Home > Playwright Posts > Jumping Out Of My Head: A One-Minute Essay

Jumping Out Of My Head: A One-Minute Essay

Karla Jennings

Jumping Out Of My Head: A One-Minute Essay

Time’s elastic. Weeks flying by suddenly freeze when a few seconds whacks our destiny’s trajectory into a new direction: we meet someone and feel the rush of what we discover to be love; our brakes fail when the truck swerves in front of us; we find out we’re pregnant; our toddler hoists herself up by a cabinet knob and takes her first step; a loved one dies; someone offers us a job; someone mugs us; someone bestows an unexpected kindness. Real achievements take years to accomplish, but the moments that make us are the ones we think of at quiet times, again and again, that form our personalities, inform our fates, and embed themselves in our memories. Those moments are often flashes: a sound, an image, an emotional jolt.


That’s why it’s such a bitch to write a one-minute play. Life’s moments occur in context, and context stretches a lifetime. Life’s moments spin out of a huge web of backstory (or backstories, depending on how may characters you have). In 60 seconds or less, how do you show a pivotal moment in a life spanning millions of them? Imbue it with subtext and meaning? Make it universal? Make it good?


Normally, when I write a play I spend a lot of time churning out backstory and dialogue to develop characters. No time for that here.


So, for the One Minute Play Festival, I took a cue from real life. A few months ago, while walking by Murphey Candler Park, I saw a man get out of his car. He had a copy of The New York Times, two bottles of water, and a bag with two sandwiches. It was a pretty day and I guess he expected to spend a few pleasant hours hanging out with his lady. However, when he crossed over the passenger side and opened the door, she wouldn’t move. She wouldn’t look at him. He grabbed her arm. She stared at the floor and physically resisted as he tried to jerk her out of the car. After perhaps 20 seconds, he cursed, slammed the door, got in the driver’s seat, and drove away.


It was an inherently dramatic stand-alone moment. Whenever I remember it I automatically start creating a scene leading up to it, and another to conclude it, in order to give it context. Because I don’t know what the real context was, those scenes keep changing in my mind. That can make a one-minute play compelling; your mind will keep trying to give it context, to make the universal aspects of that moment particular to you by embedding them in the contextual flow of the world you already know.


Riffing off that, I decided I’d think of a one-minute play as something observed on the street or overheard in a private corner of a public space. I jumped out of my head and (dropping context, backstory, all that mess) stood by unobserved as a few characters flickered through a crucial moment in their lives. I wrote down what I watched, then left them, and left it at that.


The rest is up to you.



-Karla Jennings



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. 



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