Thursday, May 3, 2012

How I Got Shorter by Anthony Clarvoe

Playwrights Foundation is on the blogging train, and this week, Anthony Clarvoe has written a little something for us! Anthony wrote a play for the Bay One Acts Festival...for fun, and he tells us about his experience doing so!

Here are some things I resolved many long years ago:

Don’t write little bitty plays.  Full length plays only, as befitting a dramatist of my extreme seriousness. (I know: Beckett.  And Chekhov. Shut up.)

Don’t write prose for public consumption. We Are Playwrights, and Dialogue Is Ours. (I know: Beckett.  And Chekhov. Shut up, I said.)

Don’t write plays for fun.  I spent years trying to convince my mother this was a career, and careers are not fun.

Welcome to my blog post about writing a play for the Bay One Acts Festival for fun.

Yeah, well. 

I blame my students, actually.  (I wasn’t going to teach, either. Honestly, the number of wonderful things I didn’t do while I was busy writing those full-length plays.) My students at Stagebridge write delightful and harrowing short pieces, some of which have more to say than many a full-length play, and have a grand time doing it. My play-writing colleagues deserve their share of blame as well, having learned their considerable craft at Playground and Killing My Lobster.  Meanwhile, here I sit, waiting for years between first idea and full production of those damn full-length plays.

So when Jessica Holt and the Playwrights Foundation said they’d be interested in considering a short play of mine for this year’s BOA, I thought, time for some new resolutions. One small problem:  as you will have gathered from the opening sentences above, I had no short plays for them to consider.  So I took this one-minute play I’d written for the One-Minute Play Festival and re-conceived it.  (Confession: I wrote some one-minute plays for the One-Minute Play Festival. Struck as I was by the sheer absurdity of it. One-Minute Plays, the Entry-Level Drug. I didn’t know.) 

Maybe that’s how I convinced myself that something of mine might stand in public with the work of more experienced practitioners of the short form: when you’re going from one minute to ten, a ten minute play feels full-length. Kind of epic, actually. I’ve written epics. No problem.

Among the big discoveries I’ve made long after everybody else:  short-form plays enable you to experiment in a way that a full-length play can rarely sustain. My piece, “Cello,” features someone (the fabulous El Beh) playing the cello, while not being literally there. El’s there, she’s on the stage, but her character isn’t there. Nor is she a dream, exactly, nor a ghost precisely. It’s all a mystery to me, but our highly talented director and actors Jill MacLean Heavey, Maria Giere Marquis, and Cooper Carlson don’t seem a bit phased. 

That’s playwriting for you: you suspect you mean something, and a bunch of other people show you what.

Another major discovery that everybody else already knew:  mere moments after having come up with an idea, I get to watch people put it on.  It’s all so startling.  Look at me, inadvertently having fun.  Seriously, you know the scene in A Christmas Carol where Scrooge goes to Nephew Fred’s house and plays party games with the young people?  That’s me at BOA meetings: Uncle Ebenezer.

So, now I’m working on some new resolutions. 

First one:  try never to be too old to be the least experienced writer in the room.  

Second one: get out more.
-Anthony Clarvoe

For more information about the Bay One Acts Festival, please visit:

As always, to learn more about upcoming events and readings, please visit:


Amy said...


Amy said...

i never thought of you as either 'too old' or 'the least experienced' great blog. neither too long or too short.