This might get me into trouble but here goes:
This might get me into trouble but here goes: I don’t think writing a one-minute play is that hard. But, you know, maybe I did it wrong. Maybe my two one-minute plays will flop and everyone in the audience will roll their eyes and shake their heads and make comments like, “Wow. Wow. That was…is she serious with that shit?” If that happens, I will wear the dunce cap and sit in the corner and everyone can throw rotten fruit at me.
When the opportunity to participate in the South Florida O.M.P.F. came my way, I’d just finished an adaptation of THE BACCHAE and was very much in need of a break from all that language. Also, I have a natural tendency to embellish, to overwrite and be obsessively specific with stage directions in my work. This is something I am actively addressing in my writing these days as I try to get more information and meaning out of less text.
Beckett achieved this kind of literary economy by writing in French, which, as most of us know, was not his native language. By writing in French, he was forced to be spare; he didn’t have the “words.” The O.M.P. form allows you (or forces you, depending on where you’re standing) to be spare while also crafting an effective and affecting single dramatic moment. I think this is not only possible but also that it shouldn’t involve too much hair pulling. I agree with what fellow OMPF playwright Pia Wilson wrote in her earlier post:
“Within that one minute, a playwright can explore a theme; build an arc with a beginning, middle, end; and develop characters.”
A full-length play is just a succession of single dramatic moments strung together to create a longer narrative. And that’s true no matter what your preferred style or dramatic form. So then an O.M.P. is really a single dramatic moment that reveals one closed story point about your characters or their world. I call it “closed” simply because it does not lead to another moment.
The lovely thing about plays is that the more minute the details, the more universally relatable they become. So your one-minute play, which we might also consider a single minute detail, has the power to illuminate more about the “big picture” than that “big picture” full length you’ve been overwriting for the last [insert absurd amount of time here.] And by “you,” I mean “me.” Obviously.
Do you have less of everything when writing a one-minute play? Do you have less time and fewer words and fewer opportunities for revelation? Sure. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This form asks the playwright to give her audience some credit. According to the O.M.P.F. guidelines, it asks the playwright to “allow some room for the actors to create a space that feels relaxed and crafted.” Basically, it asks the playwright to back the f*ck up and stop being so damned precious.
Too often, we forget that what we’re creating is a living, breathing thing and not some museum piece meant to be roped off or stuffed into the archives, brought out on rare occasions and glanced at from a safe distance. Plays are meant to be breathed on and touched. They are meant to be thrown around like a Frisbee or broken like a cheap vase and then patched back up again with super glue and tape. They are not meant to be perfect—whatever that means–ever.
When we have ninety pages or a hundred minutes at our disposal, we tend to forget all of that and focus instead on the play as a finished product. In the process, we often lose sight of why we even started writing in the first place. If your play is a single moment, you can’t worry about where it has been or where it is going. Writing a one-minute play is a lesson in something greater than mere trick dramaturgy. The process teaches us that there may well be a greater truth revealed in sixty seconds than in the whole of our lives.
The First South Florida One-Minute Play Festival will be held Sunday Feb 26th at 4:30PM and 8:30 PM at The Deering Estate. Tickets are $25 and proceeds will benefit SFTL’s playwright workshop programming. For tickets and info click here.