Archives for posts with tag: playwriting

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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Act One (Excerpt)
by Oscar Wilde

JACK [Nervously]:  Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl . . . I have ever met since . . . I met you.

GWENDOLEN:  Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact.  And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative.  For me you have always had an irresistible fascination.  Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you.  [Jack looks at her in amazement.]  We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals.  The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest.  There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.  The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.

JACK:  You really love me, Gwendolen?

GWENDOLEN:  Passionately!

JACK:  Darling!  You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.

GWENDOLEN:  My own Ernest!

JACK: But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?

GWENDOLEN:  But your name is Ernest.

JACK:  Yes, I know it is.  But supposing it was something else?  Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?

GWENDOLEN  [Glibly]:  Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

JACK: Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest . . . I don’t think the name suits me at all.

GWENDOLEN:  It suits you perfectly.  It is a divine name.  It has a music of its own.  It produces vibrations.

JACK:  Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names.  I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

GWENDOLEN: Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed.  It does not thrill.  It produces absolutely no vibrations . . . I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain.  Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John!  And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John.  She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude.  The only really safe name is Ernest.

JACK:  Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once.  There is no time to be lost.

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Read this hilarious classic in its entirety at Project Gutenberg.

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Today we celebrate the 1911 birth of Tennessee Williams — who remains, at least in my estimation, the greatest American playwright for his lyricism, characters, originality, honesty, insight, and compassion. Born in Columbus, Mississippi, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Williams had no connection to Tennessee — other than the word starting with the same letter as his given name (Thomas). He decided not to call himself “Mississippi” Williams or “Missouri” Williams because he wasn’t fond of the abbreviated version (i.e., Miss Williams).

It’s been 30 years since Williams’ 1983 passing (at age 71), but he will live forever in his unforgettable creations — Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski (Streetcar Named Desire), Maggie the Cat and Big Daddy (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Laura and Amanda Wingfield (The Glass Menagerie), and scores of others.

Here is some playwriting advice from the master:

“I believe the way to write a good play is to convince yourself it is easy to do — then go ahead and do it with ease. Don’t maul, don’t suffer, don’t groan till the first draft is finished. A play is a pheonix and it dies a thousand deaths. Usually at night. In the morning it springs up again from its ashes and crows like a happy rooster. It is never as bad as you think, it is never as good. It is somewhere in between, and success or failure depends on which end of your emotional gamut concerning its value it approaches more closely. But it is much more likely to be good if you think it is wonderful while you are writing the first draft. An artist must believe in himself. Your belief is contagious. Others may say he is vain, but they are affected.” TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, as found in his 856-page Notebooks (Yale University Press, 2007) available at Amazon.com.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

Act One (Excerpt)

by Oscar Wilde

JACK [Nervously]:  Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl . . . I have ever met since . . . I met you.

GWENDOLEN:  Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact.  And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative.  For me you have always had an irresistible fascination.  Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you.  [Jack looks at her in amazement.]  We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals.  The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest.  There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.  The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.

JACK:  You really love me, Gwendolen?

GWENDOLEN:  Passionately!

JACK:  Darling!  You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.

GWENDOLEN:  My own Ernest!

JACK: But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?

GWENDOLEN:  But your name is Ernest.

JACK:  Yes, I know it is.  But supposing it was something else?  Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?

GWENDOLEN  [Glibly]:  Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

JACK: Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest . . . I don’t think the name suits me at all.

GWENDOLEN:  It suits you perfectly.  It is a divine name.  It has a music of its own.  It produces vibrations.

JACK:  Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names.  I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

GWENDOLEN: Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed.  It does not thrill.  It produces absolutely no vibrations . . . I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain.  Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John!  And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John.  She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude.  The only really safe name is Ernest.

JACK:  Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once.  There is no time to be lost.

###

Read this hilarious classic in its entirety at Project Gutenberg.

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MIRROR TALK

Memoir by Barbara Alfaro

I don’t have as much time for reading as I’d like – if it were up to me, I’d read as a full-time occupation, eight hours a day. Most of my reading these days is work related – material I’m editing, manuscripts I’m evaluating, or reference materials for writing projects. But once in a while I’m able to spend time with a book that’s so enjoyable the pages just breeze by – and, I’ll admit, books like these aren’t easy to find. I’m happy to report I recently encountered a book that succeeded on all fronts – beautiful prose, laugh-out-loud humor, as well as depth and introspection. The book is Mirror Talk, a memoir by Barbara Alfaro – winner of the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award.

In the approximately 30,000-word book, available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions, Alfaro covers a lot of territory – from her Catholic girlhood in New York during the 1950s, her career as an actor and director during the 1960s and 1970s, and her eventual development as a poet, playwright, and writer.

The Mirror Talk chapter entitled “Make Mine Cognac” about an experimental play Alfaro appeared in was the funniest story I’ve read in years – and had me laughing, and laughing, and laughing out loud. Alfaro’s sharp, witty writing style is reminiscent of the wisecracking reporter Hildy Johnson in the Ben Hecht comedy His Girl Friday or even the ultimate wit – Dorothy Parker herself.

About the experimental play “smuggled from behind the Iron Curtain,” Alfaro writes: “After weeks of rehearsal, it became depressingly clear that no one in the cast had the slightest idea of what the play was about…the director said something about ‘symbolic juxtaposition.’ Finally, one of the symbols clanged. ‘What the hell is this play about?’ The director smiled that knowing, smug smile only directors and successful orthodontists seem able to accomplish…”

If you’re looking for a quick, fun read with a lot of heart and soul, check out Mirror Talk by Barbara Alfaro, available at Amazon.com. The Kindle version, available, here is just $1.99!

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I am a huge Sam Shepard fan, but am I the only one who thinks it odd that his photo appears so prominently on the poster for his new play? (Wouldn’t his name over the title have been enough — and infinitely more tasteful)? Did Tennessee Williams or Eugene O’Neill ever appear on a poster? (Granted, they were not as handsome as Sam Shepard.)

Shepard’s new play Heartless opens August 27, 2012, at the Signature Theatre Company in New York City. The official website describes the play this way: Sally lives with her mysterious family in a cavernous home overlooking Los Angeles. When a visitor arrives, Sally’s dark secrets —  and the secrets of those around her —  threaten to come into the light. 

Back in the day, I attended the first preview of  Shepard’s comic masterpiece True West — produced by the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago — which starred John Malkovich, Jeff Perry, Laurie Metcalf, and Francis Guinan. It remains the most engaging, stunning, engrossing, dramatic, hilarious play I’ve ever seen. I wish I were in New York — my very favorite city — right now with tickets to Heartless in my hands.