Book Review: ‘Writing the 10-Minute Play’

writing-the-10-minute-playI’ve been wanting to write a play for the past year or so. I’ve written several screenplays before but writing a play just seemed so daunting. I have an idea that I think is great and interesting but just sitting down and putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – seems like a monumental task.

But then, in the midst of all of my hemming-and-hawing, I got an opportunity to review Glenn Alterman‘s, Writing the 10-Minute Play.

Perfect timing, right?

I’d honestly never thought about writing a 10-Minute play before. But after reading the book, I’m totally chomping at the bit to start.

Alterman is an actor and now acting coach in New York City and he’s been writing monologues and 10-minute plays for a while now, winning over 40 playwriting competitions. He writes the book from an actors perspective, which makes the thought of actually writing a play more inviting. Writing a play can almost be easier for actors, he says. We are always asking, “What does my character want?” and in playwriting, we get to ask, “What do my lead characters want?,” he writes.

In the book, he guides you through the whole process, “beginning with the skills, knowledge and experience” we already have as actors. And it’s true. He doesn’t make it seem easy but he makes it seem like any of us can site down and write something we can be proud of.

He starts off with formatting – no special software needed – finding the right title, and what to do after the first draft and beyond. From there, he moves onto how he begins his writing process. For instance, he usually starts off with a line on dialogue he’s either heard someone say in real life or one that’s popped into his head. From there, he brainstorms and riffs until he’s got words on the page. Almost like improvising, right? He also goes into what to do after the play is finished; where and how you should submit it.

One thing I thought was interesting is that he suggested that we (actors) shouldn’t appear in the plays we write (at least the first production of it). I can understand his logic – that we may intimidate the other actors or our director and we may be too close to the material.

Finally, Alterman interviews some playwrights and producers, giving insight to the process and also what happens on the other side of the fence in producing 10-Minute play festivals and shows. And for reference, he’s got 3 plays we can read at the end of the book.

It’s a really quick read and if you’re even remotely interested in writing a play, you’ll be glad you picked up a copy.

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