Why should I post a play I wrote at the end of my freshman year at Rice? Because it does seem timeless to me. It seems like one of those wise childhood things we sometimes write and then forget for decades how to do. It’s also has fun and zany archetypes, it was performed three times in times 1972 and once in 1973, I DID play the War Correspondent, AND I now have an opportunity to format the play according to standard guidelines, just to get a feel for how it’s done. It was educational to format my Word document to include the proper tab stops for stage, scene, and character stage directions, but for the purposes of the blog I’ve just centered or indented them as looks best.
This post is another homage to past influences: believe it or not, the revelation of how Dostoyevsky used dialog in The Brothers Karamazov, which I first read in Spring 1971. Several people have remarked, and I agree with them, that one of my strengths as a writer is dialog. Especially the kind where people are saying absolutely crazy, emotionally off the wall things to each other, like Fyodor to Father Zossima.
So it often seems natural for me to go one step further in a novel and have a chapter be a recording, often secretly made by one villain or another, in which I can just have the characters function as actors. No descriptions of long regal noses or who brought whose coffee cup to whose lips, just raw dialog. That’s not a real play; in fact, I once attempted to rewrite a novel as a play and it failed horribly. So I’ve been content with occasional dialog scenes. To effect a suitably dramatic ending to the secret recording, often where I can cut a character off in mid-sentence, I often resort to technological disasters such as: “Hey! Don’t step on the tape re–” or “Watch out, idiot, you spilled your drink right on the tape re–”
TOTAL ANNIHILATION: CAMOUFLAGE!
ISAAC: high school philosopher
JERRY: high school jock
BRENDA: high school cheerleader
MARY: high school poetess
(A stretch of devastated dirt. Smashed pasture fence. A few bullet-riddled German army helmets, strewn randomly. A skull. Dead and rotting blackbirds. Some gray stones. Fog, smoke, the smell of gunpowder. Ominous yellow light in the background. Somber silence.)
(Enter WAR CORRESPONDENT, a typical World War II U.S. battlefront war correspondent, helmeted, dirty khaki uniform, bearded, exhausted. Carries pencil and notebook.)
(voice taut with anguish and exhaustion)
This … this is all that’s left … you people on the sidelines, safe back on the mainland, you people didn’t get involved in it. In this terrible war. You didn’t understand … you didn’t …
(gropes for words)
You–you sat at home on soft couches, you read magazines, went to parties … but … while over here, this happened … Continue reading →