The Playgoer: The Nano Play?

Custom Search

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Nano Play?

So who ruled that all plays must be 2 to 3 hours, anyway?

As cultural consumption increasingly focuses on smaller and smaller forms of entertainment--IPod-able songs, YouTube vids, E-reader short stories--is it time to exploit theatre's own longstanding short-form traditions?

The Guardian's Alexandra Coghlan makes a worthy opening move in such an argument, reminding us that the one-act has a great history in the modern theatre--from Chekhov to Beckett, from Tennessee Williams to Sarah Kane. The main problem such works have had in getting performed (outside of school directing class exercises) is chiefly financial--how do you charge full price for less than a "full" evening's out. Or at least 90 minutes.

But isn't it funny that such arbitrary--and now arguably outmoded--measures of leisure time have determined what is "acceptable" dramatic form.  Sure, we are seeing theatres challenging this more and more lately, as contemporary playwrights appear to be gravitating to the shorter forms. But you know they must hear from their subscribers when they bring them all the way downtown for just 75 minutes of theatre?

So here's a thought: some clever company must come up with a new way to market the one-act. Not as the usual "omnibus" evening of two or three long ones that still satisfy the 90-minute/2-hour threshold (a la Broadway's Relatively Speaking. But something more like a cabaret, maybe even allowing for staggered audience coming-and-going, where folks can pay a cover, sit, have a drink, and watch a few scenes, hear some music, maybe some some stand-up. Maybe they stay for their 2-3 hours' worth. Or maybe just 45 minutes?

I mean, we've got to do something with all those things playwrights write for those 10-Minute Play contests!


Anonymous said...

Glad this conversation is happening. Short plays over 10 minutes (i.e. everything I've written) stand little chance of even being read let alone produced because they don't fit in the two conventional boxes--even when I present them to theatres as genuinely thematically linked evenings.

Anonymous said...

Hey Playgoer,

Something along the lines you're looking for:

Original one-acts each week by some really cool writers featuring bands, free beer, a late night time slot and a low price point.