Home > Playwright Posts > “17. There is no cure for the one-minute play, or its longer relatives….”

“17. There is no cure for the one-minute play, or its longer relatives….”

Mickey Birnbaum

1. Abandon narrative.

2. You can’t abandon narrative.

3. Narrative follows you, not only in the years of your life, but in the moments. Getting out of bed in the morning constitutes a complicated narrative, fraught with personal history.

4. The guy in the car next to you is not out to humiliate you. But you think he is.  Then you think about your mother.

5. All this takes less than a second.

6. A one-minute play is a four-hour play.

7. Think about vertical narrative.  The surface is where characters come to speak. The mass of characters’ submerged lives is unchartable. But we know it’s there, and we want to think about it.

8. The writer points at the space the one-minute play occupies. Then the audience writes it.

9. The one-minute play has no beginning and no ending. Attempts to contain it are illusory.

10. Illusory, but pleasurable.

11. The audience continues to write the one-minute play after it ends.

12. The one-minute play multiplies like a virus.

13. Each mutation has adapted to survive in a single host, a single audience member.

14. Soon, the virus that is the one-minute play takes up residence in an inaccessible chamber of the unconscious.

15. Writers continue to point at the space the one-minute play occupies.  The audience continues to write the one-minute play and re-infect itself with imprecise narratives.

16. The audience leaves the theatre and continues to write its own one-minute plays, as well as plays that are fifty, seventy-five years long.

17. There is no cure for the one-minute play, or its longer relatives. The symptoms of the disease are yearning, sadness, confusion, anger, doubt, nostalgia, and, occasionally, pleasure.

18. The only non-narrative utterance I can think of came from God, to Moses: I am that I am.

19. This seems right.

20. However, Martin Buber re-translated God’s words to read: I Am Here.  This raises some serious narrative concerns.

21. Others insist a literal translation of God’s words from the Hebrew would read: I shall be what I shall be.

22. This too raises serious narrative concerns.  What shall God be?  Is this not an endless thought?

23. What shall I be, given my relative inconsequentiality?

24. “While I pass my life in continuity and completeness, I comprehend it only in discontinuous fragments; of the lives of people around me my understanding is utterly fractured and piecemeal; scraps, shavings, smithereens.”  – William Least Heat -Moon

– Mickey Birnbaum


Mickey’s plays are part of the First Annual L.A. One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with East L.A. Rep. Dec 11th & Dec 12th at 8PM


Categories: Playwright Posts
  1. December 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Mickey, this does the work it describes. I love the notion of vertical narrative (stacked time)– it seems right for that collision of impossibilities that mark the space of human life (between the moment and everything else). And here we are.

  2. Michelle Carter
    December 2, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Fabulous and deep and amazing. Thank you.

    • Mickey B
      December 5, 2010 at 12:29 am

      Thanks, Christine & Michelle — glad you enjoyed the piece. This festival has been (unexpectedly) inspiring.

  3. December 6, 2010 at 3:46 am

    You are hilarious. Brilliant, of course. But let’s not forget hilarious! (And BTW, having read this, I now understand how to “point at the space the one-minute play occupies.”) (Brilliant.)

  4. Laurie Woolery
    December 10, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    And this is why, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mickey Birnbaum is one of my favorite playwrights (not to mention human beings)

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