Home > Playwright Posts > One-Minute Plays, the Musical (Wedding) Edition

One-Minute Plays, the Musical (Wedding) Edition

Matt Schatz



One-Minute Plays, the Musical (Wedding) Edition

I have written a lot of short musicals.

Usually they are about 10-15 minutes long.  I’ve written them by myself and with (One-Minute Play alums) Courtney Lauria and Jihan Crowther and others.  I wrote one about an Oregon Cooperative grocery store; one about a woman trying to sell her house, another about biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, another about underage South Asian kids trying to buy beer.  Oh yeah and one about Barack and Michelle Obama, and a bunch of others of varying lengths and effectiveness.  I have one going on at the end of this month in Austin, Texas about college basketball and Nirvana.  I’ve done so many now that I’ve kind of come up with a structure that can sometimes work.  I like writing them; I find it easier and more fun than writing something that could actually one day make me some money.

And then in the fall of 2009, Dominic asked me to write a one-minute musical for the New York One-Minute Play festival.  I said yes because I thought it would be quick and easy; I was wrong.

Sondheim says that most musical theater songs should be like little one act plays.  But one-minute plays are only about a 3rd as long as most musical theater songs.  So where did that leave me?  How the hell does someone write a musical that is shorter than a single song?

What I ended up doing was basically writing a really short musical scene called “In a Minute.”  It took me about five times as long to write than my usual three-minute theater song.   I wrote a bunch of drafts.  I tried to be clever so of course it didn’t turn out to be very funny, but it was so short that I don’t think many people noticed.  It also featured me playing a ukulele (the hipster instrument Ryan Gosling plays in Blue Valentine).

But I am happy I did it.  Theater writing, especially musical theater writing is all about compression, and one-minute playwriting is an ultimate distillation of that.  It’s kind of closer to writing a joke or a Haiku (or a funny Haiku).  The bottom line is that there no better exercise than to write a short a piece as possible and try to have it still make sense, still work, still tell a story, still be funny, still be dramatic even if it fails.  Especially if it fails.

Looking back now, the most remarkable thing about “In a Minute” was that it was about a wedding.  When I wrote it, I was single.  And now (as of November 21st) I am married.  And on the demo recording sent to the actors, director, and producer, I forced my then girlfriend (the beautiful writer and library student Jenna Hymes) to sing the female role: the role of the bride.  I sang the role of the groom.  A little more than a year after this, we played these roles in real life.

So now I kind of cherish my little one-minute musical.  Particularly the demo with Jenna and me singing on it (which I hope Dominic will be able to attach here).

Long live the one-minute musical and long live love!


-Matt Schatz



Matt’s plays are part of the New Jersey One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with the New Brunswick Theater Festival, January 22nd and 23rd at Rutgers University. For Details visit here.



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