Writing for stage is easy, right? You just hammer out some interesting dialogue, make it funny, and you’re done in an hour or two. If only it were that easy.
Writing for theatre, although fun to do, is a task that requires a very specific approach. Those unfamiliar with the medium often take the wrong angle, overlooking important key aspects and ultimately putting out something that is flawed.
More so; you can be great at writing dialogue and still write something that won’t do well, simply due to misunderstanding what makes theatre viable.
There Is Only One Stage
One of the most overlook aspects of writing for theatre is this; there is only stage. This is important because if an obscene number of set changes are written in, it means that the stage is often going to be sitting in darkness, with everything on hold as stage hands scurry around applying a new set.
Set changes should be used only when absolutely necessary. Or even better; don’t have set changes at all. Avoid them like the plague. Have too many set changes and you can all but guarantee your audience will have completely lost interest and started playing slot games in Canada on their phone.
Use Your Space Wisely
But wait, does this mean you have to write theatre productions that take place entirely in one location?
You can, and if you’re creative with your approach will produce excellent plays that do indeed take place in a single location. Such as a dinner party.
On the other hand, you can write a play that makes smart use of the space. It is very easy to establish that the two halves of the stage are different locations, and switch between.
Remember; your audience will go along with it.
Dialogue Is Magic
Don’t overlook how magical dialogue can be. This is theatre, which means that the majority of your appeal is directly linked to the dialogue. What does this mean?
It means that in order to write a good theatre production, you need to embrace the peaks, valleys, and pacing of dialogue. As you write your scenes, imagine where the pace will pick up, where it will slow down, and where long, deep pauses may be inserted. Bombarding your audience with endless chatter does not equals a good show.
What makes a good show is varied, constantly changing dialogue that pulls an audience in.
Remember The Arcs
Yes, a play can be all about fun, silly jokes, and wacky antics. But, if the story doesn’t start somewhere, tackle a problem, and end in a satisfactory manner, your production will be missing something important; a purpose.
Each character must have a reason for being there, and impact the narrative in a meaningful way. There must be a forward momentum, indicating that things are moving towards a conclusion. Most important of all; the audience must never ask themselves; why is this happening?
Lastly; don’t be afraid to rewrite something that isn’t working. Yes, it means a lot more work, but you’ll be glad you did.