August 16, 2016

A Very Minimalistic Play

It's time to move ahead in our journey through my childhood writing, so I braved my next teenage Steno notebook (#4, for those keeping track). As I read through its pages, many entries made me laugh, and even more provoked cringes. One piece of writing stood out by causing the most of both reactions.

In addition to its other exceptional qualities, this work is noteworthy because it's written as a play. When I started writing creatively in my free time during high school, one of my first efforts was a short play, but I only experimented with the format once or twice more before the piece we'll consider today. I frequently attended theater at the time, both school and professional productions, and I auditioned for every school play, though I was rarely cast, so it's no wonder I had an interest in playwriting.

Like most of my adolescent works, this one is unfinished, exhibiting my usual struggle with plot, so prepare to be left hanging. As you'll see, I put a lot of thought (a lot of thought) into elements that in retrospect weren't the most important to focus on:

(This is a very minimalistic play. What else can you expect from a play that consists entirely of one side of a telephone conversation? Consequently, the set, props, and lighting are of little importance. The play takes place in CAROL's college dorm room. All that is required are some books, notebooks, a bag of pretzels, a can of soda, some other random clutter, and of course, the all important telephone. To eliminate the need for furniture or walls, the stage can simply be darkened, and CAROL may sit center stage in the light of a large spot. Make sure the light is not too bright or harsh, as the audience needs to look at it for the entire play. Another note concerning comfort: Be sure the telephone can be comfortably held for a long period of time. A shoulder rest which attaches to the handpiece may be used, if desired.

What is important in this play is that the audience be able to follow CAROL and NICK's conversation. The actress playing CAROL should determine exactly what NICK is saying at each pause and wait the correct length of time before speaking again. Small changes may be made in the lines as the actress or director sees fit, in order to aid in comprehension or to sound more natural.

There are few stage directions. The actress may do whatever seems natural while talking on the phone: sit up, lie down, eat, drink, doodle, do leg lifts, etc. These actions should be spontaneous and unplanned.

The play takes place two or three weeks into the school year. CAROL has just begun her freshman year at college. Her brother NICK has just entered his freshman year at the private high school CAROL attended. The time is the present. The place is CAROL's dorm room. Such details as what college CAROL is at, where Nick and their parents live, etc., can be decided by the actress; these details are unimportant except as a way to provide the actress with background for her character. Any other details not given in the text can be determined in any manner.

Good luck, and enjoy!)

(CAROL sits/lies on the floor studying. She flips through pages, writes, highlights, etc. After about half a minute, the telephone rings. CAROL gropes around into the shadows outside of the spotlight, locates the phone, pulls it back center stage, and answers on the third ring.)

CAROL: Hello? (Pause) Oh, hi, Nick! How's it going? (Pause) Pretty good. (She sees that someone has appeared at the door) Wait a sec, Nick. (To person at door) Hi, Mark. I'm on the phone with my little brother. (Pause) No problem, just come back later. (Pause) Can you close the door? Thanks. (Into phone) That was this guy Mark from my floor. It's really cool, you just leave your door open and people are always coming into your room.

That, I swear, is where I stopped writing after all that absurd and fussy setup. What a shame this scintillating drama was never brought to the stage.

I can't claim to understand what was going on in my young mind when I penciled that foolishness, but I'm still able to identify with this short piece from around the same time:

I live life on the edge. I fearlessly skirt deadlines. I perform breathtaking feats of procrastination. My days are spent wasting death-defying amounts of time. I live on the stress-induced rushes of adrenaline caused by completing projects in the nick of time. I'm a daredevil, the Evel Knievel of time management.

Way to own our flaws, Teen Lisa.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ At the Diversity in YA blog, Rahul Kanakia considers the social responsibility of the writer: "I won't say my book has no social value: it's nice to see an Indian-American protagonist on the shelves, and the book does contain some examination of racial and economic divides. But... it’s not exactly Native Son. When you finish reading my novel, you will not be full of righteous anger. You will not take to the streets. You will not be spurred to change the world."


Christopher Gronlund said...

"Good luck, and enjoy!" is absolutely wonderful!

And this is worthy of a tattoo...or at least a coffee mug or t-shirt: "I'm a daredevil, the Evel Knievel of time management."

I really envy all your older writing. I wrote, here and there, when I was younger, but I didn't REALLY begin writing until I was in my very early 20s.

I love that you were giving serious thought to it all when you were younger and that you have the courage to share it all today!

Lisa Eckstein said...

Thanks, Christopher. Glad you found these amusing as well. I was laughing really hard throughout my reading of the play, and "Good luck, and enjoy!" made me laugh hardest. It's a blissfully naive demonstration of confidence that I was already concerned with addressing the people who would stage my play when I could barely be bothered to begin writing it.

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