#31 - EVENTS ARE WHAT POWERS A PLAY! - June 30, 2017
Events are the key to a great play.
Events are things that HAPPEN during a scene. They are not talk, or words or backstory. They are significant moments where something happens to a character or characters which propels the action of the play. And in each scene of your play there has to be events, not just talk or witty dialogue - Events!!!!
So what is an event? Wow, what a question? Here are a few examples:
A strange meeting with someone from one's past.
A bizarre phone call.
A fight with a loved one.
A discovery of a secret.
A murder. A heart attack.
The uncovering of another piece to the play's mystery.
A surprise visit from Mom.
Instant Attraction and how one deals with it.
An extreme case of the hiccups.
An unexpected release of air!
and on and on.
A few years ago, I wrote and performed in New York City's first one man, one dog play, DAD AND THE DOG! I had the unique opportunity to act with my dog Roma who I cast in the play.
Dad and the Dog was a true story of how my father in the Summer of 1969 was left alone in a huge house with the family dog Missy for six weeks after being abandoned by his wife and five children who ran away to Pennsylvania. During those 6 weeks, my father changed. It was the beginning of his transformation from angry and bi-polar to selfless and incredibly loving. But Wow, what a challenge to tell that story! A one man one dog show outlining my father's transformation? How do I make the story compelling? The key to the beauty and the power of the play was how I set up THE EVENTS of the play, moment by moment, scene by scene.
In a general nutshell more or less, here are the events of the first three scenes of the play:
Dad comes home to discover a letter from his wife that says that she and their five kids are running away to her parents house in Pennsylvania. He is left with the family dog that he doesn't know very well.
Dad calls his in-laws demanding to speak with his wife. His mother in law hangs up on him.
He calls again. No answer this time.
He calls his mother to get her help. They fight. He hangs up.
He yells to the dog who is barking in the next room to be quiet. Missy doesn't listen.
His mother calls back. The fight. Mom hangs up.
Missy barks incessantly!
He runs into the next room to quiet the dog but the dog has pooped all over the floor and Dad slips and falls on his bum and is covered in poo.
He yells: "What did you do? What the hell did you do?"
It is about 10 minutes later. The dog MISSY is on the sofa. DAD is in his underwear holding up his suit pants that are covered in poo.
He scolds the dog for not pooping on the newspaper and implores the dog to only poo on the paper.
Missy wags her tail and smiles.
Again he scolds the dog and tells the dog that she needs to behave if they are going to get through this. He explains that nothing can happen to the dog for that might give his wife grounds for divorce. And he promises to take care of her as long as she poos and pees on the paper.
The phone rings - it is his mother. She wants to come over. He won't let her. They fight.
Dad hangs up. He explains to the dog how he is going take care of her. And how he is going to get his family back.
He tries calling Pennsylvania again . No response.
He hangs up. He is pissed off.
He looks to Missy. She wags her tale.
"And what the hell am I going to do about you". Light fade to black
It is later that night. There are bed linens on the couch. Dad is watching THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW on TV. Dean Martin sings "Amore."
Dad clicks off the Tv in a rage about love and how love doesn't exist. Missy watches.
Dad then explains to MISSY that they are going to sleep down here in the living room for he can't have her pooing on the rug upstairs so he is going to watch her to make sure that she doesn't destroy the house and to make sure she stays safe, before his wife and kids return.
Then he says it is time for bed. They have never done this before. Sleeping together on the couch. It takes time but they figure some way to get comfortable. Sort of. Take as much time as needed to have this scene "Happen."
Then Dad gets up to call his Wife in Pennsylvania again. But stops. Talks to Missy about how crazy all this is and how he didn’t mean to be the way that he is. Almost stream of consciousness simply expressing his worries and fears to Missy.
He lies down again to go to sleep. Missy climbs up on his Chest and starts kissing him on the lips. Dad whispers. “How can you love me? How can anyone love me? and the lights fade to black.
So can you clearly see THE EVENTS in each scene?
Things need to happen in your play. Lots of things.
A great way to make a play outline is to simply outline THE EVENTS.
Event by event.
Moment by Moment.
And then WRITE IT directly from your outline.
But remember it is not about clever dialogue, or wonderful characters that really powers a play. It is about THE EVENTS. That which actually HAPPENS on stage.