lately, written by people in their 20 or 30s (hey, maybe even one of mine), where you kept saying to yourself, oh, they didn’t need this scene, they could have started the play at the second scene….no, I mean, the third scene…well, alright the fourth scene. It’s because the material is all compartmentalized. Segments. Bits. Each containing their own, and perhaps even, unnecessary exposition.
I want to see a play with drive. I want to see a play that what happened in one scene EFFECTS what happens in the next. I want to see a play the moves towards a climax.
Maybe it’s a new dramaturgy, I don’t know. But I find that it’s boring, flat, generally striving towards irony with passive characters.
Though, maybe, it’s not the fault of the playwrights. Maybe it’s the fault of how we teach and develop work in this country.
When I was a student and when I taught, because of time constraints, we can only really bring in a scene or two at a time to read and to talk about. And that’s no way to write a play. Sure, I can bring in a scene into a classroom—and I’m going to do my best and write a really great scene that’s interesting, because, let’s be honest, I want to impress—and then we’ll talk about that scene, what questions we have, for that scene, what we liked, in that scene, and what we didn’t…in that scene. The scene becomes the focus.
However, context matters. A scene isn’t a single entity of a play. No more than characters. Scenes, characters, action, every component has to work in concert with the rest so the entirety works. Not singular moments. The play.
All that said: Playwrights, stop hurting theater. Please stop writing ten minutes collections and go back to writing plays…