Home > Playwright Posts > YOU MEAN I HAVE TO CUT MY PLAY?


David Lee White




Recently I submitted my one-minute plays to Dominic and he sent me a note that no playwright wants to hear – “I’m afraid your plays are too long. Can you cut them?”


Hoo-boy. Trimming twenty seconds out of a play to make sure it fits into the one-minute time frame is no easy task. But for those of you who have also found yourselves in this quandary, I have come up with a list of methods and techniques that will insure that your plays will be twenty seconds shorter without sacrificing your integrity.


1.       Use a smaller font. The general rule of thumb is that one page equals one minute of stage time. Therefore, simply squeeze your play onto a single page by adjusting your font size accordingly. Just for kicks, change the font to Arial Narrow 4, and watch as your one-minute play instantly becomes a six second play.


2.       Increase the size of your margins. This is along the same lines as the suggestion above. The only difference is that increasing the size of the margins only works if you cast actors that are slightly wider than your average actor.


3.       If your play is a pdf file, convert it to a thumbnail jpeg file. The digital compression will naturally shorten the length of your play.


4.       Before submitting your play to Dominic, include the following stage direction – “He stares at his watch for twenty seconds.” Then, when he tells you to trim twenty seconds from the play, just cut this stage direction.


5.       At the top of play, insert a note stating that the dialogue isn’t intended to be literally spoken, but rather the actors should simply convey the general idea of the dialogue by grunting. This way, you don’t have to cut anything and you’ve passed on the issue to the actors. Are they slow grunters? That’s a director problem.


6.       Insert a note into the script that all the lines are to be spoken simultaneously.


7.       Find a playwright whose play is forty seconds long and ask to borrow his/her leftover twenty seconds. Likewise, you can find two fifty second plays and ask to borrow their leftover time and add them together. If you really want to get ambitious, find twenty playwrights that have written fifty-nine-second plays, and borrow their leftover time. This gets complicated though because playwrights that only use fifty-nine seconds are pricks.


8.       Cast your play with members of a local improvisational comedy troupe. Those guys talk really, really fast, and all at the same time.


9.        Don’t cut anything. Prior to the performance, pass out fistfuls of diet pills to everyone in the audience and instruct them to swallow the pills one hour before your play. The sudden increase in the audience’s metabolism will make the play *seem* twenty seconds shorter.


10.   This one is ambitious but if you’ve got a free afternoon, it’s worth it. First, make sure that the theatre hosting the performance *only has digital clocks.* This is essential because digital clocks were built to be resettable and controlled by the time code relayed by NOAA SMS/GOES satellites in 1974 (to make sure this works, it’s best if the digital clocks were made between 1976 and 1980). These clocks were based upon a four-bit microprocessor, and the clock display should have a reading for the satellite position to account for delay corrections.  Your job is to create a ray or laser of some sort that can locate the satellite position based on information on the clock display and interfere with the signal relay FOR EXACTLY TWENTY SECONDS. When your play begins, point the ray in the direction of the satellite and intercept the signal. Once twenty seconds have passed, turn off the ray and allow the rest of the time to pass normally. This may not work if it’s foggy out. Go here for more information: http://tf.boulder.nist.gov/general/pdf/452.pdf


-David Lee White



The Second Annual New jersey One-Minute Play Festival is presented in partnership and support of The New Brunswick Theater Festival (NBTF) for their teaching artist initiatives in the New Brunswick Community. The NJ OMPF is one night only: Sunday January 22nd, at 7PM at Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken, NJ. For tickets click here


Categories: Playwright Posts
  1. January 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    That’s some funny shit. Now cut your damn play.

  2. January 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    I think your blog post was longer than a minute. Edit!

  3. jim christy
    January 18, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Love this and I also like the idea of trading seconds between playwrights like they’re monopoly money. Let’s develop something that way.

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