Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Two One-Act Plays: The Lawn Auction & Would You Like to Go Out Shoveling Tonight

Two One-Act Plays: The Lawn Auction & Would You Like to Go Out Shoveling Tonight? is now published in paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in a few weeks at Ingram’s.  The Kindle book, Nook, and eBook are available for 99 cents.

Both of the plays in this book were published in literary journals.  “The Lawn Auction” appeared in Mused Literary Review this last fall and “Would You Like to Go Out Shoveling Tonight?” was published in Eclectica Magazine in 2005.  The plays are revised.

Both of the one-act plays present a cooperative setting and the dynamics within it. Personal aims and relationships reveal discreet happenings that cause characters to take sides. Rumors and scheming build to intrigue and comic turns. The first play concerns an auction where dealers from an antiques store are part of the bidding. Becca is a new counter clerk, learning the ropes which include dealer provenance in the aftermath of a divorce. The second play takes place in an apartment building where tenants air their frustrations and attempt to goad the caretaker. Hazie wants to be on her own side when pressures from her neighbors and the caretaker force her into involvement.

Most of my time spent in theater was in the orchestra.  I played flute and piccolo for high school productions, college productions, and at a St. Paul theater.  These were musicals but that included Bertolt Brecht.  In rehearsals, an orchestra member sees a lot; the rehearsal on stage is a play in itself. 

My first attempt at play writing was a neighborhood production.  For the first time I wrote with a typewriter.  As I remember, I turned a fairy tale into dialogue. Summers, the kids usually had a neighborhood carnival. We put blankets over the clotheslines in someone’s yard, tacked them down into tents, and had acts such as fortunetelling, dog tricks, and games.  We made a little from Kool-Aid and popcorn balls.

That year, the neighborhood kids decided to do a play in our garage.  The lines were memorized and costumes found. Then we invited other kids from the nearby park and the Girl Scout troop. 

It was already to go but someone, maybe me, had the idea to spray paint the garage door.  We must have done a skit about a haunted house because I can still see those words sprayed on the garage with some ghosts.  My father came home from work and blew up.  I think it was the first time he was ever really angry with me.  But our play had to go on, and the garage was full for it.  I didn't try to write a play again until some decades later.

As a teenager, I found I liked reading plays, although I’d given up trying out for parts.  There was vitality in them and an efficiently told story.  They were refreshing after novel reading.  High school students even found them a treat in English class.  I’ll never forget someone having to read the line, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend me your ears.”  A class clown had brought a bagful of ear shapes to class, distributed them, and at the cue, a number of boys pelted ears at the reader.  In the halls, kids repeated, “Beware of the Ides of March.”

Though I read The Matchmaker years ago, lines from it still come to mind.  In college, I took a dramatic literature course from a professor who was also a dramaturg for The Guthrie Theater.  Then I loved reading plays.  I’m always reading a book of fiction but I never mind putting it down to read a play.

After I acquired the one-act plays of August Strindberg for my used book stock, I was so inspired by one of them that I immediately sat down and began a play. I’d written a number of short stories by then and felt that some ideas were better for dialogue.  In real life, dialogue is spontaneous and things come out.  After conversations, I’ve often puzzled at someone’s response or their telling.  Every so often, considering characters in a setting, I’ve thought, now that would be good for a play.

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