A simple exercise for a complicated dramaturgical problem... — The Loop — AAPEX

Monday, August 10, 2009

A simple exercise for a complicated dramaturgical problem...

1. Take a page of dialogue from one of your plays that has three characters or more speaking to one another.
2. Using liquid white-out, blank out all the names.
3. Make a Xerox copy of that page.
4. Hand it to a fellow playwright, director or actor – someone who reads a lot of plays.
5. Ask: how many people are speaking on this page?

If they can’t tell you the number of people speaking, there’s a problem, no? The complexities of language, and our choice of wording, phrasing, syntax, etc., is informed by our education, religion, age, culture, politics, familial hierarchy, gender, sexuality, ancestry, etc. In short, our personal use of language is as unique to each of us as our fingerprints. No two people speak the same. Why should they appear the same, then, on paper?

The answer to that is simple: they shouldn't.

Source: The Loop


  1. Have you read Martin Crimp's "ATTEMPTS ON HER LIFE"? It's a play that's jsut text delineated like this:
    -- So anyway

    -- Anyway

    etc. so not only does it not tell you who is speaking, it actually doesn't tell you how many peopel are in a scene, who they are etc. Figuring out (or just deciding) the number of speakers in any given scene is a time consuming task indeed.

  2. Thanks for this exercise. I've done similar exercises in determining what characters are saying each line in any given scene.

    Great reference to keep in mind as I continue writing my screenplay!

    - V.D.