Thursday, January 25, 2018


Do I ever feel bitter about being a playwright? Of course not. Here's a short play I wrote a couple of years back about the fun and excitement of play development. 
           
       


Hell, with Drinks Afterwards

-or-

Every New Play Reading Talkback I Have Ever Attended or Been A Part Of



(Stage of the Generic Arts Playhouse
five minutes after the reading of a new
play has ended. Facing us, both seated,
are the Moderator and the Playwright,
each of either gender. There may be
actors sitting in chairs behind them,
or since they say nothing, they can be
imaginary. Audience Members 1-4 are
distributed throughout the house.)



MODERATOR
(clapping hands)

Okay, now that we've all had a good stretch and the
people who've had to go have taken off, let's get
started. My name's Alex and I'm the dramaturg here
at Generic Arts, and I'll be moderating the
following talk-back session. With me is the
playwright, Kelly Reynolds.
(the moderator gestures at the playwright, who
waves hand, mouthing "thank you," but nothing
comes out as the playwright is paralyzed by
fear and/or social anxiety.)
And behind us are the actors, who are wondering why
they're still up here. We're not going to ask them
to comment on the play themselves. Instead, let's
give them another round of applause for just sitting
there, shall we?
(s/he leads another brief flurry of applause.)
A bonus applause for being good sports. Okay now.
Let's start off by me giving some strict if
seemingly arbitrary topics for conversation that may
or may not reflect questions that the playwright
actually has, depending on if they fit into my
personal "talk-back system." I will state that we
want real criticism, while giving a subtle warning
that Kelly is not just an artist but a human being
who may start crying if things go badly.
(pause)
Anyone?
(another pause)
Any initial thoughts?
(another pause)
Well, if you're here you wanted to say something. We
gave everyone else five minutes to gather their
coats and leave. This is the part where you are
supposed to talk back. That's why we call it a talk
back.

AUDIENCE 1

I thought it was a great play.

(The playwright and moderator both look
relieved.)
 

MODERATOR

Thank you. Would you care to expand on that?

 

AUDIENCE 1

Not really. I just said something because the pause
made me uncomfortable and I'm friends with the
playwright.


 
MODERATOR
 
Well, thank you.


 
PLAYWRIGHT
 
Thank you.

 
 
AUDIENCE 1

No problem.


 
AUDIENCE 2

I think the playwright is marvelously gifted and a
wonderful human being. I am also a friend of the
playwright. Maybe even a potential future romantic partner.

 

PLAYWRIGHT
 
Really? Well, that's great news. Thank you.


 
AUDIENCE 3

I didn't understand one small detail, but it'll take
me a while to get around to saying what it was. But
eventually I will get around to my question to the
playwright? Even though it's not clear if it's a
question?


 
MODERATOR
 
Yes. Yes you will.


 
PLAYWRIGHT

And I'll answer it. And I'll make a note.



AUDIENCE 1
 
I also didn't understand that same thing.



AUDIENCE 4

I also didn't understand that. And here's something
else I didn't understand. And one thing I didn't
like.


 
MODERATOR

Thank you. And....


 
AUDIENCE 4
 
And something else I didn't like.

 
PLAYWRIGHT

I'll make another note, and then put it in quotes
because mostly I think this person is an idiot.

 
AUDIENCE 4

And something else....


 
MODERATOR
 
And thank you. We'd love to hear from someone else.


 
AUDIENCE 3
 
Since it's clear that there are other people who had
problems with the play, I now feel free to say what
I didn't like from earlier.


 
PLAYWRIGHT
 
 And it's somewhat harsh.

 
MODERATOR

And it's somewhat true.


 
AUDIENCE 1

It is somewhat true.


 
AUDIENCE 2

It is.


PLAYWRIGHT

Ouch. Well, okay. I will make a note and change....


 
AUDIENCE 4

Now that there's some blood in the water, I've got
a couple of other things I didn't like.

 

AUDIENCE 3
 
Me too.


 
AUDIENCE 4

We'll go back and forth a couple of times.


 
PLAYWRIGHT

I will pretend to take notes but this is either
stupid or minor stuff that I can fix in five
minutes.


 
AUDIENCE 3

And another point, mostly because I think I sounded
GREAT when I made my last point.


 
AUDIENCE 4

And because I also want to sound great, I will
pontificate here for a bit even though I don't
actually have anything. To say.


 
MODERATOR
Well, thank...



 
AUDIENCE 4

Wait no I do. Sort of. No, lost it.

 
PLAYWRIGHT

I'm hoping this is almost over.

 

MODERATOR

And I'm thinking it's time to wind things up...

 

AUDIENCE 3

But what if....

 

PLAYWRIGHT

Oh no.


AUDIENCE 3

Now hear me out....

 

PLAYWRIGHT  

Please no.


AUDIENCE 3
 
You rewrite the play. I mean, don't actually rewrite
it, but write it so that there's an extra character.

 
AUDIENCE 4

Or two extra characters.

 

AUDIENCE 3

Or two less characters.


 
AUDIENCE 2

Ooo! I love this part. How about if you put Act Two
before Act One?

 

AUDIENCE 3

How about if you change the setting? What if it was
set one hundred years in the past?

 

AUDIENCE 2

What if they're all Native Americans?

 

AUDIENCE 4

What if he's the killer, not her?

 

AUDIENCE 3

What if she doesn't die?


AUDIENCE 1


What if we think that she dies but she doesn't,
but...and hear me out...then she actually does?



 PLAYWRIGHT
(to Moderator)
 

 Please. Please help me.


MODERATOR

Well, at this point we're rewriting the play. Which
really isn't the purpose of this talk back.

 

PLAYWRIGHT

Thank you.

 

MODERATOR
 
But as long as we're doing it, what if you write the
play that I've been wanting to write for years like
every dramaturg, and it will incorporate every great
idea I've ever had, and it will be far better than
this play or any of the plays in our upcoming
season, only no one ever takes me seriously as a
writer, mostly because I am a dramaturg?

 

AUDIENCE 4

I don't like that idea.
(there's general assent here from the audience:
this is a stupid idea. The Moderator decides to
cover over wounded pride by bringing things to
a close.)


 
MODERATOR

And with that we'll take just a couple more comments.



 AUDIENCE 2
 
I will affirm that I like the playwright and the
play.


 
AUDIENCE 1
 
The playwright is a helluva good person.



AUDIENCE 4

I will thrown in one last strangely harsh criticism,
like I was bored or I didn't like that actor,
(pointing him out)
but then I will say the playwright is a fine human
being.


 
MODERATOR
 
 Let's applaud the actors and the playwright and me
one more time.

(they applaud)

PLAYWRIGHT
 
I am going to go get drunk.



MODERATOR

I am going with you so we can talk more about the
play.


 
PLAYWRIGHT

I will pretend I like that idea but I really hate
you right now.



 AUDIENCE 1
(coming up to the playwright along with
Audience Member 2)

Thank you for the free entertainment. Clearly I like
you a lot to come along to these things.


 
AUDIENCE 2
 
 Yes, thank you. I wish I'd said more things that I
didn't like, but mostly I was bored, though I won't
tell you that.



AUDIENCE 4
(coming up to the playwright)

I'll come along with you now and tell you more
things you should change to make it more like the
great but imaginary play that's in my head.

 

PLAYWRIGHT

I hate you more than I hate the moderator, but sure,
why not come along, my bitterness is not yet
complete.


 
AUDIENCE 3
(coming up too)

Then I'll come too. I also have an idea for a great
imaginary play that you should write, only if you do
I will get angry at you for stealing my ideas.


PLAYWRIGHT

I am in hell, only with the possibility of drinks,
which makes it marginally better.



(Exit. End of Play.)

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