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More Perfect 10: Writing & Producing the 10-Minute Play

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A More Perfect Ten is a revision of Gary Garrison's pioneering book on writing and producing the 10-minute play, and it is now the most authoritative book on this emerging play form. The 10-minute play has become a regular feature of theatre companies and festivals from coast to coast, and Garrison has distilled the advice of many of those people who had been instrumental in promoting the 10-minute play for the last few years. Replete with advice and tips on creating the successful 10-minute play, and cautions ...

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Overview

A More Perfect Ten is a revision of Gary Garrison's pioneering book on writing and producing the 10-minute play, and it is now the most authoritative book on this emerging play form. The 10-minute play has become a regular feature of theatre companies and festivals from coast to coast, and Garrison has distilled the advice of many of those people who had been instrumental in promoting the 10-minute play for the last few years. Replete with advice and tips on creating the successful 10-minute play, and cautions for avoiding the pitfalls, this new edition also includes addresses for the biggest and most important 10-minute festival opportunities, new sample 10-minute plays and questions for thought and discussion, and sample templates for laying out the play for submission. The savvy playwright at any level of skill can use this little book to great advantage. Plus Gary Garrison is warm, funny, irreverent, and essential.

Gary Garrison’s plays are simply the best short plays around.  We beg him every year to put something in our Boston Theater Marathon, and every year he outdoes himself with plays that speak to our foibles, our complexities, and always, always to our humanity.  It’s no wonder he has written a how-to book about it—he’s the master!
—Kate Snodgrass, Artistic Director, Boston Theater Marathon/Boston Playwrights’ Theatre

Gary Garrison is a playwright and author, as well as the Executive Director for Creative Affairs of the Dramatists Guild of America and the Artistic Director and Division Head of Playwriting for the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of Arts. He is also the former National Chair of Playwrighting for the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, as well as the Artistic Director for the First Look Theatre Company and the recently formed Playwrights PlayGround.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Gary Garrison’s plays are simply the best short plays around. We beg him every year to put something in our Boston Theater Marathon, and every year he outdoes himself with plays that speak to our foibles, our complexities, and always, always our humanity. It's no wonder he has written a how-to book about it-he's the master!"
— Kate Snodgrass, Artistic Director, Boston Theater Marathon/Boston Playwrights' Theatre

"It is not often that you can find an expert who is able to share their knowledge and guide others as openly and tirelessly as Gary Garrison does during the Southeastern Theatre Conference's annual convention. As the respondent for the Annual Ten-Minute Play Festival, he not only teaches through the production critiques, he can often be found working with a production group long after the formal theatre response. Bravo Gary Garrison!"
— Betsey Baun, Executive Director, Southeastern Theatre Conference

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585103270
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 178
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Gary Garrison is a playwright and author, as well as the Executive Director for Creative Affairs of the Dramatists Guild of America and the Artistic Director and Division Head of Playwriting for the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of Arts. He is also the former National Chair of Playwrighting for the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, as well as the Artistic Director for the First Look Theatre Company and the recently formed Playwrights PlayGround.
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Read an Excerpt


CHAPTER 1

Bones for the Pickin’

We’ve created a monster and we don’t even know it.
In the time it takes to sort through a pile of almost-white cotton socks from your dryer, whip up three eggs over-easy or watch George Bush try to explain some inane decision he’s made, you could witness the newest double-edged sword the American theatre has to offer: the Ten-Minute Play. Look in any small to medium-sized theatre or educational institution across the country, and you’re bound to smack right up against it. And it seems the trend is growing faster than anyone can keep up with.

Has it ever happened before that a generation of artists have embraced a new creative form with such wild energy and enthusiasm, completing whole, dramatic creations in the time it takes to languorously eat a slice of pepperoni pizza? I never even saw it coming. Did you? And where the heck did it come from? I wagered a guess in an article that I wrote for The Dramatists Guild Newsletter several years ago:

First there was the full-length play about a ga-jillion years ago. Then some sassy, know-it-all playwright got daring (or maybe bored, or low on ink, or was a victim of attention deficit disorder) and thought, “why do in three long, long acts what you can do in one?” So the one-act play became the genre du jour until God created television and MTV. Then some clever playwright thought, “why do in one-act what you can do in ten-minutes or in a monologue play?” Shortly thereafter, God created Jane Martin and/or the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the great submission flood rivaled its biblical equivalent. But sadly, pretty much every playwright’s ten-minute play just died in the flood.

So God created the Dramatists Sourcebook and The DG Resource Directory, and lo and behold, there appeared the One-Page Play. Wonder if God’s going to create an audience for it? (If so, expect the next Great Flood). Pretty soon we’ll have the No Page Play and just a lot of playwrights lined up at the door of a literary manager who sits patiently listening to a writer say, “Just imagine a play…and it’s really funny…”

…I shouldn’t be surprised; none of us should: we are a generation of writers raised on television. We know the world in sound-bites and out-takes. Our television programming, commercials and films are doled out in fifteen-to-thirty-second images that flash only the condensation of emotion, with little screen time spent watching those emotions develop. We are used to an abbreviated expression of creativity. And I, as a teacher of playwriting, have to constantly work against that conditioning in the classroom, and then wrestle with it myself in my own creative soul…

Don’t get me wrong, I like the ten-minute play. I’m a real sucker for it. I should be – every one I’ve written has been produced. But it wasn’t enough that they be my creative best friend: I wanted everybody to love them. So I started a Ten-Minute Play Festival at NYU for the Dramatic Writing Program, another for my region of the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival (which has now evolved into a national Ten-Minute Play Festival), another for Off-Off-Broadway’s Pulse Ensemble Theatre, another for the Playwrights Program in the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and a few others that I’ve forgotten because the experience was…well, brief. I’ve championed the ten-minute play to my writer-friends and students for the last ten years as a new, exciting variation for the theatre – a writer’s challenge, a great exercise for actors, a director’s dream, a producer’s profitable night at the box office.

That is until one day, several years ago, sitting in an Off-Off-Broadway theatre watching an evening of ten-minute plays that were really bad, really long and had about as much appeal as watching melted butter congeal, I recalled a healthy number of the four or five-hundred ten-minute plays I’d read, thought of all of those I had produced (about half that many)…and gulped a big, lugubrious gulp that most of Manhattan must have heard and that’s still lodged in my throat. Why?

Because very few writers know what they’re creating when they write them, what to do with them once they’re written, and what to do with the skills they learn writing the short play when (and if) they finally sit down to write a long one. At the core of all of this is a very simple problem: few playwrights have thought about what these plays really are or what they should try to be and what magic (or disaster) they can create for their audience. Writers seem to universally acknowledge one thing: they’re short, and it feels easier because “how many mistakes can you make in such a short amount of time?”

A lot. A load. Tons of them. So many you’d think you’ve never written a single word in your life. Shorter doesn’t mean easier on any level. Ahhhhhhhhhh, there’s the rub. Filling the “empty space” with evocative language, fascinating characters and a compelling story all in ten minutes is harder to write than any of us think, but we haven’t spent much time thinking about it because it’s all so new. Look, I know they’re great fun to write, they’re good learning tools for any writer, they’re terrific acting and directing exercises and they’re a fantastic way of introducing a large number of writers to an audience in one pop. BUT, there are very real, very solvable problems in the creation of this form that, if we just stop in our zealousness to create, we can solve with some good, sound dramaturgical thought in such a way that everyone wins. But before any of that can happen, I have to try to tackle my dread about the whole of it and pick a few bones with myself and the rest of the theatre world before encouraging anyone to write a ten-minute play.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgements, p. vi
Introduction, p. vii
Chapter One: Bones for the Pickin’, p. 2
Chapter Two: Work Those Ruby Slippers, Dorothy, p. 10
Chapter Three: My Ten-Minute Play Sucks. What The F?, p. 26
Chapter Four: Serious Murder on Your Mind: Problems in Production and the People Who Cause Them, p. 34
Chapter Five: To Avoid Humiliation on Ice, p. 46
Chapter Six: Drying Out Your Mouth, p. 66
Chapter Seven: Shut Up and Show Me, p. 95
Chapter Eight: T-Minus Ten and Counting, p. 157
Chapter Nine: Ten Last Thoughts, p. 164
Appendix: Sample Play Formats, p. 166
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