On the Writing of a Short Play

I wrote a play! It’s short (seven pages in Microsoft Word, about ten minutes in performance), but I’m very proud of it. In fact, I’m so proud of it that I am going to cross off number 7 on my 101 in 1001 list: Create something you are proud of. You can read it in full (and download it to keep, if you so wish) right HERE. The rest of this blog is all about the making of it, and may contain spoilers, so I suggest you go and read it before continuing. Like I say, it’s only ten minutes or so.

I began this play on Boxing Day, in the evening, as a fun thing for some pals of mine. We chat on Skype, and at the time we liked looking for short plays and then reading them with each other over a Skype call, like a radio play. It’s good fun, and even more fun when you’re reading it spontaneously. This was my idea, I think, and it actually goes back a little further, to this play called White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, which is a one-person play in which the one person is given the script when they go up on stage, and have to act it whilst reading it, not knowing what comes next, and going on the journey of the story with the audience. It seems like a madly original idea, and I’d love to see it one day, but for now I tried to emulate the idea with the plays that we were reading on Skype.

However, I realised that it wasn’t quite the same. The plays we were reading were not designed for that kind of reading, and as such didn’t have the same feeling that I was chasing in trying to get the WRRR experience. I felt like one of the main things needed for that to work was a plot twist, but one that could be revealed slowly, like a camera pulling back from a shot to reveal more and more of it, until the audience worked out for themselves what was going on. As the old adage goes, if you want a job done right, do it yourself.

So I did. I wrote the full first draft of Chadwick Dock in about four or five hours, tweaking little bits here and there before handing it to my friends and Icelandic actors extraordinaire Sölvi and Berglind to read spontaneously, playing the parts of Samuel and Grace respectively. They read it, and it did feel a lot like what I was trying to get with the WRRR effect; obviously, it was slightly different in audio rather than as it would be on stage, but still great to listen to.

Over the next few weeks, then, we worked on refining the script. To this end I would like to thank Berglind and Sölvi both for their help, as well as all the others in Skype who contributed ideas and solved problems by the dozen. Particularly I’d like to highlight Leon “Jezzy” Bartenstein, who read the second draft and asked me if the ship coming in was supposed to be a reference to Plato’s Crito – it was not, because I am not that clever, but after having it explained to me I decided that I would include more references to Crito and make it seem intentional and claim the intellectual credit for myself.

Also of great help was Samuel E. Robinson (no nominal relation to Samuel in the play), who is very clever when it comes to the nuts and bolts of these things; he beautifully deconstructed the play, highlighted all the problems, gave me great direction on how to improve them, and then said “Though it could just be me”. It wasn’t just him, he’s just a genius that’s too modest to say so.

The only other thing that might be worth noting is the title, Chadwick Dock. Originally it was called Goldsboro Dock, as a reference to the Mountain Goats song Moon Over Goldsboro, which contains the well-placed line:

Spend all night in the company of ghosts, always wake up alone.

This seeming fitting, I used it for the title, but when I looked up exactly where Goldsboro was I found that it was a landlocked city in North Carolina, USA. So, as a compromise, I looked up other North Carolina docks, and Chadwick was the one that jumped out at me. For a while I didn’t love it as a name, and always meant to come up with a better one, but I’ve grown attached enough to it now to keep it.

That’s more or less everything, I believe. I hope you enjoyed the play – it’s the first one I’ve really finished, but I feel good about it so there may be more coming soon.  If you have any questions, please ask away in the comments, where I shall be happy to oblige with answers. Thanks for reading all this, and I shall see you next time I write words in this box before pressing the word publish.

(Oh, and if you didn’t see it before, I made a video too! It’s for a project called 365 Nerds, and it’s all about binary, and I’m so happy with it that I might start regularly vlogging soonish. Click here to see it.)

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One thought on “On the Writing of a Short Play

  1. Very good play Patrick, I would really like to see you write some more and would also love to collaborate with you using Skype, you may or may not know that I am a bit of a writer myself! – Joe :)

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