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Under Pressure


Carrie Louise Nutt


If you take a lump of coal, and you squeeze it really hard for a long time, you get a diamond.  That’s an over-simplification of the process, obviously, but point being when you compress something down to its core, say a play, when you put pressure on it to be as succinct as possible, you get a gem.  It’s shiny and it’s worth a whole lot in dramatic coinage, but it’s not very big.


For me, writing a one-minute play is about getting down to the heart of the dramatic action. Writing a one-minute play doesn’t give me a lot of time to dilly-dally around. I have to establish everything the audience needs to know about the characters and what’s at stake in a just few lines, and then I have to get to the heart of the conflict between them quickly — or time’s up.  But a one-minute play is more than an exercise or an affirmation, it’s why we watch theatre: it’s the essential conflict.


The beauty of the human condition is the awesome amount of diversity within our species, and yet, we can’t escape biology:  we are really just like everybody else.  There’s a set number of possibilities that seem infinite, but aren’t.  As it is written in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  And yet, we can’t stop watching ourselves.  We are narcissists.  We have constructed vast mythologies that put us at the center of everything.  We love watching ourselves because we love to see the range of human behavior.  Whether it’s the “Jersey Shore,” which gives us an opportunity to stand apart from the lowest common denominator, or “Friday Night Lights,” where we see our best selves reflected, we watch to see people in conflict, because it is when we are in conflict that we learn what we’re made of.


When you watch a one-minute play — when you boil it down to that moment of conflict — you get, by far, the most interesting moment in an individual’s life, real or fictional, because we are what we do, not what we think or say.  Ultimately, what is most fascinating about human behavior is our capacity to survive.  We will do what it takes.  We are, each of us, a real gem.



-Carrie Louise Nutt



Carrie’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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