A Note From The Essential Theatre’s Peter Hardy
When I got Dominic’s invitation to submit a couple of one-minute plays, I remember him speaking in terms of “a theatrical moment”. Which sounded to me like more than a practical way to approach the composition of a one-minute play – it resonated with me in terms of all the writing I do. I’ve rarely written a full-length play that began with a theme, or an overall idea; more often than not, they began with a moment – an action, or an exchange of dialogue. And, eventually, a number of such moments would come together in my mind and begin to acquire a shape, and lead me on my way towards discovering the story that wanted to be told. I’ve got a file full of “moments” like these – some of them are more than twenty years old, and have never found their way into a longer work. But they still have resonance for me and so they still, someday, might.
Another thing I appreciated about Dominic’s invitation was that there wasn’t any “theme” or subject matter dictated to us. We could write anything we wanted (which is how it should be), and then the selected scripts were grouped together into “clumps” with common ideas or threads. The themes emerged from the work (which is also how it should be). All too often, it seems, today’s opportunities for playwrights are limited to a specific theme or subject matter, or some kind of agenda. As a producer, I can understand the practical benefits of this – and my company has occasionally put out calls like this – but as a writer, I find them depressing and frustrating.
That’s why my company, which holds an annual contest for Georgia resident playwrights (the Essential Theatre Playwriting Award), says that plays can be of any style or subject matter. We don’t place a limit on the number of characters, and I wonder if we’ll someday receive an absolutely brilliant 40-character five-act epic historical tragedy written in blank verse, so good that we’ll simply have to figure out some way to produce it. But until that (possibly apocalyptic) dilemma comes to pass, I’d rather encourage the writers to strike out in whatever direction their imaginations take them.
I’ve been writing, directing and acting in Atlanta theatre for the past 25 years, and a lot of things have changed for playwrights in this town, almost all for the better. There’s now a well-organized and productive playwrights service group (Working Title Playwrights), which offers classes, workshops and readings, and local theatres are a lot more open to new work (including my company, which produces at least one new work by a Georgia writer every year; this year we’re doing three). About 20 years ago I had a play of mine chosen for development at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference – one of only 10 plays chosen from the whole country. A pretty big deal, and something I was very proud of, but I don’t recall anyone from any theatre in Atlanta contacting me and saying “Hey, congratulations, let us see that play”. (Maybe I’m forgetting somebody, in which case I apologize.) I don’t think that would happen now.
To finish, I’ll admit that producing theatre (and working to develop new plays, which is a big focus of my company) means that I spend a lot of time not doing my own writing. But that’s just one more reason I was glad to have the chance to write a couple of one-minute plays, and see them performed next week!
The First Atlanta One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with Actor’s Express will take place Sunday June 10th and Monday June 11th at 8PM. Tickets are $20 and availablehere. The Monday June 10th Performance will be livestreamed on New Play TV.