Now you may find this hard to believe. Really hard to believe. But in my humble opinion, 90% of the plays I see and read today, (I see and read a lot of plays) whether they are short plays 10 - 20 minutes or full-length plays, 90% of all the plays I read can be cut by at least 15% if not more. Even short plays.
Yes, in a nut shell, most plays today need to be cut.
And often, drastically.
Cutting dialogue and even whole scenes from your play is like giving birth. It can be painful, long and arduous, but when the cutting process is over, often, you will have a better play.
Alas, cutting your precious play is often really hard to do.
But cutting and cutting and cutting, in my humble opinion, will always help your manuscript and serve the play!
So how do you know what to cut and how to serve your play?
Start with these two questions:
What is the story you are telling? (Write it out in 30 words or less.)
What do you want the audience to do after they see your play? (Again write it out in 30 words or less.)
If you get clear on the story you are telling, clear on the core of your piece, you will easily see dialogue, and even whole scenes that don't serve your intention. I have read so many plays that are ALL OVER THE PLACE - yes, they are often clever, or funny, or heart-wrenching, but they are just TOO MUCH. (Like the Christopher Nolan Batman movies - come on Christopher just tell one story really well. Let's just do that Joker story really really well!)
Get clear on the core, the THROUGH-LINE of your story, and you will easily see what needs to be shredded! What needs to be cut to pieces!!!
Also if you get clear on what you want the audience to do after seeing your play, you will easily see what in your play is not leading towards that intention. Maybe you want the audience to stop being so self-centered, and become self-aware and more spiritual. Or maybe you want the audience to begin accepting others and to love more unconditionally. Or maybe you want them to start taking chances in their lives, but whatever it is, the clearer you are on what you want the audience to do after seeing your play, the easier it will be for you to CUT all that doesn't serve your creative intention.
What is the story you are telling? And what do you want the audience to do after seeing your play? These two questions will work wonders!
When you start writing a new play, just let the creative juices fly. Knowing that you will be cutting a play drastically will let your creative imagination go wild which is what you want. You want to go HOG WILD in the creating process. Then get clear on the story and your audience intention and CUT CUT CUT.
Learning how to cut whole scenes and internal dialogue is, in my humble opinion, the most important skill you need, to be a great playwright. CUT CUT CUT so that your play is concise, succinct, clear, focused and on point. You can always add stuff back in if you want, but dare to rip, shred, and CUT CUT CUT your play to uncover the amazing butterfly within.