When Words Take Center Stage
pages of text don’t speak to everyone
I would rather watch a play than read it, though you must study scripts to understand how they are composed. Plays are written to be seen and experienced. Choosing to write a play instead of a novel or short story is a deliberate, rhetorical choice.
Dialogue as Lecture
Teaching seldom comes easily, to either the student or the teacher. A lecture is sometimes the worst possible method by which to impart knowledge or opinions. While in college studying to be a teacher, I noticed that the most active debates among my friends were not concerned with texts but instead regarded the previous night’s television, the latest movies, or even a play seen on campus. By the time I received my degree I had realized that the best lecture was the dialogue of a favorite character.
Contrary to popular belief, scripts are an active discussion with the audience. People do not merely sit and absorb the dialogue or action. If people paid no attention to movies or stage productions, there would be no discussions, no critics with whom to disagree. By talking about a television show, film, or play, people prove that these are active works of literature. What better way to start discussions about morality and ethical systems?
Those who have read my scripts notice two things: my dry wit and an emphasis on intrinsic ethics. Everything is a choice, especially for the protagonists in my works. I strongly believe that individuals do develop their own ethical systems, even if they accept the rules of others out of mere comfort. See my pages on existentialism for more on personal choice. My goal as a scriptwriter is to have audiences discussing the choices made by characters, if these discussion occur, I am lecturing effectively.
Samuel Beckett proved that even plays without words are written, literary works. I have experimented with writing mime, but this does leave the writer even more at the mercy of the actor and director than with dialogue. Without words to guide the actor, directions must be precice and the purpose of every movement explained.
It was the writing of a play while in elementary school, encouraged by a young, energetic teacher (thanks, Mr. B.), that resulted in my eventual pursuit of a writing career. I thought the play was a failure, in particular due to predictable dialogue, but now I consider dialogue my strength as a writer.
My first full-length play written outside school was completed in March, 1997. I had written plays as a student, but nothing intended for the professional stage. By the end of 1997 I had completed three full-length scripts. I did not write during most of 1998, speding most of my time reading about dramatic writing. I still have a lot to learn. I resumed writing in mid-1999. During the summer of 1999 I completed the drafts of two additional plays. I now have piles of folders with scripts in various stages...
Some might question the logic of starting with full-length scripts, but the choice was based upon the stories I found in my mind. If I had "heard" short plays in my thoughts, then those would be on paper... but I tend to wake up one morning with an entire two-hour play in mind. I can see the characters, the sets, and the most minor of details. Getting the script onto paper is the true challenge for me.
Scripts, post-college, by status and date:
Produced / Public Reading
- The Gospel Singer. Draft 2004. Revised 2010, 2013.
- The Garden. Completed 1997. Produced 2002.
- Here Forever. Completed 2001. Public reading 2003.
- Alone from Myself. Draft 2001, Revised 2002. Public reading 2001
- A New Death. Completed 1997. Public readings 1999, 2004.
Based upon a series of short stories written during the late 1980s. Sadly, I tossed out the short stories.
- My Best Friend. Completed 1997, unproduced.
- Roommates. Completed 1999, unproduced.
- When Things are Good. Draft 2000, first edit incomplete.
- Wrapped Up. Draft 2000, first edit incomplete.
- Life's a Beach. Draft 2000, first edit incomplete.
- The Gospel Singer. Draft 2004.
- Clown and Mime. Draft 2004.
- Assisting the Artist.
- Back Row Conversations.
- Dead Dreams.
- Death Retires. Last in the New Death series.
- Diner, The.
- Dining with Angels. Under development. This play continues from where A New Death ended. I liked the characters too much to stop at one play.
- Gurus We
- Various other ideas are outlined…
The Gospel Singer
The Gospel Singer was developed with support from the In the Raw Festival at Bricolage Production Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The original 2013 workshop concluded with public readings May 19–20, 2013.
- Directed by Jeffrey Carpenter
- Dramaturg Annie DiMario
- Varian Huddleston as Isaac / Ruthie
- Sean Sears as Donnie
- also appearing: Sally Randa, Leslie Howard, John Gresh, Mark Conway Thompson, Jimmy Fitzgerald, and Deryck Tines on piano.
- Directed by Sherald Sluka
- Clint Showalter as the Gardener
- Debbie Walker as the Widow
- also appearing: Summer Robinson, Chris Lewis, Tom Nance, Molly Lovelady, James McCoy, and Melissa Romero
This staging was the result of amazing efforts by the director, Mr. Sluka, and the actors. (photo)