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Evolution of a Play: How to Write a Play for Play Fest - Version 5

by Frank Macaluso 2 months ago in Script
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A look into the progress of a play written over the course of two years.

Evolution of a Play: How to Write a Play for Play Fest - Version 5
Photo by Marc Fanelli-Isla on Unsplash

When last we met, I presented the fourth finished draft of a one-act play I began writing in my senior year of high school for my school's Playwrights' Festival! And I expressed confusion as to why I kept working on it well after I'd graduated high school!

What's different in this version? Not much, except for this:

  • The entire plot is now told via flashback. A new opening scene is added for this. In retrospect, this change seems utterly pointless.

Really, this edit as a whole seems pointless. I don't really think I improved on anything with the revisions made here. Well, maybe one line of dialogue has been made better. Really, I should've stopped at Version 4.

Anyway, let's get this over with.

This is the complete fifth version of the script, finished on May 4th, 2017—at least, according to Microsoft Word. Some minor edits have been made for clarity, but otherwise, this is the script, the whole script, and nothing but the script, so help me Sid Caesar.

Here now is the fifth and final version of How to Write a Play for Play Fest.

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CHARACTERS

Sam – a young student writer; 17 years of age

Nuala – Sam’s sister; 13 years of age

Yessenia – a friend and classmate of Sam’s; 16 years of age

Ella – Sam’s rival; 17 years of age

Mrs. Warwick – Sam’s drama teacher; also a creative writing teacher; 45 years of age

Ms. Villanueva – another drama teacher; 47 years of age

Mr. Crowley – a creative writing teacher; 36 years of age

Mr. Jackson – another creative writing teacher; 53 years of age

Carol – a student of Mr. Crowley’s; reporter for school newspaper; 16 years old

Sam and Nuala’s Mother

Students (3 male, 2 female)

SCENES

Mr. Crowley’s classroom (Scene 1)

Mrs. Warwick’s classroom (Scenes 2, 6, and 7)

Sam’s bedroom (Scenes 3 and 5)

Food court in a shopping mall (Scene 4)

TIME

Present day

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Scene 1

SETTING: MR. CROWLEY’s classroom, during sixth period. There are two rows of desks in the back and a large, round table stage center with two chairs. There is also a teacher’s desk upstage right.

AT RISE: CAROL is seated at the table with a notepad and a pen. MR. CROWLEY is gathering some things at his desk and putting them in a binder. He takes the binder and walks over to CAROL.

MR. CROWLEY: Sam will be here any minute now. Do me proud, Carol.

CAROL: I will, Mr. Crowley.

(MR. CROWLEY exits. SAM enters.)

SAM: Hi! You’re Carol, right?

CAROL: Yes. Nice to meet you, Sam.

(SAM walks to the table and shakes CAROL’s hands. They sit.)

SAM: How are you?

CAROL: Good. And you?

SAM: Good.

CAROL: Okay. So, how does it feel having something you’ve written being performed at Play Fest this year?

SAM: You know, it’s kind of surreal, you know? It’s just...weird. I mean, I never thought I’d end up having a play I wrote performed ever. Yeah, this is high school, but still. It’s the first step, you know?

CAROL: Yeah. So, how exactly did you come up with the idea your play? What was your process?

SAM: Well, it all started one fateful Monday morning...

(The standard flashback harp music begins playing.)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)

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Scene 2

SETTING: MRS. WARWICK’s classroom, two weeks ago, before first period.

AT RISE: STUDENTS are already seated, with their backpacks at their feet, conversing with each other. SAM and YESSENIA enter, walk to their desks, and put their backpacks down.

YESSENIA: …and that’s when I got the idea of having Charles and Delilah defeat the zombies by playing lullabies on the ukulele while wearing chicken costumes. I figure that’d make the story a little more interesting. I’m not too sure how I’d fit it in yet, but I really like the idea. So, anyway, what’s your play going to be about?

(ELLA enters, walks to her desk, and puts her backpack down.)

SAM: I...don’t really know yet.

YESSENIA: You didn’t brainstorm over the weekend like Mrs. Warwick said to, did you?

SAM: (hesitates) No.

ELLA: (haughtily) Still no ideas for your play, eh, Samantha? Oh, well. It’s not like you should really bother to put any real effort into it. Your play doesn’t have a chance of getting picked.

SAM: (confused) Picked? What are you talking about, Ella?

ELLA: Oh, dear, sweet, naïve, little Samantha, these plays we’re writing for this project aren’t just any plain, ordinary assignment. They’re our submissions for the Playwrights’ Festival. Mrs. Warwick and all the other drama teachers and creative writing teachers read them all and pick the five best plays to perform. You’d have known that if you actually paid attention in class.

YESSENIA: Hey! Sam was sick when Mrs. Warwick announced the assignment! Cut her some slack!

ELLA: Whatever, It doesn’t really matter, anyway. Nothing she could write could stand a chance against my play. It’s a shoe-in. I even hired a professional writer to give me some writing tips.

YESSENIA: Yeah, sure. “Writing tips.”

ELLA: I know what you’re insinuating and no, I have not hired a ghost writer! He’s only giving me writing tips. I’m doing my own writing!

YESSENIA: Yeah? Well, writing tips or not, I doubt you could win. I’ve read some of your work, and I wouldn’t line my rabbit’s cage with it!

ELLA: Uh, bitch, you did not just say that.

(The school bell rings. MRS. WARWICK enters.)

MRS. WARWICK: You know the drill: IDs on, technology away, play a game.

(The other STUDENTS gather in a circle and play “What Are You Doing?” MRS. WARWICK walks to her desk.)

YESSENIA: I’ll have you know that Sam could write circles around your bleached-blond little head any day of the week!

MRS. WARWICK: (walks over to them) Hey, hey, hey! What’s going on?

YESSENIA: Ella was dissing Sam’s writing!

ELLA: I was merely giving constructive criticism. Besides, you started this whole argument!

SAM: Guys, could you please stop—?

YESSENIA: Not now, Sam. This doesn’t concern you. (to ELLA) I started this argument?! You’re the one who came in all, “My play’s simply fantastic! It’s a shoe-in! You guys don’t stand a chance!”

ELLA: I do not talk like that, you little piece of—!

MRS. WARWICK: That’s enough of that! The three of you go sit down, breathe...just calm down, okay? We’ll talk more about this after class.

(MRS. WARWICK walks back to her desk. SAM, YESSENIA, and ELLA walk to their desks and sit down.)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)

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Scene 3

SETTING: Sam’s bedroom, after school that day.

AT RISE: SAM is at her desk with a notebook and pen out. NUALA enters.

NUALA: Hey, Sam, do you think you could help me out with my science fair project? I’m a little nervous about handling the nitroglycerin.

SAM: Not right now, Nuala; I’m kinda busy.

NUALA: Okay, then. (exits)

SAM: Hmmm...Maybe I could write about a mad scientist who creates a man by sewing together some corpses, and then...no, that’s been done before. Ugh, c’mon Sam, think! Think! (realization hits) Wait! Nitroglycerin?

(A loud explosion is heard offstage. Smoke flows in from the kitchen. Some bits of tiles fly into the room. NUALA re-enters nonchalantly.)

NUALA: Uh, Sam...I seem to have made a little bit of a mess in the kitchen. Would you mind helping me clean up a little?

SAM: That didn’t sound like “a little bit of a mess”! Besides, I told you I’m really busy right now!

NUALA: What’s so important that you can’t help your darling little sister sweep and re-tile the floor, patch up the wall, and possibly duct tape the refrigerator back together?

SAM: I’m trying to come up with an idea for a play, but nothing’s coming to me! (beat) What were you doing with nitroglycerin, anyway?

NUALA: (mischievously/playfully) The world may never know.

(SAM sighs and rolls her eyes. NUALA decides to be helpful.)

NUALA: I’ve got an idea you might be able to use. How about a mime who mimes falling in love?

SAM: Yecch! My stomach’s churning just thinking about it!

NUALA: Well, let’s see you come up with something better, then.

(A woman’s scream is heard offstage. NUALA rushes off to clean up the mess and to comfort their now-traumatized MOTHER.)

NUALA: (as she exits) Don’t worry, Mom! I’ll have the kitchen cleaned and fixed before Dad comes home, I promise!

SAM: Right! Back to my play. Let’s see...what am I going to write about? (looks around the room, eyes her laptop) Hmmm...a middle-aged office worker—no, a guy who works at Apple! Yeah! A guy who works at Apple...and travels the country to find himself! (whacks herself in the head with her notebook with each “No!”) No! No! No! Ugh! Maybe that mime idea isn’t all that bad. (shakes head) No! No mimes! What else can I write about?

(A second explosion is heard offstage, along with another scream from her MOTHER. SAM quickly turns to see what just happened.)

NUALA: (offstage and very annoyed) Great! Now I have to re-build Dad’s study, too!

SAM: Hey...Nuala!

(NUALA rushes in with a broom.)

NUALA: You bellowed?

SAM: How would you like to be the subject of a play that might possibly be performed on stage and become famous?

NUALA: Famous? (looks off into space, then back to SAM) I’ll do it!

SAM: (walks over to NUALA, notebook in hand) Great! First, you’ve got to explain your science fair project to me.

NUALA: Actually, first we have to clean up. (hands SAM the broom and exits)

SAM: Aw, come on! This isn’t even my mess! Who told you to use nitroglycerin in the kitchen anyway?! (exits)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)

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Scene 4

SETTING: The food court at a popular shopping mall. Three tables are visible.

AT RISE: Two tables upstage are occupied by the STUDENTS. SAM and NUALA occupy the table downstage.

NUALA: …then she goes and steals my idea! And I’m like, “Felicia! No, you didn’t!” I shoulda known she’d do that; she always does stuff like that. So, I had to think pretty quick about a new project idea before Mr. Clohisy got to me. Then I started thinking about grandpa’s heart condition for some reason...and I thought, “Hey, maybe a project with nitroglycerin would impress Mr. Clohisy!”

SAM: (cynically) And that’s why you destroyed half our house?

NUALA: Hey, it could have been worse! I could have found my inspiration in your athlete’s foot!

SAM: (frantically looking around) Shhh!

(ELLA enters with a large bag of newly-purchased clothes. She sees SAM and walks to her table.)

ELLA: Hi, Samantha! How are you?

SAM: (tense) I’m fine, thanks.

ELLA: This must be your darling sister Nuala!

(ELLA tries to put her hand on NUALA’s shoulder, but NUALA growls at her.)

ELLA: So, what are you doing here? Shopping for a flea collar?

SAM: Actually, we were talking about her science fair project. She...had a bit of accident involving nitroglycerin.

ELLA: (insincerely) Hmmm, sounds interesting. (upbeat) Well, I must be off!

NUALA: (under her breath) Damn right, you must.

ELLA: (shoots NUALA a dirty look) I’m going to put some finishing touches on my play. Toodles! (exits)

NUALA: Sam, you don’t think she’d—

SAM: Don’t worry, Nuala. She would never steal our idea. She’s too full of herself.

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)

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Scene 5

SETTING: SAM’s bedroom, four days later.

AT RISE: SAM is at her desk with her laptop, typing like a mad woman. NUALA enters.

NUALA: Sam, Yessenia wants to know if you want to go to Millennium Park with her.

SAM: Tell her I can’t right now. I have to finish editing my play. I wanna have it perfect by tomorrow.

(NUALA sighs and exits. YESSENIA barges in, stands behind her, and taps on her shoulder and she turns to see who is there.)

SAM: Hey, Yessenia! I haven’t seen you in a while.

YESSENIA: Listen, we’ve gotta talk.

SAM: I can’t really right now. I’ve got to finish this.

YESSENIA: That’s your problem! You’ve been obsessing over that damn play for the past four weeks! It’s unhealthy! You really should take a break from it and—

SAM: Take a break?! Yessenia, you just don’t understand. You only met Ella this year; I’ve known her since first grade. Every day, she would taunt me for not being able to tie my shoelaces. She’s done nothing but put me down ever since. This is my chance to finally show her up. This play has to be perfect.

YESSENIA: Sam, I’ll admit I only came here ‘cause I was pissed you weren’t hanging out with me anymore, but now I can see this is beyond you and me. This even goes beyond Play Fest. You’re letting a petty rivalry take over your life and drive us apart!

SAM: Look, I’ve got a lot of changes to make on this. If you’re not gonna help me, than just leave me alone.

(SAM goes right back to typing. YESSENIA slowly exits, stopping at the door to look back at SAM before she finally leaves.)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)

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Scene 5

SETTING: The classroom, immediately after school.

AT RISE: MRS. WARWICK sits at her desk typing. SAM enters with her play and walks towards MRS. WARWICK.

SAM: Hi, Mrs. Warwick. (hands Mrs. WARWICK her play) Here’s my final draft.

MRS. WARWICK: Thank you, Samantha.

(SAM exits. MS. VILLANUEVA, MR. CROWLEY, and MR. JACKSON enter, each with a bunch of scripts. MRS. WARWICK gets up and walks to them with her own pile, and meets them in the middle of the room.)

MS. VILLANUEVA: I tell you, Chrissy, this is the biggest turnout we’ve had in years! It’s gonna be hell having to read all of these.

MRS. WARWICK: Oh God, we’re not reading through them today, are we? I haven’t made copies!

MR. CROWLEY: That’s fine; neither have we.

MS. VILLANUEVA: We just want to get through this as soon as possible.

(The teachers sit around a desk. MS. VILLANUEVA pulls a script from her bundle.)

MRS. WARWICK: “Some Enchanted Evening”. Cliché title.

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, don’t get too harsh too soon, Chris.

(MS. VILLANUEVA opens the script.)

MR. CROWLEY: Good-sized cast, I think.

MRS. WARWICK: That’s not really important right now, Aviv. I’ll read for Carolina.

MS. VILLANUEVA: I’ll read for Barbara.

MR. JACKSON: I guess I’ll do the Maître d’.

(MR. CROWLEY snickers.)

MR. JACKSON: Shut up! God, you’re so immature sometimes!

(MS. VILLANUEVA turns the page.)

MRS. WARWICK: “Oh, miss, a friend of mine is going to join me later, a Ms. Barbara Horton.”

MR. JACKSON: “Very well, Madame. I will lead her to your table when she arrives.”

MRS. WARWICK: “Thank you, sir.” (looks at watch) “Ugh, where is she?”

MS. VILLANUEVA: “Sorry I’m late, Carolina. Traffic was just horrible.”

MRS. WARWICK: “That’s okay. You’re here now. That’s all that matters to me.” It’s a dud. Toss it.

MS. VILLANUEVA: How do you know just by the first few—?

MRS. WARWICK: Toss it!

(MS. VILLANUEVA tosses the script away. MRS. WARWICK hands a new script to MS. VILLANUEVA.)

MR. CROWLEY: “Toy Soldier” by Ella Whitfield. Hey, she’s in my AP Lit class! I don’t like her; she’s a yutz.

(MS. VILLANUEVA turns the page.)

MS. VILLANUEVA: Only four characters. Not exactly ideal. Oh, well. Let’s read it. I’ll take Delaney.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll read for Tony.

MR. JACKSON: I’ll read for James.

(MS. VILLANUEVA turns the page.)

MRS. WARWICK: Whoa! Those are some pretty long stage directions!

MR. CROWLEY: “He holds her closer, closer, and runs his brawny fingers through her long, flaxen hair.” That’s not stage direction, that’s a novel!

MR. JACKSON: “Oh darling, my love for you is eternal. Marry me, and come with me to Verona, where we shall live together deep in our love and our passion!”

MR. CROWLEY: (knocks on table) “Delaney! I’m home!”

MS. VILLANUEVA: “Oh, no! It can’t be!”

MR. CROWLEY: “Delaney?”

MS. VILLANUEVA: “No! Tony!”

MR. JACKSON: “Tony? Who’s Tony?”

MS. VILLANUEVA: “He was my boyfriend before I met you. I thought he had been killed in action!”

(The teachers all look at each other.)

ALL: Toss it!

(MS. VILLANUEVA tosses the script away. MRS. WARWICK hands SAM’s script to MS. VILLANUEVA.)

MS. VILLANUEVA: “The Science Fair Project” by Samantha Pawletki. The title could use some work.

(MS. VILLANUEVA turns the page.)

MRS. WARWICK: I call Lily!

MS. VILLANUEVA: Damn it! I wanted to play Lily! You know how much I love that name! You never let me be Lily whenever there’s a character named Lily! Come on! Let me be Lily just once! Please?

MRS. WARWICK: You know the rule, Elena. First come, first serve; I called it first, so I get to read for Lily.

MS. VILLANUEVA: You always do this to me! You always take the parts I want! It’s ‘cause I’m Jewish, isn’t it? Admit it, Chrissy! It’s because I’m Jewish!

MR. JACKSON: I thought you were Catholic.

MS. VILLANUEVA: Shut up! (to Mrs. WARWICK) Please, Chrissy. Let me be Lily. Please, please, please!

MRS. WARWICK: Fine! You can be Lily! (under her breath) Pain in the ass.

(The teachers begin to read the play.)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)

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Scene 7

SETTING: The classroom, before first period.

AT RISE: The STUDENTS, including SAM, are conversing. ELLA enters and plops her backpack onto her desk.

ELLA: Ugh! I can’t believe this! This is so unfair!

SAM: What’s the matter, Ella?

ELLA: My play didn’t get picked! My masterpiece! Can you believe this injustice?! After all the hard work I poured into it! And all the money I spent on that tutor! Humph! Those philistines wouldn’t know a good play if it bit them right in the butt!

SAM: Well...them’s the breaks, I guess. Hey, you wouldn’t happen to know if mine got picked, would you?

ELLA: Oh, who gives a damn?!

(ELLA flops down into her seat. MRS. WARWICK enters and walks to SAM.)

MRS. WARWICK: Sam, I want to congratulate you. Your play’s been picked to be performed in Play Fest this year. (shakes SAM’s hand) I’m very proud of you.

SAM: (tying to contain herself) Thank you, Mrs. Warwick.

MRS. WARWICK: You’re welcome.

(MRS. WARWICK walks to her desk. SAM squeals and jumps for joy. YESSENIA enters and puts her backpack on her desk.)

YESSENIA: Whoa, what’s going on here?

SAM: (runs to YESSENIA and grabs her) My play got picked for Play Fest! Isn’t this great?! I beat Ella! I’ve finally made it! I’m a playwright! I think I’ve found my calling, my purpose for living! I’ve made it! I’m famous! My name’ll be all over the paper! Well, the school paper, anyway. But still, everyone will know me!

YESSENIA: Great! Now you can act like a normal human being again!

SAM: Are you kidding? I’ve got to start planning for my entry for next year! I’ve got to start as soon as possible; I want it to be my magnum opus, the Play Fest play to end all Play Fest plays! I’ll need to go home and brainstorm, figure out the plot and the character names...

(As SAM rambles, the school bell rings.)

MRS. WARWICK: IDs on, technology away.

(ELLA and the other STUDENTS gather in a circle and begin to play “Honey If You Love Me”. YESSENIA stares worriedly at SAM.)

SAM: Hey! That gives me a great idea: a play about a loveless marriage. The husband wants to recapture the spark they had when they first started dating, but no matter what happens he just can’t seem to get even the slightest bit of a smile from his wife. It’s perfect!

YESSENIA: Sam...

SAM: No. Romance stories are boring. It should be a game show. A competitive game show that pits an overly-competitive husband and wife against each other! Yes! That’s it!

YESSENIA: Sam?

SAM: No, that’s too cliché. Or is it? Meh. I can do something with it.

YESSENIA: Sam!!!

SAM: What?!

YESSENIA: You don’t have to worry about that till next year.

SAM: But I’ve got to—

YESSENIA: Sam, if you don’t cut it out with this play thing right now, I’m never speaking to you again!

SAM: (thinks for half a second) Then again, I do work best under pressure.

(YESSENIA and SAM join in the game.)

(BLACKOUT)

(CURTAIN)

(END OF PLAY)

Script

About the author

Frank Macaluso

A comedian. I may have made a huge mistake.

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